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Exhibiting at IAAPA Expos: Maximising Your ROI

With almost a century as the leading international trade association for amusement facilities, IAAPA curates some of the world’s most popular and well attended events for visitor attractions professionals worldwide.

Since over 40, 000 leisure & entertainment industry professionals attend their big three expos each year, these events can be the ideal opportunity for vendors to raise the profile of their brand, showcase new products and generate new leads in the attractions sector. 

Emma Jones,  Business Development Manager at KatapultBy Emma Jones, Business Development Manager Katapult

Whilst an IAAPA Expo can be an invaluable and much anticipated event in the marketing calendar, the significant financial cost and time resource required to make it happen means that it’s so important to be able to identify whether the event has achieved a return on your investment.

According to the leading inbound marketing software provider HubSpot, events marketing consumes around 20% of a business’s marketing spend, with 10% not aware how much they spend. Taking advantage of all that social media and inbound marketing have to offer in the context of your IAAPA Expo can help reinforce the connection between your physical presence and your online marketing channels. 

Planning your presence beforehand

Setting goals for the IAAPA Expo

As with any marketing initiative, setting quantifiable SMART goals is the first step to being able to demonstrate ROI for your IAAPA Expo. You clearly want to pick up leads at the show but how many? What size and type of attraction are you targeting? How many consultations or demos do you want those leads to generate during/after the show? How much revenue should they generate and by when? An example might be “we want to pick up 20 leads for theme parks at IAAPA Asia for our ride construction services which generate 5 consultation requests and leads to 2 sales with a value of £30 million by April 2015.”

The tools for measuring ROI of your IAAPA Expo

Once you’ve set goals, having a process to measure if you’re on track to achieving them is pretty important too, so making sure you have a robust CRM along with analytics data in place before you start is going to be useful. 

arrowA marketing automation tool like HubSpot or Marketo, that integrates with your CRM, will help you integrate all your marketing activities, allowing you to monitor the touchpoints before the event and also to keep track of your leads from the Expo too. This sort of software can help you connect your marketing efforts in a ‘closed-loop’ way. Having full visibility of when a visitor to your stand made the first interaction with your brand, through to becoming a customer, gives you the data you need to replicate this success with future trade shows along with all of your other online and offline marketing initiatives. 

Internal communication and alignment between Sales & Marketing

Ensuring that everyone in your team understands your exhibition goals and what you hope to achieve from the Expo is clearly important in making it a success. Particularly for those that aren’t coming along to the event, but who will be following up the leads that were generated. 

This may all seem obvious but plenty of businesses still see the trade show as the responsibility of Sales or Marketing when both are integral to the planning and execution of a successful IAAPA Expo event; qualifying leads, nurturing them and converting them over time require an effective SLA between departments. 

Using Digital Tools to maximise your presence, pre-event

There are a number of digital tools you should use to maximise your pre-event marketing opportunity. Firstly, consider creating an IAAPA Expo show page on your website in advance of the event to boost SEO and help customer and prospects to find out more about what you’ll be doing at the show eg. demos, product launch etc. Similarly, keeping your company blog regularly updated with useful and insightful content before the Expo, helps build traction and drive awareness of your presence.

social media iconsCalls-to-action (CTA’s), landing pages and social media are also vital pre-event tools to engage prospects and promote your brand and should be integrated into all your marketing activity surrounding the IAAPA Expo. Calls-to-action should be used across your site and event materials, to direct traffic to custom landing pages which offer your visitor the chance to gain useful content in exchange for some of their contact details. You can then follow these contacts up after the event. Good examples of offers you can create include: signing up to updates about a talk you’re doing at the event, or even entering a competition. 

Once you’ve created your offers, CTAs and landing pages, you can start spreading the word via your social channels. You need to be utilising your social channels way in advance of exhibiting at the actual Expo, using it to complement your other efforts such as eshots and press releases. Producing a content calendar with what messages will need to be communicated, at what time and across which channels, will help you keep a regular stream of communication in the build up to the Expo. 

Planning your physical presence at an IAAPA Expo

An IAAPA Expo is full of big entertainment brands and visitor attractions looking for the most innovative and cutting-edge new products and suppliers…they’re also full of potential competition. So what are you doing to stand out and demonstrate your expertise at the event? Whilst you might not have the biggest space or the largest signage, there are other ways to get your brand heard over the noise. Limited edition freebies could be relevant if you’re a clothing manufacturer or souvenir supplier, whereas ticketing software or queue-line technology companies could think about showing your technology in action. If you don’t have space, think about the use of video on digital screens or iPads to show passers-by. 

