In this episode, Barry Speilman VP of marketing at Sixgill, a cyber threat intelligence platform, shares how he uses events and trade show marketing strategies to fuel business growth.
- Why trade show marketing strategies are worth considering
- Know your why
- Find suitable trade show events
- Prepare for trade shows
- Design your booth, messaging and giveaways to make an impact
- Be a speaker, not just an exhibitor
- Develop an engagement plan
- Create a post-event follow-up strategy
- Conduct a postmortem
- How to use webinars in conjunction with trade shows
- How to retarget and advertise to your target audience
- Implementing an effective trade show marketing strategy
- Some topics Barry and I discussed on the epsiode include:
- Listen to the episode
- Related links and resources
- Connect with Barry
Why trade show marketing strategies are worth considering
In this day and age, when most companies invest in digital marketing to grow their business, trade show marketing strategies are still worth using. Why?
Because according to research by DesignShop:
- Over half of exhibitors say they have the most success reaching their target audience at smaller shows.
- Trade show leads cost less than meeting those leads in traditional ways like their office.
- Having your expert at your booth is one of the most effective forms of promotion during the event.
- Trade show attendees make great prospects.
Simply attending a trade show doesn’t allow you to achieve your business objectives. In fact, preparation is the key to developing trade show marketing strategies that can help fuel your business growth.
Here are the key elements for crafting your trade show marketing strategies.
Know your why
A good place to start with your trade show marketing strategy is to know your why. Your why will be informed by your overall marketing strategy as well as your answers to the following questions:
- WHY do we attend trade shows?
- HOW will we gather those leads and convert them into paying customers?
- WHAT is our plan? What specifically are we going to do?
Answering these questions will help to ensure that your trade show strategy and associated tactics and goals make sense in the context of why you are attending them. Just be sure to involve all your stakeholders, to ensure that everyone agrees on the goals for your trade show presence.
Find suitable trade show events
Once you have defined goals, you’ll need to find trade shows where you can execute your strategy.
These fall under two categories:
- Trade shows related to your industry
- Trade shows related to the interests of your future customers
For example, Sixgill would look into cybersecurity trade shows, but it would also consider trade shows related to banking and finance, law enforcement, and the defense industry—trade shows which would encompass the interests of their future customers.
To get started you can use your search engine to find trade shows for your industry or looking up options on the Trade Show News Network. Other options include monitoring your competitors and mentions of them at events. Those events are likely to be a good fit for your business as well.
Prepare for trade shows
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” applies to trade show marketing strategies as well. The strategy needn’t take long, but it does require the right messaging, design, people, and giveaways to make it work.
If you know your why, you should also know your purpose for attending a trade show.
For some companies, it may be simply about generating buzz and awareness for the company itself or perhaps a new product or service launch. Others might have specific sales-related objectives such as generating a certain number of leads and opportunities or capturing as many target-rich contacts as possible for your email database. Or it may be a combination of objectives.
Determine these long before the event. Why?
Because what you are trying to accomplish at the trade show should be connected to your business and event objectives. To track your progress, you’ll need to set specific, quantifiable metrics for measuring the success of your attendance at the trade show.
Hold meetings before the event
Trade shows aren’t just about brand awareness and gathering new leads. They can also be a great opportunity to keep in touch with your customers, potential influencers, or potential partners for your business. To ensure your trade show investment is as effective as possible, set up meetings with these people before the event. Scheduling these meetings during low traffic times can be a great way to get the most from your team’s time at the trade show.
Establish a clear call to action
Assuming you can attract a lot of people to your booth to make inquiries, you still must be able to track your success. That is possible only if you have a clear call to action and a metric to help you determine what you achieved with your efforts. Tactics for lead generation can be easily tracked using:
- A landing page on your website that you can also promote your booth. Encourage people to visit and download information.
- A contest for those attending the trade shows that they can enter to win.
- Using a hashtag on social media before and during the event and encouraging people to use it in their posts.
Put the right people in the booth
Staffing your booth is another critical part of your preparation. Assuming that you are attending the trade show to develop leads, you need people whose skills complement each other to attract future customers, qualify them, and close them. They also need to manage your booth traffic. So, a combination of marketing, customer success, and salespeople might work well in such instances.
