Trade shows are an excellent way to make personal connections with a lot of target customers at once and develop a list of qualified leads. But a booth or sponsorship can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $100,000, depending upon the size and stature of the event. How can you most effectively translate that upfront cost into ROI?
Before the Event
If purchasing a booth at a big industry event, such as AWS re:Invent, you’ll want to start planning at least two to three months ahead. There is a lot to do, from developing, ordering and shipping marketing materials and equipment; arranging for travel; designing your booth; preparing staff and coordinating any events you might be hosting, such as a happy hour. Here are the steps:
1) Set your goals. Do you want greater brand awareness or lead generation? If the former, consider forgoing a booth and instead host a speaking session. On the other hand, a more focused event that attracts primarily the job titles in your target audience is where you’ll want to set high goals for interactions and leads and where you’ll want to invest in a sizable booth.
2) Think messaging. Every show is different in terms of the theme and audience; build messaging on your booth and in any supporting collateral accordingly. Don’t forget about the pitch for booth traffic! We share a booth FAQ which covers the most-asked questions to avoid confusion.
3) Do proper staff planning. Will you have a technical demonstration of your product? Is it primarily a C-suite level audience? Choose staff according to the goals of the team. Ensure that there is a marketing team member at the event to handle logistics and be a single point of contact for everyone. Once you’ve got the team in place, schedule assignments for the booth and send them out as calendar invites so everyone knows where they need to be and when they need to be there. Finally, make sure you book flights and hotels far in advance. Rooms sell out fast and you want to be as close to the venue as possible and keep your team in one place.
4) Consider the booth. It’s generally more cost-effective if you have your own booth, but having a turnkey booth, including A/V equipment, can be worth the expense. That way, event staff takes care of all the setup, take down and troubleshooting for you, and you don’t need to worry about shipping expensive equipment. Don’t forget about cables, tape, power strips, etc., in case you need a last-minute fix.
5) What about the swag? This is everybody’s favorite subject. Make sure to choose swag items that are appropriate for the audience. C-levels, VPs and directors may not care about a techie gadget like a PopSocket, but they may love a nice logoed notebook or T-shirt. We often have more than one type of swag on hand so as to tailor the giveaway to the individuals attending the show.
During the Show
If you’ve been organized in the planning stage, the show can be a lot of fun and stress free. Start off on a good foot by arriving on the trade show floor as soon as it’s open for set up. First, find the support staff and introduce yourself. These are the folks who handle networking, A/V, lead retrieval and electrical issues. You’ll want their contact information on your phone. Check all your equipment — and check it twice. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a technical glitch during a demo. Meet your neighbors on the floor, and locate all the restrooms, exits and entrances.
Also, you should establish a group chat for your team so you can send out reminders and updates. Ask everyone to show up an hour before the show floor opens to test equipment and go over the giveaways and messaging.
Booth etiquette is important. It may sound like common sense, but I’ve too often seen people spend their precious booth time on their phones. Your people need to have their A-game on for the entire shift, which is why we never schedule shifts for longer than four or five hours. Asking folks how their day is going or simply smiling can go a long way.
Have plenty of water bottles on hand for your staff and encourage everyone to take notes throughout the day about their interactions. Also, be respectful. Ask before scanning someone’s badge and make sure that the person has the kind of title you need for lead generation.
Use social media to your advantage during the show; it can bring visitors to your booth and is a great marketing tool. Instead of waiting until the end of the day, send updates frequently throughout the day in real time. Short videos add a lot of personality to your feeds, especially if you can get a booth visitor to agree to an interview. Add a gaming element, such as swag giveaways, to encourage people to re-share your posts.
Remember to support your speakers. If one of your employees is participating on a panel or giving a speaking session, make several electronic and print copies of the presentation as a backup. As with the demos, test their computer equipment a couple of hours ahead of time. If possible, assign another staff member to support the speaker in the session room by greeting visitors, scanning their badges and recording the session.
After the Show
Trade shows lasting two or three days or more are mentally and physically exhausting. Your first inclination is to pack everything up and get back home as soon as possible. But wait: While the information is fresh, get your team together for a debriefing. Every single note counts; every personal tidbit about a lead is important.
Once you’re back in the office, wait a couple of days — but no longer than a week — to execute your follow-up plan to leads generated at the show.
We send a general marketing follow-up message to everyone, and then, deliver personalized messages to each contact based on the notes we’ve gathered from the booth.
Finally, it’s a smart best practice to schedule a post-mortem meeting with your event team a few days after the show to share learnings and outcomes.
Trade shows are an enormous effort of time and energy — and costly, too. But if you take the time to create and execute a highly detailed plan considering all the contingencies, stay focused and positive during the event, and execute a detailed, tiered follow-up plan with leads, you’ll find that participating in industry events can boost your brand, pipeline and revenues. AC&F
Mandy Truong is the marketing manager and event marketing lead at OpsRamp. She is responsible for event management, production, demand generation and pipeline execution for all OpsRamp events. She oversees more than 20 events annually for the enterprise software company, based in Silicon Valley. Visit opsramp.com.