TOP TEN TIPS FOR EVENT MARKETING & EXHIBITIONS
As the marketing mix implemented by brands and businesses becomes ever more complex, events remain a potentially powerful ingredient. The relationship between brands and their audience has changed. Price point and product are no longer the lynch pin of loyalty, this now falls to experience. That is the experience of your brand that your customers and clients are immersed in. Used correctly, this experience will shape the success of future relationships, drive meaningful interest and create zealots for your brand, service and products. So where do events come in? Well where better to make connections, showcase yourself live and in person and start that immersion into your awesome brand….
We’d never claim events or exhibition can offer a one stop shop for all your marketing needs. Far from it, we see events as interwoven with a multi-faceted marketing effort. The proportions of this may vary widely between brands based on need. Yet given the strength of a business, their service, their product and their other marketing avenues, we are often surprised at the challenging time they have within events and exhibitions. This is why we’ve developed our top ten tips to enhance your event marketing and exhibitions strategy.
Read Our Top Ten Tips
It seems obvious, we know. However we will see businesses trying to make event marketing work for them, when it’s really not the right medium. We’re always honest if we feel alternative approaches, events or even an entirely different focus are right for a client. You can start to do this yourself by auditing your sector: do your competitors exhibit? Why do they/don’t they? Is there genuine value if you did exhibit at ‘X’ event? (Note that value could be different to ROI/cost) Does your product or service lend itself to an exhibition or event?
Even if a larger exhibition or trade show is not the right call, it could be that a roadshow, more intimate local event, open day, tours or hospitality event is better. In any case events should be considered, planned and never rushed to give them the best foundations for success.
1 SHOULD YOU EXHIBIT?
Once you’ve decided if events as a medium are right for you, next comes the choice of a vast array of events across different venues, sectors and sizes. As part of your advance planning, look at the research associated with the event(s) you’re considering. Explore the data, look at visitor numbers, demographics, trends in attendance and advocacy. Don’t be fooled by vanity metrics in the data though, 20 genuine engaged visitors at the right small event, could be more valuable than 200 at a larger one. Carefully consider the information at your disposal. We’d also always recommend visiting an event before exhibiting. This gives you an experience of the event and will allow you to better decide it’s right for you. Pay attention to how the organiser responds to your queries too, you want to feel valued and supported not fobbed off, such behaviours can be a big warning sign about the event structure and support.
2 CHOOSING YOUR EXHIBITION
As with all marketing, a key goal, conversion or ‘KPI’ is important, and event marketing should be no different. Structuring your event attendance around a central goal from planning onward can support effective design, build and strategy. This reinforces the likelihood you’ll find the event valuable. A key consideration in perceived ‘value’ at events is ROO vs ROI. That is ‘Return on Objective’ vs. ‘Return on Investment’. We wouldn’t down-play the importance of getting value for money, but do highlight the importance of achieving core objective(s) over purely getting your money back. Often an over-emphasis on selling or aggressive tactics on the stand can result in poorer performance, an unwelcoming environment and unrealistic goals for your team, not a great start. This is especially true of B2B events, in which the process of attracting a visitor, engaging them as a prospect and continuing that relationship to completion/sales may be complex and covert, taking place far beyond the life of the event itself. So keep objectives specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound – SMART.
3 SET YOUR OBJECTIVES
It’s simple, we want to support you and your success at events. After all when you look good and feel good about your events, so do we, it’s kind of what we do. However we can’t do that if budget is kept secret. Transparency about budget helps everyone set expectation and strategy from the start and gives a project scale. No exhibitions are not cheap, and there can be many direct and indirect costs that you may not consider at first. We pride ourselves on working across all budgets and sizes of event from DIY build to modular to custom exhibition stands. Knowing budget will help us and other specialists support you with the most appropriate path, and may even help you scale your own approach more effectively. We would rather work with clients open about budget and keen to control spend. This suggests they are serious about success and committed to developing a realistic solution, not being sold unrealistic expectations.
4 DON’T KEEP YOUR BUDGET A SECRET
If your planning and objectives are strong, these will inform the design of your exhibition stand first and foremost. Additionally the sector, size and spend at the event will also factor into the design direction taken. With design and marketing evolving more across digital mediums, effectively translating campaigns into 3D event environments can be challenging. This is where a skilled exhibition stand designer comes in. To maximise the effectiveness of this relationship, don’t tell your designer how to design, but rather inform them of how you want the space to work for you. You might be surprised at the creative solutions they come up with, whilst attending to your brand guidelines and anchoring your wider identity at the event. Professional design will often total around 15% of the stand build budget, but is often very worthwhile. We have the added benefit of design, management and production all being in-house services. Any creative approach is then linked with the practical and costed solution to achieve it – a key strength to look for when choosing a design and build partner.
