Curious why all your marketing and event people at work are either frenzied, out of office, or both? It’s trade show season!
That blissful time of year when everyone travels to stadiums or exhibit halls that transform into experiences and we all lose our minds. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic — but with tight deadlines, high budgets, big ROI goals, and lots of potential problems, like delayed product shipments and sketchy WiFi, you know firsthand how intense trade show season can become.
From HIMSS bringing together over 1300 exhibitors and 40,000 attendees in Orlando to CONEXPO, the biggest triennial (every three years, I looked it up) construction trade show in North America —events teams are out in force with their shiny products, prizes, pitches, and displays.
Trade show season really is an exciting part of B2B sales and marketing, with lots of untapped potential for innovation not only in lead retrieval and follow-up technology, but across all aspects of buyer engagement.
Overcoming the Trade Show Juggling Act
Trade shows are a series of sprints that don’t necessarily coordinate with what’s reasonable to expect from your event teams. If you’ve worked any trade show, you know it’s a 24/7 marathon to drive event ROI.
On top of that, you are balancing booth logistics, spending days on your feet, and simultaneously working to capture a significant percent of your yearly leads into your marketing tech stack. (Wait, you’re not still collecting business cards or using show provided badge scanners are you? If so, we really need to talk).
So much time, energy, and investment goes into making game-changing impact in just a few days of an event. And in the rush to do this over and over again across your trade show calendar, the needs of your buyers often get forgotten! (Uh oh!)
Put Buyers First at Your Trade Shows
Many brands think their trade show strategy puts buyers first, but that is often more impression than reality when it comes to the actual buyer experience.
For example, did anyone genuinely thank you for the paper brochure you handed them? Would they have probably rather seen an actual product video, interactive model or 3D simulator? Wouldn’t it be more powerful to email them the appropriate weblink to visit later and pass around?
In a sea of brochures, booths, branded swag, and other event attendees, how are you communicating with your buyers, standing out, and connecting with your ideal customer profile?
Standard trade show practices tend to focus on the the “best” of everything, such as making sure your booth is in the best location for foot traffic or your best people are on-site to staff it.
But it is far more important to ask whether your trade show strategy is what’s best for your buyers.
It helps to understand important details like:
- Who are your buyers?
- Why do they go to trade shows?
- Are they new prospects? Loyal customers? Swag collectors? Window shoppers?
- And do you have the right buyer experience for each?
I’ve even heard very smart customers of ours who say things like, “we don’t get leads at that show, it’s just for customers.” (Jaw drop...I know.)
While this may be true for a few industries or some events, every face-to-face engagement with customers is a highly-valuable opportunity. From discovering new problems you can solve through conversation, to getting referrals from satisfied clients, customers are always buyers, and you need to keep them engaged.
Strategies to Engage Buyer Groups at Trade ShowsEngagement can vary in sophistication, but it only works if it creates personalized connections between brands and buyers.
Here are some good ways to rethink your trade show events to accommodate buyers:
- Bring what they need: A stack of your latest brochures won’t cut it, unless that’s all your buyers want to talk about at your trade show. Create strategies that equip your event team with access to content that supplements any and all conversations.
- Think simple: The second you print a marketing asset, the clock is running on when it will become outdated. Your brand needs a simple way to connect buyers with content that is current and compliant.
- Treat them well: While potential buyers are revenue opportunities, treat every visitor like a long-awaited guest. Your job is to learn how you can help them — because business is created from offering value.
- Provide rewards: For some, it might be that branded keychain; for others, it’s help with a lingering problem. Every guest to your booth should feel they’ve been rewarded for their time once they leave.
These ideas are a good place to start, but never stop brainstorming new ways to delight potential trade show attendees.
It’s easy to overlook aspects of your event that could have elevated your buyer engagement, only to realize the missed opportunity once the trade show floor goes dark. But, with a busy event season, the next opening day is very likely already on your calendar. Don't make the same mistake twice.
Be sure to take a step back on the plane ride home and reflect on how much your efforts are paying off (or not). Ask yourself if there is any room for improvement in the ways you are engaging buyers. Think critically about this from the point of view of the buyer attendee. This is the only way to develop a trade show strategy built for better buyer engagement all season long.