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How to Navigate Trade Show Marketing
If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you know that they are a huge opportunity for your business, but they can also get a little chaotic too. Between the travel logistics to get there, the crush of the crowds and the displays on the show floor, there’s always something unexpected.
Our team just got back from bauma 2019 in Germany, where we partnered with Caterpillar to bring their experience to life on the show room floor. Being a part of the world’s largest construction trade show got us thinking about our takeaways. Over the course of decades, we’ve worked on so many trade shows we’ve lost count…so, yes, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a display work. Here are a few of our key learnings to help you navigate your next show.
Planning Pays Off
It can be overwhelming to start such a high-visibility project. But you’ll be most effective if you start early, maybe even as early as a year in advance, depending on the scale of your display. If that sounds like an exaggeration, think of it in terms of the opportunity—at some trade shows, you’ll get to interact with hundreds of thousands of customers, some ready to buy. So, if the pay-off to your preparation is adding 200 hot contacts to your list, that’s time well spent.
Planning well also means planning extra. You want to make sure your project timeline—and budget—have some cushion so you can step back at key moments and adjust if needed.
PRO TIP: Schedule your project to end a few weeks before the trade show. Regardless of how much you plan, last minute tweaks and fire drills always happen. You will be glad you factored in this buffer time at the end.
The essence of a great booth is a great idea. When you start a project, it’s going to be critical to gather creative thinkers so you can create something fresh that stands out in the crowd of other innovative displays. This is a good point to engage a creative agency and develop a unique spin on your concept and message.
And think “interactive.” At bauma, there was a lot of excitement around the three augmented reality experiences in the Cat® booth that we partnered with them on. People were curious about the app and what it would show them in addition to the physical display. We found customers were more likely to approach the experience and spend time exploring it, so they stayed engaged longer. On top of generating leads, this kind of experience is one that generates buzz—and there’s nothing like buzz to build excitement around your product.
PRO TIP: Research trade show trends before you start planning to see what you might be able to incorporate.
Avoid Trade Show Tunnel Vision
When you’re working at a trade show booth, it can be all-consuming. Between talking to customers and keeping your technology running smoothly, there isn’t much time for anything else. Still, it’s a smart move to block a few hours—or even a solid day—to walk through competitors’ booths and see what they are promoting. Keeping up with competitors is a moving target, but trade shows offer a unique opportunity. With all of the major players close by, you can easily interact with their new products and offerings and take home key learnings to your team. Revisiting this intel after you’re out of the hustle and bustle of the show can uncover some useful learnings.
PRO TIP: You may even want to dedicate a person to capture this information online and on the show floor…just don’t forget to take your company badge off so that you receive a warm welcome from the competition.
Connect Your Online Experience
Don’t forget that some customers won’t be able to join you on site for your big reveal, but can follow you online. To keep those people engaged and receiving relevant content, build a web presence so that you’re sharing what’s happening leading up to the event as well as on the show floor.
For example, Simantel helped Caterpillar launch a microsite for bauma 2019 that included almost 40 new pages. Through this online experience, customers were able to get important previews of new products, technology and innovations, and even see updates about what was happening in the Cat booth through a blog-style page.
PRO TIP: Take language into consideration. If you will have a global audience, make sure you’re planning time to translate content for the key audiences.
Don’t Forget Lead Gen
Trade shows are a huge investment for any company, and one of the biggest misses we see is not including a plan to capture and follow up with new leads. You could go as big or as small on this as you want—anywhere from a simple form on the show floor to a full campaign. Either way, you’ll benefit from staying in touch with these leads. Our executive technology director, Abby Bell, offers some tips and ideas to Digitally Track Your Trade Show.
PRO TIP: Do away with the business-cards-in-a-fish-bowl approach and go digital.
And finally, don’t be thrown if things turn a little chaotic. You may need to make some content updates live on the show floor, find out that your key show worker’s flight was cancelled or experience a technology glitch. You may even need to re-paint a major walkway last-minute because the color wasn’t quite right (we’ve been there, done that). Our best advice is to button up any issues you’re aware of before getting to the show floor so that you can direct your attention to actively running the display.
PRO TIP: Make sure you have a designated technician for your display and your go-to people on speed dial for any quick fixes that might be needed.
Don’t Skip Happy Hour
Once setup is done and the show is rolling, the toughest work is done. Now it’s time to gather up your team and raise a toast to your collective success. After all that preparation, you deserve to celebrate before you hit the show floor again in the morning.
PRO TIP: No pro tip here. You know how to celebrate.
Just because your ideal customer is walking around on the show floor, it doesn’t mean they are going to stop at your display. When it comes down to it, if you create a memorable experience for customers, you’ll benefit your brand. Good luck at your next trade show!