Trade show marketing is about getting new leads. It’s about finding those people who would be interested in your product or service, making an impact on those people, and securing the info necessary to follow up for a potential future sale. Broadening your brand awareness and capturing social followers is great, but we don’t just want attention. We want to build trust. We want to garner interest. We want to close sales.
Being in the trade show booth is empowering as it is both an instant channel for growth and a chance to truly communicate with your ideal customer face-to-face. While trade show marketing is immediate, it isn’t easy. While your traditional marketing or digital marketing efforts are focused on capturing and converting leads in a flow, your trade show team is tasked with more: to capture leads, to build relationships with those leads, to capture data on those leads, to qualify those leads and prioritize them, to follow up with the best leads, and then to convert to a purchase. Trade show teams are playing short game and long game at the same time.
But there’s a caveat.
Usually your trade show team is made up of marketers and salespeople. These two groups may be pursuing different qualities in a lead, they may take a different approach in engaging with the leads on the show floor, and they may have different priorities during the follow-up process.
In this guide, we will lay out the best strategies to integrate and coordinate your marketing and sales efforts before, during, and after the trade show.
Sync Your Motivations Before the Show
As you plan for your next show, bring your exhibition team together and make sure you’re all on the same page. Your marketing team will be accustomed to qualifying leads more slowly and while equipped with more data. Your sales team may be accustomed to speaking to qualified or warm leads and thus, have a harder time taking a marketer’s approach to playing long ball. Which leads look promising to marketers versus salespeople may vary greatly as marketers look for a demographic and data-driven fit and salespeople look for a relational fit and anecdotal intent.
If we’re all so different, how can you equip these two teams to work in tandem and quickly, succinctly qualify leads amidst the fast-pace of a trade show?
The answer is simple: train your team to cohabit the booth thoughtfully and capitalize on each other’s skills. Instead of splitting efforts, sync them. Here’s how:
Capitalize on Marketing Skills
Your marketers know the top of the funnel where these trade show leads are starting out. Let them identify which types of people the exhibit should attract and make suggestions for how to identify them amidst the hustle and bustle of the show. Before the show begins, encourage these team members to make recommendations on how to capture attention in the booth and draw in the right types of attendees.
Capitalize on Sales Skills
Your sales people know how to suss out a person’s intent. Their panache for relationship building and active curiosity will help them weed out the buyers from the tryers. As your team syncs up before the event, empower the salespeople among you to train the group on these key identifiers, so everyone is ready to qualify leads as they go.
Establish Your Why & Rally Around it
While salespeople and marketers have very different backgrounds and interests, remind them that the aim is the same: to grow your business. All efforts pre-show, in the booth, and during follow-up are in an effort to increase awareness, sales, and loyalty and thus, all efforts are valid and equally needed.
Encourage your team to use their uniquely curated radar to determine who to attract and how to spend their time with each booth visitor. When both types of team members feel aligned, and understand the unique value that the other members bring to the booth, collaboration will feel more natural and competition will recede to make room for success.
Split Efforts Wisely During the Show
During trade show planning, the age old question will always come up: “Who’s doing what?” You need to decide how to combine efforts inside of your exhibit and create a flow of accountability among your team members.
How can you split your efforts?
- Encourage your marketers to run contests, greet passersby, and draw prospective visitors
- Empower your salespeople to build relationships - make sure they’re the ones who get every visitor’s name, especially if they’ll be doing more of the follow-up. Encourage them to qualify every lead and consider fit, engagement, and intent as they do.
- Decide who will run demos of products or discuss features - do you need to have someone more technical on staff?
- Your marketers (those at the show, and those back at the office) might focus on social media. It’s important to capture behind-the-scenes footage or live-stream parts of the event, engage with others who are using the hashtag, and go follow up.
- Get your sales people hooked on data - make sure they’re scanning badges, capturing info, and going for “the ask” whenever possible.
Be aware, though, that when the trade show begins, your team will likely feel rushed and preoccupied by a flood of event-goers. While you might designate people for the front of the booth to draw people in and equip other team members to stay behind to answer more specific questions or capture info, it might not always work out that way day-of.
Make sure your team stays agile throughout the event by equipping everyone to fill every role, if necessary.
Follow Up isn’t Just a Sales Game
In a traditional or digital marketing funnel, the responsibility of lead follow-up often falls upon sales. When we talk about trade show leads, we’re talking about something distinctly different.
The follow up period after an event must be treated with care. If you follow up too soon or too aggressively you could be seen as a vulture who just wants a customer’s money. If you wait too long or follow up too vaguely, your customer might have forgotten you exist, or chosen a competitor over you. If your follow up is automated and impersonal, it will get buried in a sea of promotions that your customer never wanted.
To make the most of your follow up period, remember to utilize both marketing skills and sales skills. Consider that while the salespeople on your team may be the touchpoint for a qualified lead and may be on the hook to close the sale, your marketing team can be integral in providing background information, connecting with prospects socially, and offering continual mid-funnel support for leads who don’t purchase right away.
Reconvene & Value the Feedback
This section is equally as important as everything else you do before and during the event. Your sales staff and marketing staff will have different perspectives on how the event was handled, on the quality of leads that came through the booth, and how they can improve their approach for the next event. Listen to this feedback and value it - the various perspectives, even if they differ, will prove majorly useful in architecting your next round of strategy AND providing a better experience for staff inside the booth. The best way to curate the most useful feedback is to do a combination of asking thoughtful questions and encouraging open sharing.
Feedback Questions might include:
- What was common among the most dynamic conversations you had with customers?
- How prepared did you feel going into this event?
- Did you feel informed and organized heading into the event - were event documents, agendas and travel itineraries easy to find?
- What was the general reaction and feedback from booth visitors, in your view?
- Where did we come up short?
- How did you and your team communicate throughout the event?
- What would have helped improve this communication?
- How did we (or didn’t we) reflect our company’s brand and values?
- Was there a peak or a lull in energy at any point during the event?
- What was the mood inside the booth throughout the event?
- Shout out a colleague who crushed it - be specific in what you observed
By encouraging transparency from your team and valuing their responses, you’ll build trust while learning valuable tidbits of info before the next exhibit comes around.
Race Opponents or Relay Team?
The misconception that sales and marketing are competitors within an organization was born of the belief that marketers and sales have different but overlapping goals or that one is more important than the other. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While we share a mutual finish line, salespeople and marketers are on the same team, with each having complementary skills. When we foster those skills, plan in tandem, and communicate about what’s working (or what isn’t), we will get the most out of trade shows, and out of business growth in general.