February 27, 2014 / Events Why You Need an Integrated Strategy for Tradeshows

Chuck Manners

By: Chuck Manners

Why you need an integrated strategy for tradeshows

Next week, the largest construction show in North America will descend upon Las Vegas.

For five days, the construction world will be introduced to new equipment, technology, and innovations that are sure to set new standards across the industry. The show is CONEXPO-CON/AGG, and it happens once every three years.

An event like CONEXPO has much bigger stakes for B2B companies than most tradeshows. It’s a major opportunity for introducing your branding and messaging and introducing the products or services that set you apart from the competition. Around here at Godfrey, we liken it to a coming out party. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s glitter, it’s gold. But what happens after the dazzle wears off?

Because the stakes are so high, it’s critical to your lasting tradeshow success to take a “Pre/At/Post show” approach to these major industry events. What good is it to spend your entire budget on attending the show if nobody knows you’re exhibiting? Why would you put all of your efforts into advertising and show attendance without a budget to follow up with the very people you were encouraging to attend?

Establish a Game Plan

We always advise developing an integrated B2B marketing strategy in order to get the biggest return on a tradeshow investment. It starts with asking a seemingly benign question, “Why are we attending?” The answer should be something more than “Because we’ve always gone.” A clearly defined answer to what seems like a simple question will help set expectations for everyone involved.

For example, we have clients who attend shows like CONEXPO in order to appeal to the masses – the construction contractors that comprise the majority of show attendees. They want to get as many people introduced to their business as possible. Their goal is to start lots of conversations about their equipment or services. Then there are clients of ours who are looking for a more targeted group, such as 100 of the top decision makers in their pool of prospects. For them, this is the show where the game-changing deals are made.

So as you’re considering why you’re attending a tradeshow, follow that up with, “What do we want to have happen?” When the show is over, how will you define its success for your company? Again, for some it might be sales leads, for others it could be actual sales.

Then the last question you should ask before developing a strategy is, “How are we measuring our success?” Will you be scanning badges to gauge booth traffic and generate leads? Will you have an interactive digital display where visitors can request information? Are you sending VIP invitations to get key prospects to the booth?

When you align your why with what you’re doing and how you’re measuring, you’ll have a strong foundation for beginning your integrated marketing planning.

Pre-show promotion

There are a multitude of options for promoting your presence at a tradeshow, such as show directories, billboards, media, email announcements, sponsorships, press releases, and event- specific microsites and landing pages with forms for lead generation. If you have the why, what and how established, as well as the “who” you are hoping to attract, you can make decisions about which options to use.

PR tactics at the show

Large industry trade shows, like CONEXPO, are golden opportunities to announce new products and services to the trade media. That’s because the media typically cover trade shows in person. Nowhere else will you find all of your key editorial targets in one place at one time.

To make the most of the opportunity, invite editors to visit your booth. Be prepared to show and tell them what’s new and exciting about your company, products, or services. Back up the show-and-tell with an electronic press kit containing news releases, product photos and videos, a company backgrounder, executive bios and photos, and anything else of news value.

If your company is launching a major new product or service at a trade show, consider hosting a press breakfast or a press briefing, and invite the media to attend. Give them access to your subject matter experts, but make sure they’re media-trained first. It’s also a good idea to schedule dinners with top-tier editors to discuss key industry issues and trends, and align their editorial needs with your PR goals. Plus, it’s good relationship-building time.

Post-show follow up

The biggest area of missed opportunity at a tradeshow is failing to follow up with the leads and contacts you made. There are two ways to follow up: the minimal approach – acknowledging the folks who came to your booth with post-show communications. And the long follow up – adding leads to a nurturing program. Many of our clients are using marketing automation to move tradeshow leads through their sales funnel.

Whether you’re heading to CONEXPO or preparing for your industry’s next big event, keep in mind that it takes more than just having a booth to get the most out of the show.  

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