Trade shows are all about meeting people. Setting up meetings with your key personnel may well be the most important pre-show marketing activity you do.
In the event marketing game, a major reason for attending or exhibiting is to have conversations with people without the use of a digital device! Surveys show that over 90% of professionals believe face-to-face meetings are essential to build the partnerships and relationships essential to doing business. In fact, business buyers consider trade shows as great investments for 2 key reasons – they are a concentrated source of information about new products (and companies) and as a place to hold a large number of meetings with “the right people.”
Trade shows, conferences, seminars and other events are one of the few tools in the marketing kit that are built around face-to-face meetings. Unfortunately, since most of a marketer’s time (and the bulk of the marketing budget) is spent on impersonal communications – digital marketing, content marketing, websites and social media are just a few example – it is easy to understand why establishing processes to setup meetings at a show are put off to the last minute or not done all together.
By their very nature, trade shows are a powerful and convenient tool for conducting a large number of meetings. Your customers, prospects, partners, journalists and others related to you and your industry are flying to a single location. Over the time span of the event, you can have a series of meetings to initiate or extend a valuable business relationships. The savings over individual face-to-face meetings is enormous and in the opinion of most, much more valuable than a Skype call.
To get the most out of you trade show investment, one goal I have always set is to try and fill the schedules for the executives and other key people attending the show from our company. I love it when I hear a colleague say they are “fully booked” with barely enough time to take a break.
To make this happen takes a great deal of pre-show outreach work. Marketers should implement activities to select the appropriate person (people) and arrange meetings for the following audiences:
- Review your house list and get input from your sales people to select customers and prospects to meet with you at the show. Frequently, the best person to arrange these meetings is the local sales person. If the targeted individual is not attending, they may refer an alternate person that you can establish a new relationship with.
- Assign someone from your Public Relations team (agency) to review the pre-registration list of media and industry analysts and arrange meetings with your “A-list” individuals and publications that you already have relationships with. It is also a great opportunity to establish new relationships. Your PR team is highly skilled at this type of media outreach and will do a great job for you.
- Work with your Business Development team to identify key partners to meet with. These business relationships are critical to your company’s success and trade shows are great opportunities for executives from both companies to update each other and plan for the future.
- Create targeted communications to the list of registered attendees provided by show management. All most all attendees come to a show with a list of companies/people that they want to see based on information garnered from available information. You can increase the number of new opportunities (leads) by a factor of 2x or 3x if you get on their personal schedule before the show. In your pre-show communications, it is up to you to create the best possible reason for an attendee to invest their limited amount of time at the show to visit with you. Simply saying “stop by and see what’s new” is rarely a good reason. Neither is “register and win an iPad.” Be specific – provide information about what you will be showcasing at the show to capture their attention. You should also make sure that the information that you provide show management for inclusion on their website and in the show directory is informative and specific to this show. A generic, “say nothing”, description used for all shows is worthless and not providing any information for the show guide is unforgivable.
Once the meeting schedules are firmed up, all show attendees participating in the meetings should be briefed with the background of the participants and the topics to be discussed. Any discussion or handout materials should be prepared and reviewed in advance of the show. While these meetings may be held in a casual environment, they are not informal meetings that you go into unprepared. Nothing should be left-to-chance. As your pre-show preparations come to an end, do a final confirmation of the meetings and you are all set.
In future posts, we’ll discuss how to host a great meeting at the show and the all-important post-show follow-up.