Exhibiting at a tradeshow is a great way to boost brand awareness and make in-person connections with potential customers. The downside of this marketing channel is the large investment of time and money; it can take months to iron out all the details and, depending on your sponsorship, could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Don’t let that deter you though, use it as motivation to make sure you’re seeing positive ROI. A successful tradeshow takes much more than just slapping your logo and value proposition on a booth and handing out business cards.
If you haven’t seen much traction in your pipeline from tradeshow sponsorships in the past, or if this is the first year you are considering one, check out these nine secrets to success.
1. Draw attention to your booth
On a crowded conference room floor, it can be hard to stand out among the pack. The first way to drive traffic to your booth is to pick a good spot. Try selecting a space near the main entryways or close to the food set up. Even if your location is less than ideal, generate buzz by having a must-see design or a unique giveaway. First impressions are everything; your booth should be a conversation starter.
2. Don’t have passive booth workers
The more conversations you have with attendees, the more potential for new business. Don’t let the window-shoppers pass you up. Make sure you, and anyone working the booth, actively engage passersby. Games or interactive experiences are great icebreakers.
3. Market yourself pre-show
Try to secure some guaranteed face time with hot prospects prior to the event. Depending on the conference you attend, you may be given a list of attendees, or you could use a third-party service to purchase a list. Do some personal outreach 4-6 weeks before the event and let people know why they should stop by your booth – a hot tech giveaway, complimentary massages, happy hour drinks, etc.
4. Consider a speaking opportunity add-on
Many tradeshows will allow you to upgrade your sponsorship package to include some sort of speaking opportunity: leading a workshop, hosting a lunch-and-learn, presenting during a large group session. While this does come at a cost, it’s a great way to showcase your expertise and drive conversions.
5. Invite your clients
Not only are tradeshows an effective way to generate new leads, they’re also helpful for client retention. Everyone knows keeping your current clients is just as important, if not more important, than gaining new ones. Offering your clients a complimentary ticket to the event and hosting them for a dinner onsite will go a long way.
6. Leverage other vendors
While most sponsors at the tradeshow will have a similar target audience as you, their product or service won’t necessarily be in direct competition with yours. Get to know the vendors adjacent to your booth and see how you can work together to maximize lead generation.
7. Capture contact info efficiently and effectively
You’re spending all this time and money trying to drive traffic to your booth, you need to make sure you’re capturing the people who’ve interacted with you so you can create personalized follow ups. Digital methods like badge scanners are more efficient than exchanging business cards and you don’t run the risk of a potential lead not having one on them.
8. Follow up post-show
After the show is when the real work starts. Creating a thorough, multi-touch follow-up plan will ensure the money you spent doesn’t go to waste. Your sales reps should be following up directly with anyone they had a conversation with onsite. Try sending handwritten thank you cards or a personalized gift to anyone that matches your ideal client profile. Enter everyone you didn’t connect with in person into an email drip campaign and nurture them over the next six months.
9. Measure ROI
As stated above, sponsoring a tradeshow is probably going to eat up a significant portion of your marketing budget. As with any marketing channel, you want to be able to measure the return on your investment. Tagging these leads as conference attendees or making them members of a specific campaign will help you track how this event is contributing to your pipeline.
The Bottom Line
Sponsoring a tradeshow requires many weeks of preparation, an all-star team and a clearly defined marketing strategy. Make the most of your dollars by selecting a high-traffic booth location, creating a memorable and engaging experience for attendees and clients, engaging leads pre- and post-show and accurately measuring your ROI.