Many businesses view a visit to a trade show as an opportunity to take a little time out from their hectic schedule, a way to show off their latest product or scope out the competition. Whilst all of those are perfectly acceptable ways to spend your time at a show, there are ways to grow your business at the same time.
Whatever your business does, there’s a process to it. Whether you’re manufacturing incredible new products from raw materials or you’re working with the smallest electronic equipment, you will have a method of turning something figuratively small and amplifying it into something much larger than the sum of its parts.
In fact, an amplifier is a good analogy to use for how you should look at trade shows. Let’s take a look at 4 ways you can grow your business at a trade show, with the help of an amplifier, and still remain ‘current’.
Anyone familiar with an amplifier will know they’ll need a lead to generate power. The power of lead generation is one aspect of a trade show that can never be underestimated. Being surrounded by the most influential, important and connected people in your industry is a great place to start.
What would an amplifier be without a transistor? The transistor, and its semi-conductors, are at the heart of any amplifier. They may be made of different materials and do slightly different jobs, but they all work together, much like your Search Engine Optimisation. Your website is at the heart of your business, but it can’t fulfil all your SEO needs on its own, it needs help. If you’re following the inbound marketing methodology, your website will already be full of incredible content; blogs and eBooks that underpin your place as an influential voice in your field. These go a long way toward helping your SEO, but they’re not the whole story. Trade shows can help too. Use the event organiser’s website to advertise your attendance at the show, but also include a link back to your own site. If it’s a prestigious event, then the link will help to raise your site’s profile and improve your SEO ranking. Also, make sure the link to your site is also included in the emails they send advertising the show. These are important organic links that can really help your business grow.
Amplifiers don’t just turn a weak signal into a stronger one, they actually generate a completely new output signal based on the input it receives. Our third step takes the notion of generating something new and puts a trade show spin on it. As important as new leads are to growing your business, don’t restrict yourself to them exclusively. There will be so many new people to meet that it would be remiss not to look at the supply side. Of course you’ll have a booth to man, but don’t be afraid to send your team out into the hall to meet with new suppliers and network with existing suppliers and channel partners. You might just be amazed at where new suppliers can take you, often in unexpected ways.
When it comes to amplification, all the internal mechanics are all well and good, but what good are they if your message isn’t being heard? Your journey through the inbound marketing methodology is the same. What you’re selling is vitally important, but what good is having the best product in the world if no-one hears about it. This is where trade shows come into their own. It’s rare that you will have access to so many people from both sides of the supply chain in one place. There will be those from both the supply and the demand side of your business. It’s not a moment to let pass by. You can use the trade show’s calendar of events to speak at the show or even run a workshop. It puts your business, your product and you centre stage. Literally. You’ll be in front of an appreciative audience who will be genuinely interested in what you have to say. It tells the world, even if it’s just your industry’s small piece of it, that you know what you’re talking about and you understand the industry you share a common interest in. Get your message out, loud and clear. If that doesn’t amplify your business, nothing will.
THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE SHOW
If you aren’t doing so already, we’re fairly certain that before too long, you’re going to be looking towards your next, or maybe first, trade show.
Trade shows are an incredible marketing opportunity to promote your wares, evaluate the competition and see the latest innovations your particular industry has to offer. If you’re planning on taking part in one, or numerous, trade shows over the next 12-18 months, we’ve got the inside track on everything you need to put on a show worthy of your name. More importantly, we’ll highlight how social media will play a pivotal role in its success, become the unsung star of your show and reinforce all your inbound marketing efforts.
There’s no denying that putting on a trade show can be labour intensive, not to mention an expensive way to showcase your business, but the benefits to your overall marketing strategy can be enormous. In addition, the almost instant impact a show can have on your inbound marketing makes a trade show a business must, particularly when it comes to aligning your virtual presence with a very real one. If there are multiple trade shows you could attend, how do you decide which ones you should attend?
Which Trade Show
First thing you should do is your research. Take a look at all the shows coming up and get a feel for who’s going to be there, what exhibitors it has, its location, floor space and choose the one (or ones) that best align to your marketing strategy. They won’t all be a perfect fit, so work hard to understand those that are. Remember a trade show isn’t just about the event itself. Consider the days and weeks leading up to it, the immediate pre-show, naturally the event itself, but also don’t forget about post-event. This is where you social media campaigns will come into their own and honing their effectiveness to the different timescales will work wonders. Each platform will be able to offer something different, at different times and have different results. All of which you can analyse and use to your advantage for the next show.
