B2B Marketing Blog

Written by The Mezzanine Group
on January 19, 2012

Trade shows are dead, people in the B2B business say. They are expensive, buyers aren’t going to them anymore, they are the ‘old’ way of marketing. But the reality is that trade shows are still the second most effective B2B marketing tactic for generating leads according to MarketingProfs’ report from last year's What Works in B2B Marketing, based on data from 416 B2B marketers.

Trade shows provide important opportunities for B2B companies to connect with existing customers, showcase new products to prospects and generally stay up to speed on what’s going on in their industries. For all that’s said about the efficiency of digital tactics, nothing can replace the personal connections that happen at trade shows.

The issue is that trade shows cost a lot. The fees to exhibit are often high, and when you add the cost of having a strong presence (booth and marketing collateral), and the travel expenses for getting your sales and technical people there, it’s a big investment.

That’s why it’s critical to leverage your investment in the trade shows you do attend. In my experience, about one half of the value of trade shows is at the show itself, 25% happens before the show and 25% happens after. If companies don’t do the before and after part, they’re wasting half their money.

Here are tips to make sure your 2012 trade shows delivers maximum ROI;

Getting Ready for the Show

Make contact with trade show organizers
Make contact early on with the trade show coordinators and key contacts, as they will provide valuable insight as you plan your event.

Get audience data
Find out the type of visitors that the show attracts, approximate number of attendees and any specifics the show can provide from past experience. This information will help you define how to approach any demonstrations, presentations and promotions. Understand all of the elements you have to work with. Find out exactly what you get with your space rental and the layout of the area you will have to display your business. Be sure to find out the size of the tables you will have, whether there is wall space for your company signage, if there are electrical outlets available, and anything else that may or may not be included (ie. table cloth, etc.).

Be aware of all trade show deadlines
Create a one-page cheat sheet that lists out all the due dates and forms required. Print out this list and place it somewhere you can reference weekly. (If companies waste money anywhere on trade shows, it’s that they are late in organizing and have to pay fees to expedite everything!)

At the Show

Brand presence
Put your best face forward: Make your area reflect your brand as much as possible. Think about a tablecloth that represents your company’s image and color scheme (without being overpowering), have signage where your logo is visible, and add visual appeal with photography that clearly identifies the service you offer.

Getting Attention
Map out how you would like each attendee to ‘experience’ your brand, product and /or service. Will you attract attendees with a live demonstration? Is there a video looping on a large monitor? Whatever you do, make it visually appealing and you will draw their attention.

Portfolio of your work
You have done some amazing work and have earned some bragging rights, so make sure you print off some of your best projects to showcase.

Everyone leaves with a little something
Do not let anyone walk away without something, have plenty of giveaways, such as business cards, brochures, pens, magnets, and anything else relevant that has your company name on it. Most people who attend trade shows are expecting to take home some goodies. Connect with new people.
It’s easy for reps to sit at the booth and wait for people they already know to stop by. But a big part of the value of trade shows is meeting new contacts. This means being proactive to welcome new faces to the booth and get to know them. It takes more energy (and trade shows are a very energy-intensive affair) but it’s better to exert the effort at the show and then take a few days of rest later.

After the Show

Lead Tracking and Follow up Process
You need a process for tracking leads and following-up post show. The main reason you attend a trade show is to make connections with your primary target audience, so following-up post-show is essential. If you have an e-newsletter, this is a perfect time to send your new contacts a request to receive the newsletter so you gain additional subscribers. This way they stay connected to your company.

The key to trade show success is to think about it not as just one event, but as a step in an ongoing process of building relationships. Make your event memorable for attendees and make it measurable for your business.

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