Why (some) B2B trade shows still make sense
We know many marketers who look at their budget spend for trade shows each year and groan. And we get it. Trade Show participation — if you’re serious about your presence – are resource-intensive across the board. And yes, some industries (like boating, for example) became enslaved to the idea that pulling out of a show signals weakness. Ridiculous.
But because of what digital has done to B2B communications (reducing human relationships to email and conference calls), trade shows are one of the last places where you can meet your target market face-to-face, provide hands-on demonstrations, and network over drinks and food. That’s why as recently as 2011, 40% of B2B marketing budgets were allocated for trade shows.
Our view? If you’re going to commit to trade shows, get it right.
Don’t “Show and Go”
A common practice at trade shows is the “Show and Go.” You put together a neat booth and staff it with nice people. It’s not enough. Especially in B2B shows where a strong, branded booth is table stakes, and there’s little to no impulse buying.
The Key: Start early
Success is determined months before the show. So consider the following forms of outreach.
Eblast. Eblasts are economical and provide you with up-to-date statistics. They are a good test to gauge how enticing your product or services are. Eblasts can provide you with actionable leads before the event, which are crucial in competitive trade shows.
Hint: If you have a new product or service coming out, tease it in the eblast to gain interest.
Press Releases. Trade shows are often used for launching and promoting a new product or service. But expand your thinking about what may be newsworthy. Example: If you have done research you can report on the findings and offer a presentation at your booth. Send it out to media outlets and offer interviews with your internal leaders to make the topic relevant and reportable.
Social Media Posts. Social media leverages your investment in the show. It can help to put a personal touch on your pre-show outreach, and can expand your ability to follow up. Example: For some clients we have created a contest before the event and asked attendees to post comments, pictures, or videos to a Facebook page as a way to participate.
Hint: Incentivize the target just a bit. Product giveaways are easy and make sure to announce the winner at your booth to maximize contact.
Schedule appointments. B2B targets usually hit the show with a list of booths they really need to visit. Be on those lists. Schedule meetings. Offer refreshments. Do the little things to keep them there as long as possible.
Hint: Online scheduling and appointment booking software are gaining popularity due to their ease of use.
In closing, if done right B2B trade shows can work.
And when the show must go on, we’re ready to talk.