Executing the Expo with success

The IAAPA Expo gives you a great opportunity to connect visitors to your stand with your online presence, to keep them engaged before and after the show has finished.

Smart Phone and AR code

Whilst traditional handouts seem like ‘a must’ for many exhibitors, there are ways of making these more interactive and useful as tools to help drive traffic online and generate leads. Using QR codes on your handouts can direct visitors to your landing page which is promoting your show offer or contest. This will help you to capture leads even when you’re back from the show, and encourage those who didn’t have the chance to stop and speak with you, to check out your products and services in their own time.

Avoid relying solely on lead retrieval scanners at the Expo, whilst great for getting contact details quickly when there is a high volume of people to get through, they don’t give you any qualitative information on the person or even if they have a need for your product. You could end up thinking you’ve got lots of leads when actually, many are not qualified and you’ll end up wasting your sales team’s time back in the office. Take the time to speak to visitors, find out if your solution fits their requirements, then cross check your notes against the details on the scanner (if you used one) to identify the hot leads from the rest. This information will help you when you’re potentially handing leads over to a sales team or following up via personalised emails when you’re back in the office.

Post Expo checklist

Purchases of new equipment, rides and technology for theme parks and attraction are likely to require large investments and therefore, the IAAPA Expo could be the beginning of a long selling cycle for your product. This is where using social media, email marketing, premium content and an inbound approach can help nurture your leads through to sales.

Finding out the ROI from the Expo is vitally important if you’re considering doing this again in future. Collecting feedback by way of surveys, polls and comments or shares on your social networks, along with downloads of your Expo offer, views of your website and video demos for example, are all ways of measuring the success of the show. Measure your results against the goals you set for the event, but remember that your statistics – if you’re continuing to nurture the leads from the IAAPA Expo – are continually changing. 

The most important metrics are of course, leads and sales. Work out your visitor to lead conversion rate for the show and the conversion rate of leads into sales. Doing this effectively will help in planning for the Asian Attractions Expo and Euro Attractions Show next year.

Best Practice Example: Holovis Attractions 

Holovis at IAAPA

Sensory experience design and immersive solutions provider, Holovis Attractions, used their website news section and Twitter to promote their presence at European Attractions Show in Amsterdam. Leading up to the event, they posted regular tweets about their technology showcase, which would feature a next generation dark ride example entitled ‘Lost Cove’, along with which stand to find them on at the event. Regular updates such as these have helped build interest up to the product launch, and by using the #EAS14 hashtag, Holovis will have increased the reach of their message to a broader audience who are searching for the event hashtag. Holovis also advertised in trade publications distributed at the show, using cover wrap features to increase exposure.

During the event, Holovis had a fantastic physical presence, with two stands featuring interactive demos, showing their technology in action. Holovis also continued to use Twitter to publish photos from the show, including pictures of their Lost Cove and RideView™ virtual reality solutions. This is a good approach for generating more footfall to the stand, and interest from event attendees. By using a team on the stand dedicated to meeting visitors who had been on the ride, Holovis had an effective mechanism for capturing visitor information and feedback, enabling them to follow up knowledgeably after the event.

Ahead of IAAPA International in November, Holovis are preparing well, having lined up a number of activities which will build brand visibility, reputation and exposure both ahead of and at the event: As well as becoming a gold sponsor of the expo, Holovis have entered for a Brass Ring Award under the ‘Best Stand’ category and are also sponsoring the Young Persons Reception event. 

Holovis are planning a pre-event teaser campaign across a range of digital mediums. Holovis’ CEO, Stuart Hetherington said: “Using some of the footage captured at EAS, we’re going to create a 30 second mystery teaser, leaving people to wonder what is going to be unveiled. This will be sent out via a direct mail and social media campaign.”

This is a great approach for building awareness and engagement prior to the show. Holovis could even increase the lead generation potential for this pre-event campaign further by using calls-to-action and landing pages, where potential visitors can register for exclusive updates about Holovis’ IAAPA plans. This would enable Holovis to capture contact details and potential leads to follow up at the show and broaden the number of contacts to follow up with afterwards.

Best Practice Case Study – Avius Insight 

Customer feedback technology provider, Avius Insight have recently launched a range of new Avius Information Board products ahead of IAAPA Attractions Expo. The boards, along with three other products and products updates are nominated for Brass Ring awards in 2015. For this year’s expo in November however, Avius are focusing on using Twitter and an event specific YouTube video to promote their new products.