Design your booth, messaging and giveaways to make an impact
If you have been to a trade show you know that standing out in a sea of booths with crowded aisles requires you to capture your future customers’ attention in a few seconds. This is where the design of the trade booth comes in. Your future customers who are walking by should be able to recognize who you are and what you do instantly. Once they walk up to the booth, it’s the job of the booth’s staff to take it from there.
So, assembling a team with great communication and sales skills is another key part of the process, as is producing relevant collateral like:
- Business cards
- Display boards
Creating a powerful visual impact with simple and clear messaging is very important to lure people in. But you also need to ensure your brand is prominent and consistent with your other marketing materials.
This can’t be overstated:
When it comes to swag, be sure to select giveaway items that stand out. Sure, ink pens are a staple but choose other items that attendees will want to keep for themselves, not just collect to give to their kids when they get home. Remember, even your giveaways reflect your brand, so choose items that are unique and desirable.
Be a speaker, not just an exhibitor
Being a speaker provides more bang for the dollar, says Barry. He always looks for opportunities to speak because, almost by definition, you’re increasing your exposure dramatically.
He says there are different conditions and costs associated with speaking at events, but there is no question in his mind that it is worth it if you have the budget.
Develop an engagement plan
Your booth should be staffed with enthusiastic employees who connect with trade show attendees and are implementing the strategy you developed long before they arrived. Working on laptops or tablets, scanning emails on smartphones, and sitting in chairs is sure to send negative signals to passers-by. Your staff is there to work the booth, so that should be their sole focus.
Besides having engaging conversations, consider something else to attract and engage an audience. Motion graphics, videos, and demonstrations can be powerful vehicles for drawing interest and succinctly (and entertainingly) conveying more about your services and/or products.
Contests, promotions, giveaways and other creative methods also can be used to help you create hype and achieve your trade show goals. But think beyond swag and Apple Watch giveaways. Consider packaging your own products or services as a giveaway that you promote, and your attendees want. Be sure you have a plan of action for generating conversations, identifying legitimate prospects and capturing their contact information through a scanner or landing page. This will be helpful in using your lead management process after the event.
Create a post-event follow-up strategy
Just because the trade show is over, it doesn’t mean that your work is done. This is where many trade show efforts miss the mark. Follow up with the attendees that visited your booth and gave you their contact information. However, don’t mistake every contact as a warm lead and try to sell to them right away.
The sooner you can follow up with leads after a show, the better.
Being able to follow up almost immediately after your first encounter is critical in being able to stay top of mind with a future customer or partner. Why? Because they’ll still remember you and they are likely to respond favorably to your follow-up messages and/or offers.
You could do this by uploading lead lists to your automated email marketing service provider at the end of each day and sending a follow-up email to thank visitors for stopping by. If you cannot follow up the same day, be sure to follow up within five days.
You could send your potential leads an email to thank them for stopping by, offer them a free download of your presentation and try to gauge their interest. The number of unsubscribes you get from your initial email will quickly tell you who was interested in your company and who just wanted that prize/gift you gave away.
For the contacts that remain, set up a lead nurturing campaign. This will help you see which prospects are worth pursuing and save your sales team a lot of time and energy. Keep the buzz going by generating post-trade-show content on your blog and social media channels. And most of all, measure the results of your efforts against the goals you set for the show, and do this for several months after the show.
Conduct a postmortem
When the trade show is over and your team is back, it is important to conduct a postmortem of your experience and outcomes. A debrief meeting with members of your sales and marketing teams will help ensure that you are getting a holistic picture of the trade show’s successes, failures, and shortcomings from your business point of view.
The reality is that plans don’t always go where you intended them to, your best ideas may fail and your team might have to improvise for one reason or another.
Postmortem debriefs can help to identify lessons learned and things that can be improved to make the next trade show a success. Recording this information will help you determine whether it is worth your while to attend future trade shows and what aspects of your trade show marketing strategy should be improved or dropped.
