B2B Trade Shows can be Tough for Marketers!

B2B Trade shows: If you do them right, you’ll make it back to the office, exhausted but satisfied you made the best of it.

Let’s face it, B2B Trade shows can bring even the hardiest CMO to tears. As we prepare some of our clients for Mobile World Congress 2016, we thought it would be great to share some practical tips and templates. Here’s 7 practical tips that should help you make the most out of any event.

Disclaimer – Never start anything without putting in place a solid Marketing Strategy, Plan and a clear set of Goals!!

Tip 1: Plan – well in advance

I know this is going to sound somewhat zealous, but I like to plan a year in advance. You really want a nice big list of B2B trade shows that are relevant to your industry, business, products and solutions. I normally begin planning events well in advance of next year’s budget cycle. Events can take a huge chunk of your Marketing budget, so it’s wise to select the best options for success.

The yearly event list should look something like this. (Download trade show planning template here)

As you get closer to submitting your yearly budget, do an in-depth review of each event, determining how relevant it is to your marketing goals for the following year. If you have never been to a particular event before, it’s always a great idea to check its website and find out who went last year – both prospects and vendors. Reach out to your marketing peers via LinkedIn or email and ask what they thought about the previous year’s event.

Tip 2: Remind me again, why are we going?

Sounds kind of strange, but make sure to have the answers ready when your boss asks. There should be a clear link to the event and your defined marketing and corporate goals. Which campaign is the event linked to? Is the focus on awareness and branding, thought leadership, meetings, lead generation, channel partner support, meeting customers? Try and find the one thing. Don’t spread yourself too thin here, the answer to this question will be the way you measure the extent of the event’s success when you review your participation.

Tip 3: Share the Plan, like, with Everybody!

B2B trade shows can be big and messy. The really big ones can involve many people and several teams. Put a master checklist together well in advance of the show and make sure everyone can get access to it. It should look something like this (Download trade show checklist template here)

While this is list is a good start you should tweak it to your needs and to the specific event. Importantly, start planning early, because big shows require big lead times. If you are building a booth, the design and messaging alone can take a few months. Logistics are the less glamourous side of B2B trade shows, but hey someone’s got to do it. Make sure you know what’s got to be onsite and by when. Don’t forget anything that needs to come back too.

Tip 4: Reach out

Outreach is key to getting quality meetings at the event. B2B Trade Shows require massive outreach prior to showMake sure you let your customers, prospects and industry influencers know that you are going to be there. Use social media before, during and after the event. Make sure all employees know you are participating and encourage them to share on social media and with their contacts.

Set up a dedicated landing page on your company website informing people how they can set up a meeting. Let prospects know clearly and concisely what you are planning to announce, demo or discuss during the show, in short why should they meet you. Send a couple of emails to your mailing lists leading up to the event. And don’t forget to take photos and notes during the show for your social media and blogging. Make sure it’s all in the plan.


Tip 5: Teamwork goes a long way

At larger events, it’s common to have sales and marketing working side-by-side, so involve the sales team well ahead of time. Make sure they know about the event and what the key objectives are. Sales folks will be key in setting up meetings with customers and prospects. Prepare an email template they can use to reach out to their contacts personally.

Prior to departure for the show, do an online meeting with the team and run them through everything. On the first day of the show, best to do a booth run-through with everyone 45 mins before the show opens. Don’t forget to collect those business cards and lead forms from the sales folks and make sure they get assigned in the CRM. Using lead scanner can save time. A “thank you” email to each lead on the evening of the show will help you when following up afterwards. Don’t forget to collect feedback from all team members at the end of the show. This will help with your planning for next year.

Remember to keep you team members informed, ready to work the floor and motivated to get the message out. You are the leader at the event, and you need to keep up the team’s morale. They expect this.

Tip 6: Use and Abuse the Deadline

The best thing I like about B2B trade shows is that once you commit, the date is fixed. That means you have a deadline. I like to put events in my content calendar and build plenty of deliverables around the dates. You always want to turn up at an event with something new to say. It might be a new report or paper, product launch or a demo. Something that is going to be interesting to the audience, especially the ones that already know your company. Add it all to your content or campaign calendar.

Tip 7: Think Differently!

Many marketing folks just go through the motions at B2B trade shows. DON’T BE ONE OF THEM! As with all facets of B2B marketing, the key to engagement is to create value. Why would a customer or prospect spend 30 mins with you, when they can choose from hundreds if not thousands of others? Customers and prospects will come to your booth and set up meetings with your team if they find value in coming there. Think about, what would make you visit another vendor?

How about this? Take the leading industry analyst in your space and hire him/her to sit in your meeting room for the three days of the show. Tell your customers and prospects they can have a complementary meeting with the industry’s leading analyst at your booth during the show. Just this little idea could get you another 25-30 quality meetings during a three-day show. Just because most marketers think B2B trade shows are just more of the same, you can get off the beaten track and get creative! If you adopt this idea, don’t forget to feed your analyst!

Bonus Tip: Use the event as a platform for great content marketing.

(Thanks to Adam Murray @Blacklab Marketing for this one)
If you’re going to an event, make sure to publicize it beforehand on your website and to your contacts. And while you’re at the event, issue news and views not just about your own activity, but also about the highlights of proceedings that are causing a buzz among attendees. Use all the media at your disposal: social media, video (YouTube for example), mobile apps, even SMS to let everyone know the latest on the event’s key themes and trends as they emerge. Become a valuable source of updates, news and opinion, especially at the bigger events, which can be difficult to navigate. Industry people don’t want to miss out, so position yourselves as the go-to guys for up-to-date information. You’ll instantly add value to your contacts and prospects, and impress upon your industry that you are on top of the newest developments as they happen. And after it’s all over, don’t forget to produce a useful summary of the event from your point of view. By the time you circulate this and post it online, your contacts will know they can rely on you to have something interesting and valuable to say.

Got any valuable tips, be sure to add them in the comments below so we can share them too!