Trade shows and large corporate events are a major investment. The costs for travel, exhibits, trade show marketing, product giveaways, hospitality and more can be harrowing if you don’t make a return on your investment. It isn’t enough to sign up to exhibit, show up day-of, and hope for the best. What should you do instead?
We’ve rounded up advice from top trade show experts to help you get the most out of your investment.
Investing in Upfront Design
Ryan Mitcheltree, Director of Business Development for Neu Concepts, has spent more than a decade helping his clients create exciting and successful exhibit experiences. He advises event planners to plan ahead and invest in upfront design.
“Conceptual exhibit design for any event space is a critical element that deserves time, resources, and collaboration between an exhibitor and a creative team. Design plays a critical role in long-term cost of ownership, flexibility, fabrication cost, services, and event engagement. Budgeting time and resources upfront to flesh out concepts and get buy-in from all parties, will ensure you walk away with a unique exhibit experience that pays dividends on the backend.”
Building Stakeholder Buy-in
Throughout her career, Avaya’s Senior Marketing Manager Jennifer Faircloth has managed events for a wide variety of organizations and companies ranging from The Washington National Cathedral to Cisco Systems. She encourages event planners to get stakeholder buy-in early in the planning process.
“The planning best practice I've learned over the years is to start with a small group of key people to do one or two ‘experience design’ meetings. This small team will get together to determine show objectives and strategy, and what you want customers and prospects to see, think, and feel when they visit your booth. Having agreement in all of those areas will provide you with the foundation you'll need to develop your messaging and any show-specific theme or tagline. Make sure your messaging focuses on customer pain points and how you address them. This is not the time to list product features! If you don't include sales in that initial small group, be sure to get their buy-in on these key areas before moving forward. After that, start your regular planning meetings, which may be with a larger team that will include demo leads and sales.”
Setting Goals, Measuring Success
Jennifer Gardner with The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants emphasizes the importance of setting goals and measuring against them.
“As you develop your event strategy, make sure to set clear goals and KPIs, and communicate those to key stakeholders. When you set your goals, think about what success looks like. Is it creating brand awareness, getting leads, making sales, or all of the above? Do you have benchmarks that you can use to help you set these goals? And is an event the best way to achieve these goals? Post-show, be sure to take the time to analyze your data and learn from it. Did you make your KPIs? If not, identify the reasons why you fell short. Were your KPIs unrealistic? Was there an unforeseen event that impacted attendance, like a hurricane or snowstorm? Was this event even the right fit for your business?”
Sabina Kim with Highwoods Properties has been responsible for managing all aspects of corporate events including inception, implementation, speaker management and more. She offers another way to think about goals.
“If your business is lucky enough to have a separate marketing and sales team, it’s important to remember that both departments need to work cohesively in order to have a successful event. The first step is to make sure there is a common goal shared by both departments. Once the goal is identified, then determine if it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. And remember that marketing is there to support sales; our success depends on theirs. For example, if marketing’s goal is to capture as much information from the attendees as possible, that will help sales reach their goal of generating new leads.”
Turning Leads Into Sales
A common goal for many shows and events is lead generation (as Sabina mentions above), but the ultimate goal is to turn those leads into sales. Tracie Thomas, Vice President of Marketing at Boon Edam, shares advice on how to make that conversion.
“You want to squeeze as much ROI out of the show as possible and find out about all the potential deals. The key is using the lead retrieval, customizing its questions to suit your needs and training staff on the procedure.”
“We encourage our sales reps to book appointments prior to the show and marketing also sends out 3 email blasts about news of the show and the call to action is to make an appointment (on a landing page on our website). When sales reps do not have a booth appointment, they are then in “lead capture” mode …using the lead retrieval tool assertively and asking a few probing questions regarding upcoming projects so that their work is prioritized after the show. Our custom questions include 1) is there a project? 2) what is the timeline of the project 3) is the visitor a decision-maker? You should also be able to type or dictate notes about the conversation. If not, write notes in a small black booklet and keep in a pocket.”
“When the show is over we then assign a simple ranking to each lead, based on the timeline of the project. Everyone is added to our CRM database for nurturing (blogs, whitepapers, etc.), while top opportunities are immediately assigned to our sales reps and others get a special email blast. Sticking to a process of prioritizing leads and following up on them is key to seeing if the show is a success or not.”
Maximizing Media Opportunities
Melissa London Zingle, Director, U.S. Media Relations with ABB, encourages event planners to create and maximize media opportunities at corporate events and trade shows.
“At our recent customer event, we had over 10,000 attendees, including 75 members of the media. But getting them there was only half the battle (although not an insignificant one - considering rising travel costs, media market consolidation, and the many company events journalists get asked to attend). To make it really worth their while this year, we shifted away from the traditional “press conference” model and shifted towards a model where we provided the journalists with one-on-one time with key executives.”
“They found this much more valuable than competing with each other for a story in a news conference and really appreciated that this was face time that they couldn’t get anywhere else. The lesson is that we have to be flexible and listen to what our attendees want and need from us. It’s the only way we’ll get them to come back again year after year.”
Planning Your Next Event
We hope this advice helps you elevate your trade show and event planning process. WorkTrip was created to lessen the pains associated with planning, executing and traveling to trade shows, meetings and events; and to free you up to focus on what really matters. Let’s talk about how we can help you get the most out of your trade shows and corporate events.
Interested in learning more? Take a look at our guide containing our 8 phase approach on How to Elevate Your Trade Show Plan From Start to Finish.