B2B Social Media Planning
Plan the social media elements of your inbound marketing strategy and your trade show game-plan like a military operation. Starting from about 8 weeks out, work out a schedule of posts across all platforms. Initially, it may be enough to spread the various social media sites out quite thinly, e.g. Facebook post on a Monday, a Tweet on a Tuesday, LinkedIn post on Thursday and a blog on Friday. All of these should already be part of your inbound thinking. All of them should reflect the growing enthusiasm for the show to captivate and excite potential customers. As the event gets closer, increase the number of posts and increase the platforms used. Include more posts, more regularly and, where possible, have guest blogs from other visitors or guests. Your schedule should reflect the various strengths of each platform and run up to, including, and after the event is finished.
Your social media blitz shouldn’t end when the show begins. In many ways, it becomes even more important. Once the show is in full swing, your inbound marketing strategy should really start to blossom. Now you can meet all those virtual leads in person, plus all the new ones you will make, so keeping track of them is vital. Take the opportunity to connect with them; follow them on Twitter; take photos and tweet them with your hashtag (you’ve thought of one, right?), share promotional information and swap business cards. Even in this technology-driven world, that little card is still massively important.
Once the show is over and the booth is packed away, now the hard work really begins; turning all that data into leads, customers and sales. Inbound marketing is crucial to all of that. Depending on your product or service, the selling cycle might be a couple of days, or a couple of months, but whatever it is, use it to your advantage. Remember, inbound marketing is for life, not just for trade shows.
How to Assemble a Trade Show Team
As much as you think you can conquer the world, a well-organised trade show presence is never a one-man (or woman) operation. It takes a team of motivated, dedicated and knowledgeable professionals to turn a run-of-the-mill trade show into something attendees will remember for a long time. Here, we’re going to look at what you need to do to assemble a trade show team that is worthy of your name and brand.
A trade show is an incredible opportunity for you to take all the great work you’ve been doing online, particularly with your inbound marketing, and continue it offline in the real world. You can connect to those in the same field from all over the globe. To do it right, you not only need to bring your ‘A game’ to succeed, you need to bring your A Team too.
Depending on the size of your company, you may have a wealth of talent to choose from, or your choices may be more limited. Either way, it’s important you choose your team wisely. It’s tempting to just fill your stand with your best sales people, but there are more to trade shows than the selling.
Marketers are increasingly working their magic on visitors to your stand. It works for your inbound marketing campaigns online and can work just as well on the trade show floor. The team you take should represent and reflect everything good about your company. You can use this opportunity to extol the virtues of your team and getting people to fit your image is key.
If the size of your business restricts the team you can assemble, then don’t be afraid of outsourcing staff. Hiring temporary staff for a trade show isn’t unheard of. Many companies do it successfully every year. The key to its success is getting the right people, with the right level of professionalism and the ability to think on the spot. Getting them up to speed will also be crucial, which is where you and your team back at base come in. Have a resource pack on hand that gives everyone the information they need. You can’t expect them to know everything, so make sure you implement a plan to pass visitors off to those who do. Again, it boils down to the team and working as a unit.
If you’re the leader of that trade show team, then your role at the top of the pyramid is going to play an important part too. Getting the right team is only part of the puzzle, so showing them off in their best light will pay dividends long after the show ends. That doesn’t start when the trade show does. There’s a degree of preparation and planning that will need to happen to get everyone firing on all cylinders. It’s vital that every one of your team know their roles and responsibilities and are capable of delivering what you want. It’s not useful to find out that they don’t on the opening day with a million other things to worry about. In the days and weeks leading up to your show, coordinate the team and ensure everyone, not only knows what it’s expected of them, but also that they know who is doing what.
Of course, with you at the helm, it’s equally important for them to know you trust and support them. It’s only natural that things may not always go to plan or that the unexpected hitch may occur. Trade shows are an incredibly tiring experience for everyone. Meeting, greeting, talking, sign-posting and interacting with hundreds, if not thousands, of people during the day can impact on the energy and morale of the team.
Your role as leader will be to gauge this and manage it to ensure visitors get the same high-quality experience from minute one to the end of the day. Let people have breaks when needed, encourage and support your team if difficulties arise and show a united front. Do that and you’re sure to be a success.
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