SHOWING OFF: Do exhibitions have a place in modern marketing?

Speak to any marketer and they’ll talk of three things: how squeezed their budgets are, how the powers that be have decided they need to ‘do digital’, and the pressure they’re under to get enough ROI from trade shows this year.

It’s no secret that exhibition marketing requires significant investment and for this reason they are often cut completely when it comes to cost-saving exercises. But is that the best thing to do?

Detractors will argue that trade shows are ‘old hat’; something marketing managers insist on doing because they’ve always have, rather than because they generate new leads. While the old adage of ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’ rings true here, perhaps it’s the way companies use exhibitions that needs to change, rather than banishing them altogether in order to make a quick save.

Like all areas of communication, exhibition marketing is constantly evolving. It has to – there are jaded visitors to impress and how you showcase your products and services is as important as the products and services themselves. By applying modern marketing methods to your trade show presence, you stand a better chance of capturing those longed-for leads.

Here’s our top tips for exhibition marketing in 2016:

1. Invest in your stand

You’ve paid to secure the space, now make the most of it. Pick a theme, create an area people want to spend time in (think sofas and comfortable chairs to welcome those with tired feet!), and introduce technology. Interactive touch screens have become a staple on stands but tablets allow potential customers to interact with your brand and the people behind it all in one go. Any opportunity for face-to-face communication is a win and tech should add to this interaction, not detract from it.

A simple way to keep your stand busy? Phone charging points! Don’t underestimate how useful a conversation over a charging phone could be. Plus, fully-charged phones equals lots of potential social media activity for your stand.

2. Build a community

What happens at a trade show, shouldn’t stay at a trade show! What makes events successful year on year is the effort put into building and maintaining its communities, online and off, throughout the year. Offer them special discounts before anyone else or discuss the latest advances in your field via a Facebook group, Twitter chat or LinkedIn discussion. At the show, host a special event for important customers and hot prospects, have a happy hour on stand or introduce a special offer for your community members during show time. Invest in your show community all year round and you will reap the rewards.

3. Use social media

Before you say it, we know you all understand about using the event’s hashtag and creating your own, but if for some reason you’ve not made social media a firm part of your exhibition strategy you need to, pronto. Talk to the event organisers about their plans and see how and when you can get involved. Use Periscope to live-stream on stand events and don’t be afraid of Snapchat! The Live Stories function means events can be shared through communal photos and videos and is set to be a big trend.

4. Don’t rely on memory!

Got some leads? Great! Now what are you planning on doing with them? Don’t think you’ll remember who was hot and who was not when you’re back at your desk – make the most of the opportunities with lead retrieval software at shows. A good suggestion is having technology available to scan visitor passes of people who are happy for you to contact them after the show. Simple, speedy and accurate.

5. Talk to everyone

We don’t just mean visitors. Are there opportunities for you to do business with other exhibitors? Does the press office know what you’re launching so they can point the media in your direction? Have the organisers made allowances for your special event (see point 2)? Get as many people on side as possible and invest in future as well as immediate relationships.

So don’t be so quick to ditch exhibitions - sure, you’ll balance your spreadsheet nicely for another 12 months, but you could be losing out in the long-term.


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