When we ask our new clients why they attend some shows year in, year out, there is one answer we hear a lot (and I mean A LOT). It is not the “because it creates great sales opportunities” as you would expect, it is actually “because if we weren’t there people would wonder why”. Sometimes these shows can be a six-figure investment, so to us their commitment to attend the shows seems a little bit crazy. Luckily, we have a solution.
This simple checklist for what to do pre, during and post-show will ensure you have increased footfall, higher engagement and a stronger close rate in the weeks and months following the event.
There is one thing you will need to make this happen though, and that is a good quality marketing automation system. We recommend HubSpot here at EnquiryLab, but other automation products are available if you fancy shopping around. If you are already a HubSpot user then everything we mention here is either a planning task or can be done via the system.
Pre-show: What can I do to improve my pre-event engagement?
1) Book early: Late space always seems like a great deal but, in our experience, it is one of the biggest contributors to poor performance at events. Getting in early ensures that the basics are covered by the organiser - you are in the programme, the signage is right around the show, you are on the information boards and so on. However, it mostly ensures you have the time to get your pre-show communications planned and executed to perfection.
2) Spend money on the right opportunities: Every show these days has a plethora of additional opportunities to spend money. Often these can be really good ways of deepening engagement with showgoers and taking your presence beyond the footprint of your stand. These can be speaking slots, sponsorships, additional branding or attendance at pre-show networking events. Match the objectives you have for the show with the objectives of your customers and prospects to select the right ones.
3) Plan your pre-show communications: There are three building blocks to great pre-show comms - audience definition, needs analysis and channel selection. Let's explore them one by one:
a) Audience definition: Understanding which of your customers and prospects are likely to be attending and building a list of them in your CRM or email deployment tool is key, this is the start of your communications list. Once you have the people you know or suspect will be attending listed, then you can profile them and use this profile to identify more of them. Looking at the wider database in your organisation, using LinkedIn or, depending on the data laws in your country, list purchase are all ways to build this initial list into a powerful audience.
b) Needs analysis: Next up is understanding what they are all looking to get out of the show - is it a first look at new tech, networking, inspiration from the speakers, or simply a good jolly away from the office? Knowing this will help you craft your offers, and of course the way you activate the show itself.
c) Channel selection: Once we know who the audience is and what they want, where best to talk to them is generally fairly clear, but email and social media are going to be your key channels. However, don’t forget to get your sales team on the phone inviting those key customers or prospects and using the free ticket allocation or invites you have as part of your show package to engage these guys early. With email and social we would start at about 8 weeks out from the event with a gentle drip of information and ramp up the frequency from 4 weeks out, remembering to factor in things like whether tickets are selling or sold out into the plan. Deploy your email and social from your automation tool to help you measure the pre-show engagement of individuals and tailor any sales outreach.
Showtime: How do I maximise my ROI during a show?
1) Use well drilled data capture processes: These days almost everyone uses a data capture app on an iPad or other mobile device, but what are you actually capturing and what is happening to the data once it goes into the app? If you are only capturing their contact details, the product or service they are interested in and then downloading that data at the end of the show, you are missing a trick.
a) The right data: Capturing the basics is fine and most of the time a short form is best. But when you have just spent 10 mins or more chatting to a prospect, at that point in time the person holding the iPad knows a lot about that prospect. Ensure you capture their goals, challenges and pain-points as this will be the gold dust that massively increases your conversion rate in the follow-up phase. Equally, make sure this isn’t all captured in the notes field. Build specific fields for these questions, ideally with drop-down or radio button selects so you can easily profile and segment this data later on. Use notes only for the things that are totally specific to that individual.
b) Don’t wait until the end of the show: You are at a trade show, so guess who the next person your prospect is going to chat to is? That’s right - your closest competitors. If you integrate your app with your marketing automation tool, or use a web form then you can trigger a thank you for visiting as soon as you hit submit on the form and include a content offer or some other call to action in the email. The average person looks at their phone 52 times a day, so the likelihood is that they will see that email before the next stand and leave with the impression that your business is ‘on it’.
2) Use those sponsorship opportunities to drive traffic both ways: If you are sponsoring an activity, seminar or coffee stop ensure the signage and staff at both locations are driving traffic in both directions. Ensure you give people a reason to visit both areas, be that something simple like freebies or, if the show suits it, something more interactive like an around the show treasure hunt. Getting people to take pictures of symbols you have stuck around the venue can be a great way for your brand to really become part of their in-show experience and allows you to capture more data to nurture later.
3) Be a thought leader not just an exhibitor: getting new ideas and information about their industry is the most oft-cited reason for people attending shows, so make sure you are delivering in this area. If there is a seminar opportunity book it, if not make your stand part of the entertainment and hold a mini-event or seminar on there. If you don’t have space or budget for either of those then create some really good quality content to give away. Whatever route you choose, make sure the content has real value and is rooted in an industry challenge your prospects all share, not just a thinly veiled advert for your product or service. Ensure that once created it flows through everything in the pre, during and post-show comms and that you only exchange it for data that allows you to nurture that prospect in the future.
4) Take the show beyond the show: Make sure you are using social media and particularly things like Facebook live to broadcast the content from the show to your audience and use paid options, like boosted posts to go beyond your followers to a targeted prospect audience.
“Taking an inbound approach to our event communications and really putting some focus on what we were saying to prospects in and around the event transformed our data capture volumes and close rate. ”
– John Eglinton TypoLab
Post-show: How do I increase my post-event close rate?
1) Nurture, nurture and nurture some more: Email automation is your friend here and a steady, but frequent drip of post-show communications always gets results. The trick is to plan, build and automate all of these before the show, so that as soon as that show lead gets submitted they are locked-in to receiving a sequence of emails. We would suggest 5 to 6 initially for those with purchase intent, fewer if they have come from a competition. Get the first two going out within the first 2 to 3 days after the show and spread the remainder over the following 3 to 4 weeks. Clearly, for warm enquiries make sure these are interspersed with calls from your sales team.
2) Don’t forget those that didn’t attend: For everyone in your prospect pool that did attend, there will be 10 that couldn’t make it. Use email and social to report all of the goings-on that they missed. Ensure that this is not just your presence, but any key outtakes and learnings from seminars and workshops. Position yourself as a voice of industry news. If this show is a really big deal, you may even want to develop a show microsite or a landing page on your blog or website to post content to.
3) Maximise on the data opportunity: For all those new leads and contacts, plus those known contacts that have interacted with your show content, you now know something about them perhaps you didn’t before. Use lists to segment them into relevant interest groups, perhaps by product interest, industry or job function. You can now use these lists for future email communication or as custom audiences for Facebook and Google ads and tailor these to the way you have segmented, hugely increasing the perceived relevance of your communications and therefore its chance of converting.
We hope this has been a useful guide to maximising on your investment in shows and events. If any of it sounds a bit tricky, or perhaps you don’t have the software or resources in-house to deliver this level of automation and segmentation, then just give us a call! We are happy to do everything from share advice and best practice to managing the entire process for you, whatever you need.