This year we had a very successful presence at IFRA Expo in Vienna, Austria. On the first day alone we had more than 90 people participate in our theatre demonstrations to learn more about how our product would bring greater efficiency and create new monetization strategies for their company’s multi-channel publishing endeavors. Our success was a combination of factors and certainly a strong brand, advanced planning and solid marketing strategies were to thank. Here were some of the necessary steps:
Build a Good Database
In preparation for this year’s conference, it was imperative that we got a good jump on scheduling demonstrations at our booth. Over time we had carefully compiled Lead data – including email addresses – in Salesforce.com from multiple countries across Europe through tradeshows and other means. This meant we had a solid database of Leads and Prospects to distribute targeted email marketing messages to with the invitation to attend the tradeshow and participate in a personal demonstration.
The next step was to create a branded website conference page that communicated the value of our product along with offering hourly options to sign up for demonstrations. I wanted to capture as much information as possible, and then be able to report on it later. Therefore, I used Salesforce.com to set-up the campaign and process the Web-to-Lead data.
Data Capture & Reporting
Upon submission of the form, the attendee’s information and time preference were passed to Salesforce.com and recorded at the Lead level. Any Salesforce.com user within our organization would be able to query the entire list by applying a custom Field setting ie "IFRA Expo." This meant Sales knew exactly who was – and wasn’t – signing up and could follow up with a telephone call or personal email message. Salesforce.com also allows for the automatic distribution of branded confirmation emails using their Communication Templates, which helps to further the relationship and close the loop.
Email marketing platform, Vertical Response, directly integrates with Salesforce.com, so it is easy to pull and create Lists based on various criteria as well as feed email marketing activity back to the Contact level in Salesforce.com. This is handy on many levels. For example, if a tradeshow Lead is eventually converted to a customer, anyone in the organization can look at the activity and see how the lead to conversion transpired, what kind of communications they received, and where the relationship originated.
It was also important to communicate internally with the entire organization regarding our marketing activities and what attendees would gain from our demonstrations. Your employees are important brand advocates and also communicate regularly with existing customers. Word-of-Mouth should always be utilized. I also created a handy little graphic and link to the sign-up form for everyone to voluntarily apply to their email signatures.
Designing a booth for a 40×20 ft space is not a task to take lightly, and I stressed over this more than probably anything else. Fundamentally, I approached the direction of the design by thinking first, what did we need to achieve functionally? Second, I asked myself how to best convey our brand promise of integration, connectivity and seamless publishing to multiple channels. You’ll see that the flat screens actually appear as if they are a part of the design; likewise, all of the panels are connected with a design metaphor represented by the transparent tubes.
Large tradeshows like IFRA generally invite specific media contacts to report on activities such as new products released and cutting-edge technologies that will revolutionize the industry. Of course, you want to take advantage of this and try to gain as much positive media exposure as possible. Crafting a press release helps to synthesize your message, and you can always post them both to your website and the conference website, which is also good for SEO. In addition, I use Cision to query additional media contacts that might not necessarily attend the show but will report on industry related news surrounding the conference.
I made sure not only to use our existing LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to broadcast our activities to potential customers, but it was also important to take advantage of the collective conversation and the corresponding #hashtag that conference organizers created. I was able to dialogue in real-time with people at the show and answer questions, invite them to our on-site event and communicate pertinent information.
If you have it in your budget, a great lead up to any successful tradeshow is timing targeted ads in specific industry publications. This allows you to develop further brand awareness as well as reach potential leads that you may have missed in your website, email marketing, public relations and social media efforts. Many times these printed industry publications are also available at the tradeshow.
A great way to break down barriers between you and potential new customers is to create a specialty event outside of the normal proceedings of the conference. Like it or not, drinks are a great way to build relationships. Organizing a social hour at your booth is an effective means of utilizing your existing space. Just make sure to get permission from conference organizers ahead of time. I created little business cards that Sales reps could pass out to attendees.
I am leaving out the incredible work it takes to put on a solid demonstration, as well as the importance of choosing the right people to be at the booth. Suffice to say, several other individuals were crucial in putting those components together. But as the event marketer, be prepared to be involved with this as well.
I know it seems like a lot – and it is – but if you take these steps towards building a comprehensive marketing strategy for your next tradeshow I guarantee you it will be a success.