Marketing events are all keeping the sales team happy. After all, trade shows are just a way to get your salespeople to meet potential leads and distribute their business cards. And when it fails, because trade shows often feel like a failure after three days of standing on your feet and barely talking to anybody, then it was the fault of the sales team who didn’t work hard enough. Or the organisation didn’t promote the show so nobody came. Or it fell in the middle of the half-term holiday. Anyway, there’s always a good reason why a trade show doesn’t work. One thing’s for sure; nobody can blame the marketing team because you did absolutely everything you could to make it a success. You even made sure you’ll get business cards and lead forms printed.
But are you sure about that? Did you really do everything you could to give the trade show a chance? It’s time to put marketing back in marketing events. Indeed, hiring out a booth placement to the next event is not enough to guarantee your brand will get noticed. You need to marketise your presence effectively, playfully and smartly to keep your audience and your team engaged.
1. People hate trade shows; your job is to make them fun
If in your professional career you’ve been sent to sit in the booth at a trade show, you’ve probably experienced that it is a rather unhappy and dull place for SMEs. Large companies tend to have the budget for a large booth with plenty of comfy looking sofa, a coffee machine, and a TV so that the staff is never bored. But apart from a lucky view, most people don’t have a positive experience of attending events. Be assured that for visitors, the feeling is even worse. Nobody likes trade show. For most visitors, being at a trade show is like living inside a late night infomercial TV spots: Endless sales speeches, products they don’t need and nothing that attracts the attention. Besides, there’s no fun spending an entire day on your feet, navigating slowly through the crowd, walking from a salesperson to another. From your team’s perspective, trade shows tend to have a low ROI, so as a result, they also receive a low investment from the start. The job of a marketer is to make your presence at the event fun for everyone. You may not have a huge budget, but you can certainly look for creative booth display ideas for both your team and your visitors. Take inspiration from Bright Agrotech, a vertical farming tech startup that uses plants as a display background. Powerful branding, cost-effective and inviting booth, what more to ask? The booth is, ultimately, a conversation starter. So get your creative cells working!
2. Every little help
Visitors rarely leave a trade show without piles of brochures, business cards, and other marketing material – that they will in all likelihood keep on their desks for a few weeks before getting rid of it. Let’s be honest: Do you want to print out another brochure that will end up in the bin? The answer is no. But you could use giveaways in a smart promotional way. You can order branded bags for conferences and events, which you can distribute during the day as a survival kit for visitors. A branded bag with a snack, a bottle of water can work wonders, especially if you join a postcard with a message they can identify with. Something along the lines of ‘Hi, we’re [company_name]. You don’t know us, but we hope our snack helps today.’ Add a QR code or an URL, and you can let the magic operate.
3.You can’t make a buzz without an online presence
#WeAreAtATradeShow, am I doing this right? No, you’re not. You need to use social media to create a buzz around your presence at the event. But who says social media needs to think about engaging, socialising and sharing honestly with followers. So get your team on board to share videos online, such as them preparing the booth or discussing a surprise addition to the booth – visitors generally love booths that offer cooked on the spot food, such as a popcorn maker or a coffee machine. You need to start using your trade show hashtags days, if not weeks, ahead of the event to get them trending when you need them. Engage with the organiser, your building team, and even your staff to leverage their follower-base and gain maximum visibility. And finally, be talkative. If a visitor comments online, reply.
4. Eat my brand. Literally.
As mentioned above, trade shows can be dull and straining, so it’s easy to understand why booths with free food always get the highest footfall. While you might think that offering food is the quickest way to waste money on an event, you need to consider the impact it has on your team. Visitors voluntarily come to your booth for a treat and it’s easier for your salespeople to engage in a conversation. Additionally, you can brand your treats too to increase your visibility and marketing efforts. Branded mason jars with a few candies or a savoury treat – you can get freshly prepared salads in jars and use a play on words to remind visitors about your fresh solutions for instance. Message cookies are also a favourite, and it’s easy to understand why! They’re delicious, and they can be fun. You could have cookies baked in the shape of your logo or your products.
5. Get that killer presentation on stage
Last, but not least, if you want to maximise your visibility at an event, you need to book a presentation slot. The main problem with presentations at trade shows is that they’re often public in an attempt to attract visitors. While it’s a good idea, it’s doomed to fail if you can’t give a killer presentation. The typical PPT and pointing combo doesn’t work here. You need to train your staff to develop their confidence and stage presence so that they can create a comfortable and engaging storytelling strategy.
In conclusion, it’s time to get your marketing brain thinking about strategies to maximise trade shows ROI. The keyword here is fun. Trade shows are naturally dull, so you need to gamify them with social media teasers, exciting displays, and emotional story hooks.