Posted by On May 07, 2019 In Advertising, Events

Trade shows: an expensive waste of money or an unmissable opportunity to raise your company’s profile?

As every Star Wars’ fan knows, there is a scene about halfway through the original 1977 film, in which an Imperial Stormtrooper bumps his head on a doorframe. Director George Lucas either failed to notice it, or left it in the final film as a kind of in-joke. Whatever the truth, few viewers notice it first time around, but spot the blooper on repeat viewing. Fans of the space opera rejoice in celebrating minor characters and background details – but it’s not the background extras that make the big bucks. 

In engineering terms, trade shows are the marketing equivalent of the big Hollywood blockbuster premier. New products are launched, new relationships formed, and existing contacts courted. This makes it all the more surprising that many firms seem content to blend into the background, like that accident-prone Stormtrooper.

Live events and trade shows in the engineering and manufacturing sectors are a mission-critical tool for engaging with audiences. The complexity of the products and solutions involved makes the opportunity to engage in person one that is too good to miss. The trouble is, because you will inevitably meet people, many businesses fail to adequately plan – setting measurable objectives, assigning responsibilities, and placing the event in the context of an overall marketing strategy. 

Setting out clear goals for an event can help to define what level of investment should go into it. Of course, it is not possible to guarantee exactly who will be visiting beforehand, but this is where pre- and post-show marketing can make a difference. Targeted activity for key prospects can help move the event from “broadshot” marketing to “bull’s-eye”. Extras like surveys and competitions can be promoted through the event’s social media channels to further boost awareness among delegates, driving footfall to your stand.

The stand itself is obviously the focal point, and probably the biggest investment – not that it needs to break the bank. Yes, the most eye-catching stands are often the biggest and most extravagant, but good old pull-up banners can still be effective, particularly in smaller spaces. It’s about aligning with your objectives: if you’re there for in-depth conversations, a flashy stand that takes up the entire allocated space might be less important than having somewhere to sit down and talk. Technology touches all communication channels, of course, and it can be both affordable and accessible in this context. If you do have some pull-up banners and a small stand, take a tablet or laptop with a brand movie to add a little visual interest and slow down passing traffic.

Post-show marketing is just as important: however long a prospect lingers, yours won’t be the only stand they visit, so your follow-up activity needs to be prompt and tailored to the objective. Not everyone who visits the stand will be ready to buy but running post-show brand communication will help consolidate the positioning and reputation of the business. Moreover, many businesses can do an excellent job of gathering leads and contacts during the show but leave them to go fallow and fall away by not following up promptly enough. Even a quick email to say you’re on the case is better than nothing and shows you are keen to maintain contact. Whether it’s telemarketing, post or email, have a clear plan in place for what you will do with the leads you gather BEFORE the show begins – including whether this can be managed in-house or outsourced.

Even Hollywood blockbusters can flop if they don’t reach the right audience. It may be hard to believe now, but few expected much of Star Wars. It was clever marketing that made the difference, with an array of supporting collateral that ensured the experience didn’t end when the credits rolled. Next time you take a stand at a trade show, make sure it has more than a cameo role.

To find out how to maximise value from attending a trade show, call Iain Humphrey today on 01582 761212 or get in touch by email.

To view some examples of our work, click here.

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