A trade show is like a modern day bazaar – a veritable open market of hawkers and vendors urging you to buy. In this chaotic environment, how do you succeed? How can you promote and market your brand without getting lost in the crowd? How do you land the hot leads, get the order, or at least have a real conversation about your service or product?
At Cult Marketing, we believe in the Sun Tzu philosophy that “the war is won before the first battle begins.” In the case of a trade show, it is certainly the truth; your brand marketing strategy going in must be airtight. You must carefully define your target audience, determine how you engage with them, how you make them aware and interested in your offerings, and how to motivate them to seek you in this environment. This is all possible only through careful ethnographic research, strategic planning, bold creativity and maybe a bit of show business.
Careful Ethnographic Research: What do you know about your target audience? In Sun Tzu terms this is known as “intelligence.” First of all, who is attending this trade show – potential customers/clients, competitors? What are they interested in? What are the characteristics of the attendees? The first thing you need to do is make sure the trade show is right for you as a presenter by assessing all these variables and comparing them to your objectives, product/service offerings and sales strategies.
Strategic Planning: If you’ve decided there is a good match between what you do and what attendees are looking for, then what is your plan to move attendees down the AIDA continuum (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action)? How will you get their attention, what will tweak their interest, can you actually get them to move to action? In this case, the call to action will be defined here as conversation, a lead, a proposal, or in a perfect world, an order. You also want to be sure that your current brand marketing strategy is prepared to handle these conversions (have a trade show related landing page created on your website, for instance).
One thing you need to do is start the awareness process weeks or months before the show begins. Your target customers should be seeking you out by the time they get to the show because you have intrigued them well in advance. So, remember to invest in a solid pre-show campaign. Don’t skimp here and spend all your money on a crazy booth stunt.
Bold Creativity: There is nothing quite as dramatic as the instant feedback you get at a tradeshow. If people flock by your booth on their way to your big competitor, you can only sit there and pretend to look busy. In the meantime, it is too late. If your creative efforts are not the result of a well thought out extension of your strategy, they will fail. They will also fail if your message is presented in a boring, uninteresting or expected way. Remember the first rule of creativity: you must get their attention. If you don’t get their attention, everything else you did is completely wasted.
Show Business: This one is tricky as many companies feel a bit embarrassed about going over the top. But, it’s OK to push the envelope as long as it is well done. I remember a Kohler booth that had the “Bond Girls” coming up out of a pool of water. Yes, it was expensive as hell, but it was fabulous and the booth was overrun with prospects. The rule here is if you can’t afford to do it right, then don’t make the attempt.
Last but Not Least: You need to close the deal after the show. You need the order, the PO or even better, a large check mailed to your doorstep. This is where having a pre-show strategy incorporated into your brand marketing efforts pays off. Have a custom sales follow-up for each and every prospect. You should know more about them after the show than you did before, so capitalize on that information.
Trade show marketing can be fun if you are prepared for the battle. Find a good strategic and creative partner and carefully chart out every step of the process. Leave no detail to chance. Now, please enjoy the show!