Exhibitions and Trade Shows – How to maximise your presence and ROI

1) Identify the right team

You may belong to one industry but trade shows and conferences/events usually have specific demographics which is worth studying before deciding who from your company is best suited to engage and follow up with the visitors. Regions and titles within the company are good indicators – ideally your team will speak the same ‘language’ as your clients/prospects.

2) Get staffing levels right

Think about your stand space and how many visitors it can comfortably accommodate. The number of meeting rooms, networking areas or demonstrations will help you identifying the right number of staff. Not all staff need to be on the stand at all time – having a few ‘stand-byers’ adds flexibility.

3) Brief your staff

Refresh your knowledge of your company’s whole product offering and make sure everyone is aligned on the messaging/campaigns etc. Don’t forget to include people who may not be on site but can still amplify your message via social media.

4) Book meetings beforehand

Are there customers at the show, who you should spend some time with to build-up that relationship? Or prospects you’ve been speaking with for several months? Book those meetings in and get them in the calendar.  The calendar would ideally be shared so the sales team and stand manager keep track of everyone’s availability.

5) Swap printing for digital

Try to resist heavy brochures which usually end up in the bin. The industry is trying to be more environmentally-friendly so think of using QR codes, USBs, social media platforms and think twice about giveaways. You want to be remembered for the right reasons.

6) Get your tech set-up right

First thing – never rely on the show WiFi which is low bandwidth and shared by thousands. All the tech supporting your demos, lead capture, footfall tracking etc should have a dedicated internet access – WiFi or wired in.

Using Apps for lead capture, for example the Akkroo app, solves the problem as they are designed to work on and off line.

7) Set targets and Design your lead capture form

Think about the bigger picture and agree on the goals for the trade show. Is it a lead generation event? A thought leadership event? A brand awareness event? A partner/distributor event? Your targets and your lead capture forms/app should reflect this. The content will be a combination of understanding your marketing objectives and sales targets.

8) Brief meeting

It may be tempting to leave all the planning to marketing, but then you’ve got no say in the stand design, staff rota, or lead capture form. Having regular planning and progress meetings in the run-up to the show makes sure that everyone is aligned on the goals of the event, and aware of all the on-the-day logistics.

At the show

1) Know who’s on the stand

Make sure the right person speaks to the right visitor.

2) Keep energy levels high

Make sure everyone has regular breaks and show these in the rota. Make sure you eat and have plenty of water on the stand.

3) Engage with visitors

We’ve all experienced stand staff staring at their phone or doing emails whilst visitors don’t get attended to. Just make sure all the staff are not only willing but keen to engage.

4) Get to know your neighbours

Basically grow your network, get to know more people in your industry, exchange business ideas and potentially leads!

5) Book meetings there and then

If you are chatting with a great prospect, make the most of this opportunity and book in your next conversation – whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or a phone call – there and then, on the show floor. Keep that conversation going!

6) Have a smooth lead capture process

Ideally use a digital lead capture system – whether it is the organisers’ of the show or whether it’s a third party system. Scanners can be fiddly. We recommend an App-based system such as Akkroo where it makes sense. The App also enables you to follow up within minutes of your discussion with a personalised email.

7) Listen and Don’t pitch your product

Take the time to listen properly and learn more about your prospect/client’s challenges to make sure your discussion/demos are relevant and meaningful.

This is all part of the qualifying process; time is precious when visiting shows – don’t waste your time and certainly do not waste your visitor’s time. If there is no genuine interest let them know (politely of course!)

After the event

1) Get leads into your CRM as quickly as possible

If you are still waiting for days or even weeks after a show before entering your leads in your system, the chances are that lead has gone cold, or lost to one of your competitors who was quicker to reach out.

2) Who follows up?

“My top tip for exhibiting at trade shows: follow up! You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow up with the people they meet at trade shows and events.” – Helen Moon, CEO & Founder, EWL Club

Make sure you have an agreed process before the show and make sure everyone sticks to the plan after the event.

3) Personalise follow-up messages

Temptation is still to send a generic follow up email – it may be easier but it’s simply not good enough. We live in a world of personalisation and with digital marketing there is no more excuse for sending generic email. Make sure the email is addressed to the contact name and add a personalised content that will prompt the reader’s memory.

4) Measure your performance

How do you know if a show went well? Pick one metric that you look at in the immediate aftermath of a trade show as your early measure; some customers look at the number of Sales Qualified Leads, but for others Marketing Qualified Leads work better.

Also keep an eye on those specific leads within the sales pipeline – this is critical to measure the real ROI of the show. Some sales cycles can be months or even years, make sure your CRM keeps track no matter how long the leads take to convert.

5) Measure event ROI

If you can calculate how much revenue you’ve generated from exhibiting at a trade show, you can calculate your return on investment. This will be one of the most important numbers for your boss to report back on, to justify your company’s budget for trade shows and other events. Other more qualitative measures can also be taken into account – number and type of meetings, progress in projects following discussions, brand awareness – they all matter but they are harder to measure.

6) Debrief and plan for your next event

Once you know the ROI of each event you go to, you can set priorities on which to attend and consider other types of events that may work better for you – they could be more focused-type of events such as roadshows – or bigger thought leadership events. Do not fall into the trap of going back to a show only because you’ve always been to that show! There is enough data available to make informed decisions.

Hopefully this blog will help as a bit of a refresher or as a guide to plan your first event. You can find plenty more tips on www.skylinewhitespace.com.