What is the one event that makes even the sales and marketing departments work together in complete agreement?
A trade show.
Did you know that the minimal cost for a 10×10 booth at a tradeshow is $10,000- 15,000? Think about it – by the time you reserve the booth space, book hotels, ship your booth & products, and add your team’s travel costs, your all-in cost is around $10 – $15k. That’s not a small expense in the budget so it’s important to make it work for you.
Managing a successful presence at a conference or trade show has staff from every level of science-based companies working towards a common goal. (Click here to find out why this shouldn’t be the only time Sales and Marketing work in harmony.)
Why Trade Shows are Valuable
We can all agree that while email and other digital marketing efforts provide a solid return on investment, the value of face-to-face sales & marketing meetings (such as those at trade shows and conferences) is enormous.
It’s at in-person meetings where you build trust and engage deeply with your audience. Rob Murphy’s article cites a Meeting Professionals International report which states that “40% of prospects are converted to new customers via face-to-face meetings.”
How to Choose the Right Conference or Trade Show
Trade shows and conferences are key events where your company can get that valuable face-to-face time with prospects. In the U.S. alone, there are hundreds of science, medical and pharma trade shows each year. But with so many available to you, how do you choose which shows and conferences will be most beneficial for your bottom line?
To identify the best events for your company, you first need to look at your business goals. Are you focused on the U.S. market or is your market international? If it is U.S. only, you’ll need to build a list of all the relevant conference and trade shows in the U.S.
If you want to reach other markets, you’ll need a list of all of the international events applicable to your product/ service. Get a demographic list from the show organizers to ensure your target audience will be there.
These lists give you a starting point. The real work starts after you have the lists in hand.
You’ll want to research each event. Before you decided to exhibit, you should consider attending and walking the show to ensure that your audience is there. You’ll also want to make sure that the show has a good reputation in your industry and that it delivers:
- Large numbers of attendees in your target audience (although what you’re really looking for is the right audience – quality versus quantity. Remember, some shows are for niche audiences and can the best ones!)
- Attendees who make buying decisions
Once you’ve identified the conference or trade show to attend, you’ll need to put a plan in place to:
- properly prepare for your attendance
- take advantage of all the networking possibilities at the show
- keep conversations going through follow-up after the event
- build your follow-up campaign.
How to Prepare Before Attending a Trade Show
Of course, you’ll need an exhibit booth. (Make sure that your booth has both clear signage and excellent brief messaging- no one is going to stand and read your booth.)
Beyond putting your booth together, there are significant pre-show marketing actions to take in order to maximize your company presence.
- Communicate. You need to get the word out that you will be attending the show. Create postcard, email, & social media campaigns along with press releases to communicate to your list and your social media audience that you will be available to meet at the show or conference. Add messaging to any advertising you are doing before the conference. If no one knows you’ll be there, you won’t have visitors to your booth.
- Let your audience know where to find you. (I’ve seen companies tell their audience they would be at a show only once via social media – and then not give out their booth number!) But just telling everyone your booth number is not enough.
You’ll want to investigate the marketing options the show’s organizers have available to attendees. This may include marketing opportunities such as renting the list of attendees, sponsoring events or content in the pre-show communications or – depending on the conference – attendee swag. Send out newsletters to your list offering the option to pre-schedule meetings at the show. Create press releases highlighting new products or events and presentations you’ll be hosting while at the show.
If you don’t communicate and promote your presence, you won’t see the foot traffic you expect at your booth.
Take Advantage of Trade Show Networking Opportunities
Being in attendance at a trade show is not the same as attending a trade show. Your company has invested a great deal of time, energy and money to be at the show. Therefore you need to do more than sit in your booth and hope that leads drop by for a visit.
You want to have your A-list staff working the booth at the show. You want staff that engage prospects and expertly move them forward along the sales path.
The booth isn’t the only place you need your sales staff engaging with prospects. Make sure they are attending the cocktail receptions, presentations, education sessions, breakfast events or other special events being held at the show. Check whether the show’s organizers provide a ‘matchmaking’ service connecting potential buyers or partners with sellers.
Follow-Up Leads to Success
None of these trade show attendance efforts will mean anything at all if your company doesn’t follow-up effectively. If you don’t follow-up with leads you’ve collected, it will be marketing budget wasted.
After you’ve entered prospect information into your CRM, you’ll need to design a communications plan to ensure that your new contacts don’t feel you’ve forgotten them. (Although you should have created your first follow-up communication before you even leave the office to attend the show!)
Nurturing leads is critical to the ROI of trade show attendance. Be sure you have marketing assets such as white papers or case studies to send your prospects as follow-up. Once you return to the office, you may want to create webinars addressing audience needs, additional white papers and newsletter content to further nurture your leads and reinforce that face-to-face connection your team built at the trade show.
Trade show or conference attendance may be a bit more complex than most companies realize. But with a strong plan you can implement for each event you attend, your company can achieve a solid ROI from trade shows.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.