Effective Event and Tradeshow Practices

tshow postLast month, I began working with a client, coaching them on developing their demand generation strategy and process.  About a month into our engagement, they asked me if I had any thoughts on how they should approach their upcoming industry tradeshows.  I outlined some ideas, and thought, “That would make a great blog post.” What follows are some thoughts and practices for effective events. Although not an exhaustive list, following these tips will help you generate positive ROI on your event budget.

Before the Show

When approaching a tradeshow or event, the first question to ask is “What are we trying to achieve?” Let’s face it, not every event has the same objective. For some events, the objective is to generate leads.  For others, it may be brand awareness.  For others, it may be product introduction or launch.  So, the first step is to make sure the objective is defined, and that marketing and sales are both aligned around that objective.

Once you determine the objective, you can begin promoting and providing a good reason for attendees to come see you.  This starts with understanding who will be at the show. What do your target attendees come to see?  What are their needs/wants. (This should stem from your buyer personas). Develop the message based on them, and tie it to how your product/service/company will benefit them. Also, use offers that speak to them, their needs and your value-add. “Win a free iPad” is nice, but will often attract the wrong audience.  Promote your presence via various channels — social media, website, email, exhibition media, trade publications, etc.

In addition to prepping the market, make sure you take time to prep your internal team.  Use sales and marketing meetings to get everyone on the same page.  Brief the team on the show, objectives, attendees, target audience, pre-event promotions, etc.  Also, make sure to take the time to communicate expectations regarding show floor etiquette.  Too many opportunities have been lost over the years due to poorly mannered event or tradeshow booth personnel.

During the Show

Once the booth is set up and the show begins, focus on generating the right conversations with the right people.  Each staffer should be using a set of qualification questions to quickly assess if the visitor is qualified or not.  For those that are, ask deeper probing questions to determine pain points, budgets, other options they’ve considered, etc. Don’t begin with the sales pitch. It was once said, “If you tell they resist; if you ask, they assist”. The more you ask about their situation and needs, the more you’ll be able to find out if your company can help them.  Once you get to a place where they indicate they want to know more, provide enough information to confirm that your company can help solve the problem.  Then, secure their contact info (business card, badge swipe, etc.).  Promise them that someone will follow up to continue the conversation.

After the Show

This is where most opportunity from a tradeshow or event is lost. Similarly, if the right process is in place, it’s also where the most opportunity can be realized.  The most important element is proper follow-up. Most exhibitors follow up weeks after a show, if at all. In this day of digital “real time” follow-up, it still amazes me how few companies properly execute after an event.

Here’s an example of a follow up plan:

  • Before the show ends, collect all prospect data into the marketing database (marketing automation)
  • Within 24 hours of the show ending, send a “thanks for visiting” email to each prospect
  • On first day of the week after the show, conduct a single, post-show call to each qualified prospect. During this call, follow up on the in-booth conversation (calling to set up a demo, information is on it’s way, etc.)
  • If you don’t connect with the prospect on the first call, make up to three follow-up call attempts. Once you speak with the prospect, continue to qualify by asking questions. If they qualify for sales, seek to get agreement to a sales meeting
  • For all leads that are not qualified to receive follow up, create a nurture program that leverages your company’s event or show messaging.
  • Once agreement is obtained, use the CRM system to alert the appropriate sales channel that there is a qualified lead
  • After suitable amount of time and where appropriate, make up to two outbound calls to the prospect to ensure a sales representative has followed-up.  If they haven’t, alert the salesperson, as well as sales management.

Like any channel, events and tradeshows are only as good as the strategy and execution that goes with them. These tried and true practices will increase the effectiveness of your events and tradeshows.