Tradeshows have existed for hundreds of years, evolving from local merchant trade fairs to today’s mega, multi-hall conventions held worldwide. Nothing has come along to replace them. Nope, not even the internet. In fact, digital marketing has done the opposite. Rather than replace the need to meet, greet and sell in person, it’s actually revolutionized the way we do it.
Online Interaction Increases the Need for Human Touch
Despite naysayers who spout that tradeshows are dying, the industry has not only stayed strong, it’s intensified. Strategic, open-minded businesses – ranging from start-ups to established behemoths – are still powered by their need to personally connect. They’ve learned to tap into rapidly developing social, technological and economic trends to attract attention, qualify leads, and beef up their customer base. It isn’t a vain move based on wanting to be the biggest and best; it’s actually a thoughtful strategy essential to survival and success.
Businesses that have dropped out of the tradeshow circuit due to falling profits may blame their loss on the fear that exhibitions are fading, when in fact, it may have resulted from a lack of strategic planning. If so, how does a business execute an exhibit program that builds them up, not tears them down?
5 Tradeshow Tactics to Build an Effective Exhibit Program
1. Objectives and metrics.Review new tradeshow objectives and past show metrics regarding booth attendance, qualified leads, meetings booked, sales generated and total ROI, location and demographics, media engagements, and show crossover to make sure you’re attending the right shows. Measurements are everything. Tradeshows that worked for you in the past may not work now. Many shows have evolved to meet the demands of more precise, targeted and vertical markets than in the past. Whether you attend small shows or more prominent shows like CES, NAHB or NAMM, brand positioning, quality exhibit fabrication, and engagement opportunities are crucial.
2. Invest in exhibit design.Present your product or service in an environment that is strikingly different than the competition, and precisely representative of your brand. Create a culture using an engagement-centric approach with 3D experiences, lighting and sound, speaking platforms, product demonstrations, special guest activities, and staff environments for private and group meetings. Interactive environments are critical for products and brands to be fully embraced. Use an experienced exhibit designer, engineer and production manager to help create a memorable exhibit that showcases your story, culture and brand within your budget.
If you used an old booth at your last tradeshow, evaluate its effectiveness. Did it support your marketing objectives? Was it conducive to attendance volume and product display? Did it wow your customers? If your old booth didn’t quite hit the mark, now’s the time to invest in a quality refurb or purchase a new one. Evaluate your customers’ motivating trends and skepticism, and make sure you evolve and innovate to meet their needs at future shows.
3. Promote before the show. Invite customers, prospects, vendors and media to experience your brand first hand. Recognize the value of using social media, live streaming, media distribution, and other digital venues to introduce yourself, promote your presence at the show, and compel customers to come. Online communications can be isolating, which has intensified the need for face-to-face engagements. Decide what resonates with your audience and motivates them to crave in-person connection.
4. Prepare staff and content.Just as you spend time on measuring, designing and pre-show promotion, make sure to focus on your booth reps and sales force. Make sure they become brand ambassadors who know your exhibit’s capabilities, integrated activities and experiences, and incentives inside and out. They should also be fully capable of demonstrating your product and worth quickly and effectively to viable leads. Also, ensure your promotional and graphic content is striking and refined, and your brand message and story are engaging enough to gain competitive advantage.
5. Post show review.Follow up on leads, and review metrics and performance. Question whether you fostered networking opportunities, nurtured relationships, felt relevant against the competition, and generated brand awareness. Also ask: Did your tradeshow experience align with your strategic vision? Did your experiential marketing tactics meet objectives? Did you reach and inspire your targeted demographic? Forecast your needs for the next show.
Just as history shows, tradeshows are evolving and here to stay. Make sure to capitalize on your digital marketing momentum by investing in an exhibit program that perpetuates interest, engagement and trust with your audiences.