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Tradeshow Marketing: On-site Activity is NOT the Most Critical Element of Success

By Christy Uher Ferguson | April 03, 2018 | 0 Comments

Tradeshowsdemand generation

I’m embarking on a kitchen remodel soon and recently attended a tradeshow to meet with and ultimately select a contractor. I went to the show armed with details of the project, what I want to have done, when I want the work to start and clarity on the types of materials I’d like installed. In advance of the show, I selected three key contractors to visit during the show and after speaking with them, gave my contact information to each for follow up. One actually scheduled a future appointment with me on-site.  Here’s the issue: none followed up and the one that scheduled the in-home consultation, didn’t show up for our appointment.

waiting by the phone

While this was clearly a consumer event, unfortunately, this experience happens much too often in b2b marketing as well. When speaking with technology and service providers, we often hear that their tradeshow efforts are not generating demand, have not produced quality leads or that these leads haven’t converted to opportunities. The common theme is that their teams tend to focus on the days of the show or conference. What content will they distribute, who will attend and needs to be registered, has travel been secured, is there a speaking session that requires content development, what will the booth graphics convey? While it’s certainly critical to be successful on-site, tradeshow success is also dependent on the pre-show promotion and the follow up strategy.

Remember, when it comes to tradeshows, your competition is every participating provider, sponsor and exhibitor, all are competing for attendee attention. to drive your demand generation efforts, first, you must get the attention of your target buyers in advance of the conference and ensure they plan to engage with you on-site. This requires dedicated investment of time and resources in advance of the show.  Ideally, by the time the tradeshow starts,  the attendees have heard of you in advance and are planning to come by to see your presentation, attend your event or meet you.

Crafting a follow up strategy in advance is necessary as well, and while it’s critical to actually follow up, there are ways to maximize your efforts. You’ve invested a portion of your marketing budget to participate at the event, don’t leave it to the attendees to come to your website and reach out to you. Make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to engage with you by following up with them in the most appropriate way. This means individualizing your follow up strategy.  Often, clients tell us that everyone that they engaged with on-site receives a thank you email requesting a meeting.   Yet, for attendees that want to engage quickly, this strategy puts the responsibility on the buyer to reach out to engage. And, for those providers that do follow up, the format of the follow up email tends to be the same. For those attendees that engaged directly with sales and clearly have a need, ensure that the follow up plan includes direct engagement from sales within 24-48 hours of the close of the show.  For those attendees that engaged with you and fit your buyer profile, be certain to craft a follow up email that is engaging and rises above the “noise” of the other follow up emails they will get. Don’t simply thank them and ask for a follow up meeting. Consider including a key piece of thought leadership, a recap of a compelling, relevant session at the show, or a recap of the entire event.

If you are a Gartner client, I’m happy to have a conversation about your tradeshow efforts, including pre-show promotion and post-show follow up strategy.  Alternatively, you can you read recent research we’ve published on developing and implementing a tradeshow strategy that extends reach and maximizes investment in third-party events to support demand generation efforts.



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