Our annual technology marketing benchmarks report always uncovers a lot of great information about how technology marketers are going to market and where they are investing their marketing dollars. One of the most interesting things to see is what’s working and what isn’t. This year, one thing really stood out and I just had to address in a blog.
Specifically, the most effective marketing tactic for technology marketers: trade shows.
Contrasted with the least effective marketing tactic for technology marketers: trade shows.
You read that right.
We spent quite a bit of time discussing it around here and, in the end, it came down to what we have known all along. A question we get asked all the time.
“So, what works?”
The answer is pretty simple, actually.
What works is what you do well.
In fact, I have a slide that I use in probably half of my presentations which says “Jack of All Trades – Master of None.” I get it. It is hard when you’re a small marketing team (or one person) and you are constantly bombarded with great tactics—ABM, inbound, SEM, LinkedIn Social Selling. They all sound so compelling and they ARE, but ONLY if you can invest the time they need to be successful.
So I did start this blog discussing trade shows and I’m going to do that now, but I do hope you also get the big takeaway here—what works is what you put the time, effort and resources into. If you want to see all the most and least effective tactics, download our full report: 2019 Technology Marketing Benchmarks & Trends Report.
On to trade shows. Do they work or not?
Trade shows are powerful because people are typically shopping for your solution and it’s a chance to educate them one-on-one. You’ve got an interested AND captive audience, so it’s not really a surprise that it’s at the top of the list of most effective tactics.
On the flip side—that also means a lot of noise. Attendees are busy and you may only be able to see a fraction of the audience. And that’s where doing something well makes all the difference. How can you do that with trade shows?
BUILD A PLAN
The single most important thing you can do to ensure trade show success is to have a well thought out plan that addresses pre-show demand generation, activities at the show and post show follow-up.
Pre-Show. Although the trade show planners will do the heavy lifting, you want all your customers and any prospects visiting your site to be aware that you will be at the show.
- Showcase your offerings. Will you have demo times or self-running demos? Are there special offers for people who visit your booth and go on to engage with you? A senior executive you think others should meet with or a new offering you’re introducing?
- Promote it everywhere. Share what you are doing at the show and where they can find you on your website, in a blog, on an events page and through some pre-show emails. Put it in everyone’s email signature too!
- Make Yourself Memorable. From the pre-show demand through the event itself and then the follow-up, you want people to remember you. Trade shows are ENDLESS lines of booths that for the most part blur together followed by an inbox full of boring emails after the show. Being creative with a powerful theme that keeps you top of mind is critical to your success. You should carry your theme through everything you do, including your pre-show demand generation, booth graphics, giveaways and post-show nurture campaigns.
During the Show. Want to be one of those people who say trade shows are not effective? Pick the wrong staff (and/or don’t train the staff you do have). Your “at show” plan should cover:
- People. Who are the best people to represent you? Introverts and trade show booths do not go together. Make sure you send people ready to WORK the booth.
- Schedules. When do people need to be there? How long are their breaks? What do they need to do if they are unable to meet an obligation?
- Etiquette. Sad to say we need to cover this, but we do. You’ve probably seen it when you’ve attended shows—staff talking to each other, those with arms crossed at the back of the booth, people eating or on their cell phones! If you don’t already have a trade show etiquette policy, here’s a good article to help you build your own. Another bonus, it has more tips for maximizing your presence.
- Lead capture. The main goal of any trade show is leads, right? What are you doing to collect them? Beyond badge scanners, do you have a system for marking high-priority leads? For sales people to record conversations with likely prospects? Make sure in your pre-planning you also consider what you’ll offer to people who allow the scan.
- Beyond the booth. Will you have a dedicated room for side meetings or a hospitality event? If your customers regularly attend this show, this can be a great way to do a small appreciation event.
Post Show. If you want your trade show investment to go beyond those serious prospects who visit your booth and talk at length with sales, you need a solid post-show plan.
- Have all your post-show emails written and ready to go (even if you need to tweak them when you return).
- Have different plans for different leads. For example, those high-priority leads are deserving of a personalized email and a follow-up call. On the other hand, those that dropped off a card or were part of a list from the show planner will likely be better with a multi-touch email campaign and a follow-up offer (such as an eBook, case study or white paper).
- Apply your theme. This is where having a theme really pays off. Stand out in the flurry of post-show emails and make sure your booth visitors remember you by bringing the theme into your follow-up emails. Extra tip: when you’re at the show, take photos of your booth and include them in your follow-up.
Don’t forget to download our annual report to see all the other tactics your technology marketing peers ranked high (and low). How did you measure up?