Many companies invest in conferences and trade shows to network or become more knowledgeable about a product or the latest industry trend. They spend hard-earned dollars on the travel, hotel, and admission…sometimes on a booth spot or sponsorship.
But how many companies making this type of investment plan out things like:
- The goals they want to reach
- The best way to communicate with attendees during the conference
- Who they want to connect with
- How they’re going to do all of these things with the team they have
In other words – How many companies go into each trade show with a legit strategy?
By addressing these types of questions in advance, you can take your old school routine of just attending a conference and hoping for the best and dress it up by actually becoming a part of the conference.
Integrating new school behaviors like the web marketing tactics of email marketing, blogs, and social media allow you to become a more interactive and deliberate feature of the exhibition and makes the most of the trade show experience and opportunities.
RLE Technologies’ success with web marketing tactics at a trade show
I’d like to highlight one company who has basked in the joy of success to get this point across: a plan involving web marketing tactics for a trade show can equal some BIG wins. (Who doesn’t like a big win?)
RLE Technologies, a leader in providing water leak detection systems and Web-based monitoring solutions for facilities, is experiencing great success with a plan leading the way to each trade show they attend (which is six this year).
Jenny Peterson, Manager of Marketing and Communications, was nice enough to sit down with me and share the success achieved by their team, all facilitated through a strategy specifically crafted to reach RLE’s goals.
That strategy, based on what RLE hoped to accomplish and research into the show and its attendees, included the following:
1. Ideas for pre and post blogs, and e-mail marketing
2. Prompts for networking and social media (like how to spread the word about their giveaways during the trade show and how to tweet like a pro)
3. A bucket list of things to accomplish during the show
With this strategic plan in hand (literally, they printed out the strategy and brought it along with them), RLE experienced some great results and refreshing success by breaking out of their old school routine.
Here’s what Jenny had to say about what RLE did with their strategy, the challenges they faced and her team’s new school trade show experience:
So, Jenny, I understand that the Sales team are the people who attend the tradeshows on behalf of RLE.
How did you get the team on board with a strategy focusing on outreach and the use of social media outlets?
There was a lot of excitement because we had such a nice strategy and people were fired up. The strategy had clear cut, concise direction.
The easiest way to get people on board is to give them very clear direction. Once you gave us advice about feeding our team members tweets, it was easy for them to do. It was such a different habit for [the sales team] to take on and to put that new behavior in an already established behavior was really hard.
What was the most difficult part of getting the team on board?
Having them see the value in the social media arm.
You can’t really fix a dollar figure to it. I think its a constant challenge, you go once to a trade show and the excitement fades away. But you bring it back to the metrics and show them the new followers. With one tweet you can touch your new followers one more time and it gets people reenergized again. The metrics keep everyone on board as a whole.
How successful was the trade show strategy?
I felt like it was really successful; successful enough where we repeat it for every trade show we go to.
The initial strategy was such a good starting point that all we have to do is tweak it.
There are so many reminders, like when you go back to your room send a customized Linked In invitation; don’t just send LinkedIn’s generic message.
The sales team appreciate having the strategy because it gives them direction. The hardest thing to do is to expect someone to be successful with a new behavior without telling them what to do, and this gives them a clear map. Hopefully as they repeat this behavior it become part of their routine. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
What aspect does the sales team enjoy the most?
Everyone needs to have their own voice and we position our staff as the knowledgeable people in their field. Different members of the sales team have to do follow up blog posts and they are really engaged and they do a good job. It helps with their buy in because you want those posts coming from different people.
Tell us about a successful experience through your strategy?
We had the president of a trade show we attended comment on a follow up blog post we wrote about the event.
It was so positive and I was excited – to think we put something out there and it reached someone so influential…it showed we were doing something right and that our opinion mattered enough to him that he replied to it.
So what was the biggest take away from that experience?
It showed the team that people are looking out there and maybe not everybody is, but that number isn’t going to get smaller. It’s only going to get bigger.
We are going to continue utilizing social media at trade shows and hopefully we’ll refine the strategy and it will incorporate some smarter things in there. For instance, I go onto Twitter and make sure RLE is following certain people who will be attending an upcoming conference. I reach out and make sure they know we’ll be there, too.
What part of the strategy helps RLE reach their objectives?
The e-news are the best way to build your following at trade shows. Also, the blog posts gain a lot of traffic to our site, we see the biggest lift in our analytics when they go out.
Wow, that is great. Thanks for your time and insight Jenny and I look forward to hearing more about your wins!
With all of that being said, are you wondering how your company can be successful using web marketing tactics at the next trade show or conference you attend? No worries, here are some tips for ya:
1. Decide what the goals are for attending the trade show.
Once you decide what the goals are for the conference, make sure they are clearly communicated to the team who is representing the company at the trade show.
a. Brand recognition
b. Meet prospective clients
c. Reconnect specific relationships
2. Create a strategy around the tools your company is currently using.
Once you communicate the goals, create a strategy and involve your team in how you will use certain tactics to reach the goals you put in place.
For instance, if you have a blog, write a pre-tradeshow post that prepares the online community for what you’re about to embark on. Share the blog on your social media outlets and let your community know you’ll be at the tradeshow, where they can find you, how they can connect, what giveaways you’ll have, etc. and then conduct outreach with key targets. (Key targets can be people or companies you want to connect with while there.)
Example blog post: You are attending a trade show that focuses on the beauty industry. Find out the top 7 companies you aspire to be like, connect with them, and call them out for something innovative they are doing within the industry. Do a spot light on them that they haven’t done on themselves. Then, do some outreach and let them know what you are working on and that you look forward to meeting them at the trade show.
3. Implement the strategy
Once you create the strategy, you’ll have to make the time during the trade show to actually implement. Designate one or two team members to handle specific tasks.
If your team isn’t tech savvy yet, you can have someone who isn’t busy at the conference answering tweets on behalf of the company while relaying the information to the team who is there.
(Having someone at home base to keep an eye on the social outlets may be helpful during a conference because it gets pretty busy once people begin connecting in real life.)
4. Make sure you follow up with those you meet
You are going to meet a lot of people so take those business cards and connect with people on Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, make sure you customize the email that gets sent to them and remind them who you are and what company you work for.
Hopefully, the integration of a new school behavior with your old school routine will help your company reach their goals while attending trade shows and conferences. RLE Technologies and Mack Web Solutions have experienced victories with plans like this in place, but feel free to share your ideas or your experiences with us. We’d love to hear about it.