Many of our clients exhibit and participate at trade shows and conferences. In certain industries, trade shows are considered one of the top marketing vehicles to promote products and services (think Detroit Auto Show, New York’s Fashion Week, etc.). They can also be very expensive, as well as a waste of time, budget and operational focus if not managed effectively.
One of our clients attends approximately six events each year, and we have worked with them to implement what proves to be a successful formula for maximizing their presence at trade shows. In certain instances, they don’t even purchase exhibit space but leverage the captive audience these events attract within a city such as Las Vegas, Barcelona, Chicago and Dallas.
The key to their success, is utilizing the trade shows as a launch point to connect with customers, partners and prospects – “in the flesh.” As a result, they are able to write a ton of business. Enough to make their follow-on events the Hollywood party everyone wants to attend.
So how do they do it? What do they do? Well for starters, they are not afraid to spend money – however, they do so wisely. That said, most of the items below can be implemented on a shoestring budget, as long as you invest the time to execute.
Throw a party
Whether you have a booth or not, a dinner, cocktail reception and/or hospitality suite provides an intimate forum to meet with people and connect with them on a personal basis. We often rely on phone, email and other social tools to communicate. However, good old fashioned face time is still the best way to earn someone’s trust.
Tip: Make sure you scout the venue in advance so you know the type of room it is, and whether it is convenient to get to and from the convention hall. Invitations should be mailed at least six to eight weeks in advance.
Step up to the mic
An effective way to increase awareness is through speaking opportunities. Keynotes, roundtables and panel discussions offer a platform to reinforce your message and thought leadership. They can open opportunities to connect with other panelists and attendees which can foster potential business partnerships.
Tip: Depending on the frequency and timing of the event you are seeking to speak at, be sure to reach out to the speaker coordinators at least six months in advance. Also, see if they have a formal “call for papers” process and get on the list so you can be notified of pertinent deadlines to submit topics and abstracts for speaker consideration.
Promote your presence
Leverage your Web site and blog to create buzz about your event. Make sure to prominently display the event in a special spotlight section and include links to manage RSVPs.
Tip: Encourage your team to update their email signature files with a link to the event. This is an easy way to exponentially promote your event to everyone they are corresponding with.
Alert the media
Press and analyst frequently attend events and provide an ideal forum to meet, demo your products and simply shake their hands. Develop a media relations campaign to announce new products and services.
Tip: Ascertain if the event you are attending publishes a pre-registered press list. Use this to identify only the media targets that are a good fit for your business. Do not blast your message to the entire list without properly vetting it.
Up the ante with social media
In addition to utilizing social media to promote your participation at an event, leverage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and other tools to share your trade show experiences as they happen. Take photos and video, live tweet panel discussions, and connect with your “social” networks in person by organizing a tweet-up or meet-up during the event.
Through these activities and any combination thereof, our clients have earned their status as Hollywood hosts. Each year, their events are well-attended and they have earned the attention of their customers, partners and media. They have also created a compelling business case to utilize events to connect with prospects on a human level, which is the first step to establishing a solid working relationship.
Which leads to my last tip… Make sure you follow-up after the event. Otherwise the goodwill earned will easily vanish.