Product and service companies exhibit at trade shows to give their sales reps in-person opportunities to start conversations with as many relevant attendees as they can. The end goal: nurture quality leads toward a sale. Good money is spent for the booth space, travel, giveaways and all the logistics, so it shouldn’t be expected that conversations will simply happen when the attendees pass near your booth. Attendees are often racing to sessions. And, it can be overwhelming for them when all vendors are vying for their time. Often they are seeking solutions like yours but can be hard to find even with the great booth design and message. Slowing attendee traffic and directing it to your booth starts with creative marketing programs that are conceived before the event, then further executed during your days there.
(Let’s not forget that attendees can also include your customers who may be going to the conference for the sessions or to update their industry certifications.)
Our firm manages marketing for a software company who attends a series of a Disaster Recovery conferences each Spring and Fall. Here are some examples of traffic and lead generation programs that has given attendees reasons to flock to their booth and want to learn more about their offerings:
Exhibit floor contest that creates buzz among attendees
We have seen great success giving out Gift Cards every half hour to attendees who are spotted wearing branded paraphernalia on the exhibit floor—mainly things that light up or blink, which gets attention from a distance and gets attendees asking each other “where did you get that?” This makes your booth staff more approachable. Sales reps can use the time to explain the contest and ask some qualifying questions to attendees about their goals at the conference, like “looking for solutions?”, “catching up at the sessions?”, “new to the industry or your company?”, etc. Taking pictures with the winners makes great Twitter promotions when using the specific conference hashtag.
Afterhours receptions that bring prospects and customers together
You will never waste money when you have an opportunity to entertain your customers and invite select prospects to come along to hear why your offerings are so special. Recently, we organized an invitation-only Karaoke Night at a Disney resort restaurant in Orlando. We limited it to 40 people to keep it intimate. We controlled the crowd (and the consumption) with number-stamped invitations and wristbands that were given at the door. Altered personalities come out during Karaoke 🙂
For the same company, we held a two-night Whiskey Tasting that toured the four regions of Scotland atop a popular San Diego hotel that overlooked the bay and city. We anticipated around 50 people for each night, but the word got out at the conference, and more attendees flocked to the booth to ask about the venue, which doubled attendance—forcing re-orders of special scotch whiskeys for the second night. This is always a nice problem to have allowing you to connect with more clients and prospects. We’ve even done Salsa Dancing (with lessons) which is great for attendees who bring their spouses and partners. You have to do what makes sense for your audience and make sure you time it right.
Lasting impressions made with a captive audience
We like to gather a large crowd around the booth on the last day of the event, especially when the attendee lunch is located adjacent to the exhibit floor. A TV (that can also be used for software demonstrations) has always been a big hit. There are so many great ideas for under $500. Although attendees are made aware of the drawing while at the booth, guerrilla marketing should be used to increase traffic by working the attendee lunch tables and handing out entry forms 15-20 minutes prior to the drawing. We have found that attendees appreciate the awareness and convenience because they can simply stop by the booth on their way out of the exhibit hall. While you have a captive audience around the booth waiting for the drawing to go off, it’s best to use one of the top executives to do brief shout outs about the company and to stir up some fun with the attendees. Wait, it’s not over, you just can’t give away one item and limit the exposure of your brand. Save some of the gift cards (from the above contest) and have some company-branded items ready. This also makes good photo ops for social media.
The forethought and hustle doesn’t stop at the conference
The entry forms should be used to supplement the lead device or App swipes and the business cards collected, which can double or triple your output. This gives your sales and marketing team more contacts to follow-up with that you would not have normally obtained without such a program. Immediately after you get back from the conference, start your lead management process: 1) merge/purge your swipes, entry forms and business cards; 2) scrub out contacts you do not want; 3) amend the sales Notes; 4) upload to your CRM to get a ratio of new vs. existing prospects; and 5) stay top-of-mind by sending a marketing email to support your sales reps. Most likely your sales reps will have already started following-up with the hot leads before your email goes out.
Final note: Attendees will talk up memorable marketing programs during and after the conference—making it easier to remember you when following-up. It takes some forethought and hustle at trade shows to yield better results.