Companies around the country see trade shows for the riddle that they are—even though they can cost tens of thousands of dollars when you add up booth costs, travel expenses and training outlays, trade shows can also create million-dollar partnerships for B2B businesses while increasing exposure and credibility for the rest of us.
The problem is that after spending your hard-earned marketing dollar on entering the main event, stale tactics and lackluster metrics all too often weigh down your efforts. Although making the right connections and networking at trade shows can make up some of this lost ground, why wouldn't you want it all?
Inbound Marketing Provides a Vision and Metrics
Instead of handing out promotional products with your company's website and social media feed, dedicated landing page and ways to leave feedback, we see too many businesses providing the same type of handouts and giveaway items to everyone.
While in the right context that might not be a losing strategy, everything you hand out at a corporate event or trade show should be tied back into your online presence, and preferably tracked as well.
Because both B2B buyers and B2C consumers increasingly do their research from home or on the go, try handing out promo codes for free e-books and more in-depth whitepapers at your trade show booth to get your audience deeper into your brand.
Just make sure everything that you do is working towards the vision that you outlined pre-event.
Smaller companies just starting out might emphasize introducing their product line to mass audiences, lead generation and more brand awareness whereas more established companies would do better to drum up attention beforehand via email marketing messages and social media engagement.
This isn't to say that more social media followers shouldn't be something for smaller companies to shoot for: It should be. Feedback from customers, especially when companies are in their infancy, can shape the future trajectory of your content marketing, relationship with clients and even your product development.
Although there are a lot of worthwhile goals and takeaways from trade shows—e.g., more lead generation, social media followers, blog subscribers and email marketing campaign subscribers—you need to have a clear vision well, well before the event itself kicks off.
Setting tangible goals, whether with trade shows or myriad forms of content marketing, means that you'll eventually know whether you've hit a bullseye or need to reshuffle the deck for streamlined results.
Establish Marketing and Sales KPIs
This brings up another way to apply inbound marketing to your trade show principles: You need to establish marketing and sales KPIs and trackable metrics weeks (or months) before a trade show and relate those expectations to how well, for instance, your lead generation is coming off throughout the trade show week.
On the topic of lead generation, research indicates that trade fairs produce leads at less than half the cost of generating that same lead in the field. Just like with your inbound marketing, though, your pitches and content marketing are most effective when they fall on receptive ears and provide richer information to potential customers who have already showed an interest in your brand.
While your reps should still be approaching everyone and whipping up excitement around your brand, you can know whether their efforts are ultimately successful day-by-day via tracking your daily interactions, lead generation and conversion rates—it will take a lot of the guesswork out of your company's effectiveness. Bringing your inbound marketing skills to the trade show also allows you to track what is working and what isn't in a more real-time manner.
One of the best ways to collect usable data on customers, leads, and subsequent conversions by creating a dedicated landing page for a trade show. Gather information on your clients and upload the results to a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This gives you the lead/conversion ratios you're looking for and enables you to stay one step closer to your customers.
Keep the Show Going: Post-Event Lead Nurturance
One of the most surprising (and avoidable) reasons that trade shows sometimes take a prat fall for companies is that there isn't enough post-event lead nurturance.
Your customers sometimes need a push and a reminder in the form of an email marketing or social media message. You should send a message around the day after the show to turn that exciting experience into tomorrow's customers.
Since you've collected a lot of data on your customers already and have a good idea of what they're looking for, you should be able to provide timely, relevant content marketing that ties back into your trade show exhibit, branding image and overall business.
This isn't being pushy: It's letting customers know that they're still on your mind and how much you can help!
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