In the leisure industry, building relationships and brand visibility play a huge part in winning new contracts with attraction operators, and what better way to get in front of key decision makers than at trade shows such as IAAPA, DEAL, WWA, EAS, etc.
Next on the calendar, and with an annual attendee count of nearly 30, 000 and over 1, 000 exhibitors every year, the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando is undoubtedly one of the biggest opportunities in the leisure industry marketing calendar.
However with this opportunity, as with any large trade show, comes significant expenditure: By the time you take into account exhibition space, stand design, staffing, travel, promotion and expenses, many companies rack up bills into the tens of thousands.
Is it worth the time and effort? In spite of the massive shift towards online marketing, 67% of B2B content marketers still consider event marketing to be their most effective strategy (Social Fresh 2014) and according to a recent survey by HubSpot and Eventbrite, 84% of professionals feel that attending events is an important part of their job.
With statistics such as these, the question is not, “Should I still exhibit at trade shows?” but rather “What can I do to make the most of my trade show marketing investment?”
To help answer this question and ensure you achieve maximum ROI at trade shows such as IAAPA, it’s vital to nail down your strategy early and write down a clear plan to follow before, during and after the event.
In the meantime, here’s a simple checklist to follow to ensure nothing gets missed:
Step One: Getting started
An effective trade show requires a strategy and careful planning long before the event to make sure you maximise your investment.
1. Define your event success goals
The starting point for an effective trade show strategy should always be a goal – whether that’s a set number of leads or raising awareness for a new product launch. Clarity is important here because your event marketing mix will be very different depending on what your goal is.
If your goal is revenue focused, you’ll need to work backwards using conversion rate data to calculate the number of leads you’ll require, and the number of visitors you’ll need to generate those leads.
2. Review your marketing tools
As with any marketing strategy, tools and systems play a key part. Vital to a successful trade show marketing strategy are; a robust CRM system and marketing tools for social publishing, marketing automation, blogging and website updates. Better still, opting for an all-in-one marketing platform such as HubSpot where you can manage everything from one place will give you a 360-degree view of your pre and post show campaigns and how someone progressed from a lead to a prospect to a customer.
Step Two: Pre-event promotion
Once you have a goal in mind and you’re confident you have the tools in place, it’s time to get your pre-event campaign up and running.
1. Plan your event offer
First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure you have a clear and compelling offer to attract visitors and convert leads. As well as being a part of your physical presence, you may also want to drum up interest beforehand, or even use the offer to capture contact details to follow up at or after the event.
Good offers can be anything from competitions and contests to eBooks, invites to exclusive product reveals and so much more. Try to find a unique approach and be exciting, evoke curiosity and create a buzz.
2. Set up your digital assets
If your offer does involve a digital marketing element (for example ‘sign up to attend an exclusive product release on the stand’, or ‘view a teaser video’), you’ll need to create a landing page to direct visitors to, and also create a campaign plan for promoting the offer digitally. Some recommendations here would be social media (including targeting key prospects via social advertising, blogging for organic search and email).
3. Critique your stand design
Above: Impactful design for HB Leisure's DEAL show stand
First impressions count, so it’s vital for your stand to stand out and convey your key messages. With so many other exhibitions vying for attention (close to 1000 at IAAPA to be precise), a few banners and a rolling video demo on a TV just won’t cut it – even if your product is amazing.
Make sure your stand design, marketing materials and giveaways represent your brand effectively and are compelling enough to draw in visitors.
Step Three: Success at the event
When the time comes to make your careful planning and promotion come to life, it’s not just about your stand design. Success depends on many interconnected variables.
1. Make your stand attractive
Making your stand attractive isn’t just about how good it looks and how many exciting features you’ve added, it also relies on having welcoming staff who are not only knowledgeable about your product/service but also about the event offer we mentioned earlier.
Everything you do on the stand should reference and align to this offer from your staff’s conversations to signage and event collateral. Make your visitors’ experience exciting, engaging and memorable.
2. Capture qualitative data
Never rely solely on lead retrieval scanners at trade shows, it’s far more valuable to capture qualitative information from stand visitors to build meaningful relationships and make your follow-up process more personalised.
Rather than talk about your company and products, stop trying to sell and aim to help instead. Ask people about their challenges and the problems they face, by exploring how you could help, your company will be far more memorable (and valued) to event delegates.
3. Create a buzz
Being memorable and standing out often comes down to how effectively you can create and maintain a buzz before, and during the trade show.
Remember to monitor social media to stay part of the conversation and drive interest around the offer you’re promoting. Social media works particularly well if you’re launching a new product or running a competition. Use event hashtags to listen and communicate about the right topics at the right times.
Step Four: Post event follow-up
Good trade show marketing doesn’t end once the show finishes – this is where marketing and sales need to work together to deliver that all-important return on investment.
1. Collect feedback
It’s important to investigate what people thought about your trade show presence, so always capture feedback on areas that worked well, and how you could improve. Remember the more attractive your company can be to trade show prospects, the better success you’re likely to have.
You can also use the feedback capturing process as an opportunity to build conversations with visitors who may convert to leads.
Practice timely follow-up
Be as efficient as you can when following up trade show leads while your company is still fresh in their mind. You can’t beat personalised communications, so aim to speak to every event lead individually within a week.
You can also use marketing automation tools to nurture those leads who aren’t quite ready to buy – send them relevant offers, useful information and advice that solves their problems – this process builds trust in your brand and moves them ever closer to making a purchasing decision…with your company at the forefront of their mind.
Next Step: Download the guide
If you’re a leisure industry supplier looking for ways to reach more operators and increase trade marketing ROI, download Katapult’s free guide: Best Practice for achieving results at trade shows in the Leisure Sector