How to use webinars in conjunction with trade shows
Barry says webinars are more content-oriented than trade shows. Webinars can be used to cover the different stages of where a prospect is in the sales funnel.
Speaking from his experience at Sixgill, he says:
Webinars have been used to create brand awareness through thought leadership. It’s more to get people interested enough to download a resource. The webinars are not so much about the company but about a specific topic. However, the company is mentioned because the solution is on Sixgill’s platform. The main value to the audience is learning something from spending 45 minutes on the webinar.
Once a person registers and downloads a resource, there is a good chance that they’ll come back for additional webinars. Eventually, you can reach out to these people through SDRs and set up demos that take them into the sales funnel. At Sixgill some people have been on as many as five of their webinars.
This shows that we are providing valuable information and/or educating the audience.
A sales pitch also can be delivered on a webinar, but it should focus on different people in different stages in the funnel. In such webinars, you’re showing aspects of the product that are meant to engage people who are at a certain point. They are obviously not going to interest someone who’s never heard of you.
How to retarget and advertise to your target audience
For a company like Sixgill, retargeting is important. But they aren’t going to invest solely in retargeting on Facebook as that is not where their target audience is likely to be. LinkedIn would be a better place to retarget and fuel their trade show marketing strategies.
They would advertise on LinkedIn. They’ve even advertised on Twitter.
You can promote on all your own channels as well.
At Sixgill they use their mailing lists, which aren’t small. With emails, a 30% open rate is a great outcome. Of the 30% that do open an email, about 10-15% would click on a link. But by definition 70% of the people, you’re sending an email to are not going to read it. So really, it’s all a numbers game at the end of the day.
Email marketing is also a way to advertise. You could invest in paid advertisements on LinkedIn and Facebook too. Facebook for Sixgill is less relevant. Google AdWords could, however, be a better way to target audiences.
When they run cooperative or joint webinars with others, they’re not the only people promoting them. They’ve done webinars with research organizations like Forrester and Gartner. Such joint webinars also get another wave of promotion in their own right because of the reputation and standing of the others in the webinar.
“You want to reach the point where you are able to get it out to the right people and as many people as you can, but it’s not so easy. If you’re good, then you do it better. And there’s no single answer, no magic solution to doing it the best way.”
Implementing an effective trade show marketing strategy
As we have seen, planning is critical for making your investment in trade shows effective.
Once the exhibit space has been purchased, you develop a timeline that counts down what must be done each week until the show and decide on who in your business will take the lead for the trade show. To be successful you will need to:
- Learn everything about the show that can illustrate the impact your business solutions can have on future customers and that helps you plan your messaging for emails and conversations.
- Design and prepare all the messaging for the trade show.
- Have your team contact customers and prospects and schedule times to meet during the show.
- Plan every detail of what your booth staff will do at the show.
- Plan your follow up.
These elements might seem obvious, but most companies that fail aren’t consistent and don’t execute with rigor.
What’s made your trade show marketing strategies work well for you?
Some topics Barry and I discussed on the epsiode include:
- How to market to enterprise and government clients
- How to market so as to ensure a continual supply of leads
- How Sixgill uses content marketing to nurture leads
- Why they advertise their webinars given the clients they target
- How to use influencer marketing for events to fuel growth
- How to decide what sort of budget to allocate towards events and trade show marketing to gain an ROI
- How to decide whether boosting brand awareness takes priority over generating leads in your trade show marketing strategy
- Who you need to take along to execute on your trade show marketing strategy
- Barry’s perspective on whether public relations is a separate specialty or a skill set in a broader digital marketing context
- The role of employee advocacy for trade show marketing strategies and lead nurturing
- and much much more …
Listen to the episode
Related links and resources
- Check out Sixgill
- Get a copy of Barry’s book – From Gettysburg to Golan: How Two Great Battles Were Won – and the Lessons They Share
- Get a copy of Barry’s book – Family Secrets: A Novel of the American Civil War, the Transcontinental Railroad and One Man’s Journey to Discover his Roots
- Watch the video of the interview
Connect with Barry
- Connect with Barry on LinkedIn
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