The company are using Twitter well, with a good balance of company news, product info and offers or information about attractions they work with. By mentioning @IAAPAHQ in their tweets about the award, Avius will have been able to extend the reach of their communications. However using event hashtags, tweeting more regularly and linking back to the Avius website may help generate more awareness and also increase relevant website traffic. 

Prior to the event, Avius also use press releases to promote success stories, providing teasers of what their clients are doing to engage customers in real-time. This ties in well with the activities Avius have planned during the show, which include a panel session entitled “Listening to customer feedback in real time” where they have invited their top clients to share how they are using Avius customer feedback technology. Using positive customer feedback is a great way of building trust and credibility in your brand, whilst the storytelling approach helps to convey the benefits of Avius’s solutions to prospects in a relatable and quantifiable way. 

During the event, Avius also attend education sessions about improving customer experiences. This is a good approach for networking, as well as an opportunity to position your company as an industry expert, particularly if your products/solutions are quite specialist. 

After a number of years exhibiting at IAAPA, Avius are clear about which activities deliver a good return on investment for them. They keep the same stand location each year, and utilise this as a meeting place for prospects and existing clients to network. Incentives such as a social hour with food and drinks, and VIP passes to the expo which Avius reserve for selected prospects are effective ways of increasing footfall, interest and engagement. As well as involving their customers on their stand, Avius have a dedicated team who provide live product demos. To capture contact details and follow up with relevant information and materials, Avius are able to use their own software, which not only saves money on renting lead retrieval scanner, but enables a much more targeted and personalised follow-up approach. 

Lance Paul Fisher, Chief Marketing Officer at Avius said: “We have learned so much by attending IAAPA year after year and have become a well-oiled machine when it comes to informing prospects about our products and services.  We simply stop doing things that do not work or add value and augment what has worked well in the past based on feedback from our clients/prospects and how well we captured and closed on potential prospects.”

One recommendation for Avius would be to use relevant content to engage prospects on their website and social media prior to the event. Currently Avius are using calls-to-action on their website to direct visitors to fill out their details to request demos of specific products. This is good practice for lead generation, but website visitors might not yet be at the right point in the sales cycle to speak to a sales person regarding a demo. By providing helpful advice and guidance to visitors in the first instance, Avius could be capturing lead data much earlier in the sales cycle; producing eBooks with titles such as ‘Understanding customer trends to define the guest experience at theme parks and attractions ’ will attract and engage with those prospects who are not yet ready to commit to a demo. Avius can then invite these earlier stage prospects to the IAAPA event and offer them a demo on the stand, increasing footfall and gaining the opportunity to convert more prospects to leads at the event. 

Best Practice Case Study – Picsolve

Picsolve booth at IAAPA

For image capture specialists, Picsolve, IAAPA events are as important for managing existing customer, partner and press relationships as generating new leads. As such, Picsolve do a lot of pre-show marketing activity to ensure their presence at IAAPA expo is promoted to both audiences, including press advertising, email marketing to their CRM database, and media invites focusing on specific products or thought leadership pieces.

In terms of physical presence at IAAPA, Picsolve do a great job of maximising their exposure: interactive product demos such as ‘Green screen’ experiences will drive footfall, and visual features such as a video wall at November’s event will attract more interest around their stand. Picsolve are also Gold sponsors of the IAAPA International Expo, which will be a great opportunity to increase brand awareness. 

Laura Lunn, Trade Marketing Manager at Picsolve said “At IAAPA it’s important for us to utilise our time outside of the stand as well as on it. In addition to using sponsorship to maximise our presence, we have a great relationship with IAAPA and this year we are demonstrating our green-screen experience on the IAAPA stand. We also make the most of networking events at the expo to strengthen existing relationships and meet new people. As well as being Gold IAAPA sponsors, this year we are again sponsoring the Blooloop party and providing our photography services, which is a nice way for potential customers to see our products and services in action.”

Daen Foote,  Laura Lunn and Phil Higgins at Blooloop's IAAPA 2013 Party

Post event, Picsolve often contribute to ‘wrap up’ style press articles to share their thoughts and findings, which is again a good activity for increasing brand awareness. In terms of following up leads from the event, Picsolve have found that a one-to-one follow up is the most effective way of qualifying and converting leads. This approach often works well in the leisure industry, where many companies would prefer to a generate lower volume of higher value opportunities, who they can then nurture with relevant content and offers until they are ready to convert to customers.

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