According to EXPO Magazine’s “Corporate Exhibitor Trends Survey,” 66 percent of senior management view exhibit & event marketing essential or important in the marketing mix. And while you may not question the value of your exhibit program, you may need to question its execution.
You know there’s more to an exhibit than setting up a booth and scanning badges. It’s a platform to put your products, services and brand on display in front of possibly thousands of people. Engaging your audience is essential to your program’s success—regardless of the size of your company, booth, or budget. So what are some essentials for moving your trade show program beyond “booth” and into a face-to-face experience?
1. Bring your products to life with a hands-on experience.
From the second an attendee enters your booth their experience with your company begins. Think about how your exhibit can engage their senses and pique their curiosity. This could run the gamut from designing special interactivity into the booth (think: virtual displays and real life experiences through simulation) to in-booth activities including interactive games, education or live entertainment.
Here are two great examples of two companies that took different approaches to creating a hands-on experience, but with the same results – stellar brand engagement with attendees.
“Be the Tire” Simulator: For the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Michelin created a multisensory experience to engage and educate attendees on the true power of their products. Attendees were able to step onto the simulator floor, place their hands on the dashboard, and, essentially, be the tire. As the speakers revved up and video screens lit up, participants were off on a ride where they could see – and feel – the road from a tire’s point of view – all the bumps and dips and lumps the road has to offer.
“Security Connected” Game: McAfee’s Security Connected game was a unique and effective in-booth activity that helped drive traffic to their booth. World-famous LEGO artist, Adam Tucker, built a model of the Security Connected environment made entirely of LEGOs. Attendees were challenged to observe the Security Connected model and guess how many LEGO blocks were used to build the display. Rather than taking attention away from McAfee’s products, the LEGO display and game gave the sales team an opportunity to strike up a natural conversation with attendees and walk them through the Security Control environment.
These days it has to be more than a passive walk-through of your exhibit. In fact, 59 percent of exhibition attendees want to see product demonstrations, and 58 percent like to have hands-on product interactions (Source: Center for Exhibition Industry Research, “Aligning Exhibitions With What Attendees Want Most”). What happens here is critical. After all, you only have one chance to make a first—and lasting—impression. Make sure it’s the right one and make sure it sticks.
2. Build deeper connections with prospects and existing clients.
Trade shows mean business and those walking the trade show floor are typically looking for products and solutions to fix specific problems or issues. Actually, according to CEIR’s report, The Role and Value of Face to Face, 92 percent of trade show attendees say they are looking for new products and 94 percent have purchasing power.
Does your product or solution help save money, speed up their network or increase revenues? Make it clear – on signage and in conversation—how your goods or services meet their needs.
To find out about their needs, you may want to dig a little deeper into the demographics and profiles of the show’s attendee base. The more you know about them, the better you can plan for them to know more about you.
You can also take advantage of the opportunity a trade show offers to learn more about your visitors. Qualify your leads carefully. Take notes above and beyond the basics and you have a profile to use to continue the conversation after the show. The more you qualify your leads at the show, the more valuable time, energy and money you will save afterwards. And, the greater your success in winning new business.
3. Give people a valuable reason for being at your event.
Provide a take away of value that they can’t get anywhere else. We’re not talking chotchkies here, but ideas, concepts, or propositions that give them something they can consider and weigh or immediately put into action.
Plan your approach like a movie trailer—give them the dramatic highlights, but don’t show them everything. Leave them wanting more. This way you can make continuing the conversation with your company a positive experience that is worth the attendee’s time.
4. Go beyond email after the show.
Sending an email to thank prospects and existing customers for visiting your booth is completely acceptable and a nice way to keep a dialogue going.
But, for those qualified top leads and valuable VIP clients, you’ve got to go beyond the email. It means taking the right notes at the show so you’ll have a real reason to reach out. And if you can leave them wanting more, you’re on your way to a meaningful, long-lasting dialogue with your visitors.
Trade shows offer a tried and true business building opportunity. They create personal connections, allow for the opportunity to ask questions, and, ultimately, help build trust. However, they can fall flat without an effective plan for engagement and follow up.
Your trade show booth is not face-to-face marketing. Rather, your booth is the stage for conducting an effective face-to-face event. By adding interesting layers and interactive elements that enhance your brand, you’ll engage and intrigue attendees with a memorable experience they can’t get online, in an email, over the phone—or anywhere else.