By Luke Bull

Trade shows have changed greatly in the internet age but they are still a brilliant opportunity for B2B marketing.

And let’s face it, you have to make every moment of your attendance work for your business. After all, you’re taking some of your sales force off the road to run your stand – and that could be costing you money and missed opportunities.

The days of big launch events taking place at an industry trade show are pretty much behind us. Live streams on the internet let brands find an audience online that they once had captive at exhibition and conference centres.

And while not as much business is done at trade fairs these days, they still represent a fine opportunity to get in front of potential clients.

Another consideration is that there are some big trade shows – such as MACH in the machine tool sector – that it’s viewed as essential to attend. If you’re not there, it could send out a signal that your business struggling … even if it’s not.

Perfect preparation

So take some time to plan ahead for your attendance as soon as you’ve booked your space at the venue. I may have said this before, but it bears repeating: Perfect preparation prevents poor performance.

A lot of trade shows feature events with speakers, so take the opportunity to secure a slot on the bill if it arises. It’s a B2B marketing strategy that gives you a chance to show people with an interest in your business what it has to offer.

You’ll have to treat this opportunity as more than a pitch. Use it to establish your credentials as an expert in your field – and give them something to think about. It’s useful to involve your PR team in this process as creating interesting, thought-provoking content is their speciality. That can take your trade show marketing to the next level, and establish you as a thought leader.

Remember, too, that you will want people to know your company is attending the fair, so get your B2B public relations team on the job two to three months ahead. Industry magazines that still print can have deadlines six weeks ahead of publication and they will be running pre-event round-ups which you need to get into.

Make sure your press office has the handouts you’ll need prepared in advance – background information for company profiles, releases about any new products you’re launching and digital imagery of your logos, products, premises and key players.

Interviews with editors

It’s also important that your PR team set up interviews with editors from the trade press, who will be in attendance at the show. Getting to meet journalists is really important. They could have three or four whole days to fill so get in front of them.

Putting a face to a name and establishing a real relationship gets you into their heads and makes them more receptive. They’ll remember you and your business next time they need a comment on an issue or when they receive a press release from your company.

While you are getting the trade press onside, don’t forget to establish content with current customers and hot leads. Ask them along to your stall if they’re at the event.

Remember to be selective about who you invite so you can make sure the time and the investment are working for you. You can use LinkedIn to invite people who fit the bill – it’s got a great resource called Sales Navigator that helps you create lists of contacts.

Beyond the structured events, there are the social events. Network, network, network. You may even want to set up breakfast, lunch or dinner and invite valued customers and friendly journalists along.

Nurture new friendships

Anyone you do first meet at the show, you should properly follow up with afterwards. This is one of those areas where LinkedIn is great for nurturing new business friendships

Perhaps the most important preparation is to make sure your trade show marketing is coherent and cohesive. Gather your salespeople and spend time establishing the best practice that gets them results.

Have everyone singing from the same hymn sheet – you don’t want potential new customers getting mixed messages.

Remember your USP, and focus on how you have excellent products and first-class customer service which deliver client satisfaction.

And while you’re waxing lyrical about your business, your rivals will be doing the same at a stand nearby. Don’t forget to breeze past. For a catch-up, definitely not research purposes, y’know?

 

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