The events and exhibitions industry generates over £40 billion each year, when executed with care and attention to detail they can be a productive way to increase brand awareness and generate ROI. Now that traditional marketing such as trade shows and exhibitions have taken a backseat to faceless interactions in the digital realm – how do we combine the 2 to create an event that leaves engaged advocates that become profitable clients and ensure ROI? Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed”, and this is true to form when it comes to more traditional events, they need to be approached with goals that are both clear and quantifiable and have an appropriate metric for tracking it.
The same method that you apply to any digital PR strategies should be applied to the research of your chosen event – Who are the audience? It is critical to gain an understanding of who your audience will be and the most effective way you can engage with them and influence all the decisions you make surrounding your day. Areas of ‘need to know’ will include basic demographics, their interests on a personal and professional level and where they are active online. The audience that you are met with at trade shows and business exhibitions may be of the ‘old school’ and still wary of digital services and strategies, although their businesses could benefit from your offerings. Identified leads should be entered into CRM software ideally that can integrate social channels and google analytics from your website, and tagged accordingly so that the lead can be followed up – minimising the risk of missed opportunities or wasted time. Ultimately should this lead become a client, the revenue and lifetime customer value can be measured and the ROI can be defined.
Building relationships with media staff covering the events months in advance can give you deeper insights into the audience and success of previous year’s events, usually the event will have a PR contact – use them to your advantage. Find out the angle that they are using to pitch the event – this works by demonstrating how proactive you are and also saves you any embarrassment of pitching the same angle to press; create a news worthy press release to be featured both online and in print that will be focussed towards your audience and their level of understanding.
Another key area of audience research is to find out in advance, who the key influencers are within their industry or location. For instance, Simon Chaplin is not only a successful business owner, CEO of Greenstones in Peterborough, he also runs an innovative business consultant service called Socks-Up Simon and is a key figure within Peterborough business with a vast number of contacts. Once you have found out who these influencers are, use social channels and blogs to build relationships, by responding to tweets and commenting / sharing posts that they have written, make yourself visible, valuable and relevant. When you have taken the time to build the relationship, let them know about the events you will be exhibiting at, maybe they could help you by sharing this – maybe even come down and meet you (this will validate your brand authenticity and trust). Don’t forget to ask your current clients, vendors and employees to share any related content too – we all build our own relationships within our careers that can be leveraged.
Along with reaching out to influencers on social media, it’s a proven powerful tool to deliver content and engage with other attendees. Reports have shown that around 93% of businesses use social media when attending events – be smart with your time and take advantage of tech tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule posts with generic event related content coupled with setting aside a pocket of time each day to address individual and reply to posts. It’s worth establishing which channels your audience are most active and engaged on and focusing your attention here, rather than spreading yourself thinly over multiple channels. As with every business process, the results of these efforts must be measurable, take advantage of the free analytics tools available to gauge the success of your energies in this field.
Building a solid landing page specifically surrounding the event on your website will give a unified approach however, take into consideration the varying degrees of understanding that the user will have around your business, particularly if you are in a digital or tech realm. Having a registration form that allows people to book demos or consultations with you will aid you to treat the event as a meeting, giving you structure throughout the day.
Your stand or exhibition space will scream so much about your brand to the crowds of attendees and the team involved need to be very clear in what you want it to say. Don’t even consider using a trestle table, invest in a stand that doesn’t act as a barrier between you and the crowds and use the whole space to reach all of the senses to truly reflect your brand, lights, colours, sound by means of videos and interactive quizzes – also great for data capture. An interesting stand makes for a great talking point and makes your business memorable. Offering consultations or demonstrations is great way to initially engage, but solidify the act by providing personalised information to be taken away with the prospect.
Once the trade show is over, it is crucial that close attention should be paid to both the follow up strategy, the campaign metrics and the ROI - your strategies and campaigns should be optimised as your amount of data increases, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your ROI won’t change, no event is ever the same and each one should be tracked, as leads from shows mature and slowly turn into revenue, these should be added to the statistics to provide an accurate view of the ROI and the true value of traditional marketing events.