5 DESIGNING YOUR STAND
A clear timetable can be your best friend when it comes to planning events and also positioning yourself for success. Make sure you’ve gathered all relevant deadlines from the organiser, not only the obvious but the out of sight too. It’s surprisingly easy to forget items such as electrical, carpet or Wi-Fi as those unseen but crucial aspects of an exhibition stand. It pays to plan ahead, not only for peace of mind but the reliable practice of early-bird pricing to encourage such organisation. From our experience, a minimum of 3 months ahead of the exhibition is where we consider the build process to begin. Our clients have the added bonus of our management package which we include as standard in every project. Through which we identify, cost and manage all aspects of the build from paperwork and plans to electrics and plumbing. Be sure to ask those involved in your project what they are willing to do as part of this, and ensure everyone is certain of their roles and any deadlines associated with it – this saves embarrassing omissions, mistakes and expenses.
6 TIME IT RIGHT
Now we’re aware of the expression: ‘build it and they will come’, but this isn’t usually the best philosophy for exhibitions. In order to attract visitors and develop your business effectively, people have to know you’re there. Better yet they have to know why you’re there, what you’re doing and how that provides them with value. This will vary depending on your objectives and approach, but remains a key factor in successful event marketing. Invite existing clients, target new prospects and leverage your wider marketing mix to support your event, a few key actions could be:
Advertising in trade journals or websites
Ensuring a complete and objective driven entry on your show profile – keep an eye out for other marketing tools from the organisers to use to your advantage too
Consider PR and engaging local, national or trade press – especially if you’re launching a new product or service
Use social media effectively through hashtags and related accounts linked to the event
Link to on-stand engagement or incentives – consider an invitation only competition to refine your attendees
7 PRE-SHOW POSITIONING
People. They make or break events, so it’s important to make sure your team is well prepared. All the captivating design and engagements in the world won’t make up for unwelcoming staff. Carefully curate the team you want representing your brand on the stand. Make expectations and approach clear, seek advice on how to exhibit yourself if need be. This is something we will often advise clients on, and some good starting tips would be:
Clear, detailed and measurable sales and engagement approach
Use genuine opening lines and Socratic or ‘open questions’ to solicit information and engage visitors meaningfully as they approach, be welcoming but not aggressive
Balance numbers, 3 square metres per staff member is a good rule of thumb to avoid overcrowding
Ensure a functional rota, this keeps staff well rested and avoids eating, drinking or slumping on the stand, that’s what breaks are for
Consider body language and approachability, try not to sit down unless absolutely necessary, keep arms unfolded, stay focused on visitors not on other staff
Smile. No really, smile at people, share connection and warmth. It makes them feel welcome, valued and it’s not something they can get on the phone, internet or via email
Enjoy the experience and so will guests. Make visits entertaining, personal and meaningful, remember the importance of experience
Time your data capture or information sharing carefully, this often signals an end point in conversation, so doing so prematurely with a strong prospect is likely less valuable than an extended and personal conversation
8 STAFFING FOR SUCCESS
Alongside other marketing techniques, events can be perceived as a ‘blunt instrument’. This is often related to how marketers engage with the event and approach lead capture. This is best planned early, potentially integrating measurement tools or incentives into the stand design and build where appropriate. Many events will offer their own means for data capture such as barcode scanners, light-pens and even geo-locational tracking. It’s important that the techniques employed fit your needs, arguably someone who comes to your stand for a free coffee, won’t be as valuable as those who are actively engaging with you. Multiple layers of data capture can help develop a richer view of your event and ensure what your measuring is meaningful. Often this process can be paired smoothly with digital brochures, competition entries and subscriptions to mailers, providing richer data and setting up for informed follow-ups.
9 LEAD CAPTURE & EVENT DATA
Breathing a collective sigh of relief after you’ve finished an intense period of exhibiting is understandable. Abandoning all further efforts to fate is not. It’s crucial to capitalise on your hard work and investment within an event by continuing to follow-up effectively afterward. In prepping your staff, you should have also developed a strategy for follow-up. Use your rich multi-layered data and personal conversations to make this follow-up meaningful. The beauty of connections at events is their warmth in comparison to other mediums, so don’t let them go cold and ensure subsequent contact is timely. It’s also important to celebrate your efforts, continue to engage with the event afterwards, voice opinions and advocate it. Not only will it improve the event for you by giving feedback to relevant parties, but also advertise it to other prospects ready for next time.