Tradeshow and summer event season is upon us. It’s time to dust off that tablecloth, print new business cards, and start monitoring the event’s hashtags. Industry-related events are invaluable when it comes to making connections, finding new customers and being viewed as an expert in your field, but are you getting as much out of them as you possibly can?
What are people typically doing?
As a frequent tradeshow attendee, I’ve found many commonalities to booths no matter the event. Booth spaces are complete with a tablecloth with their logo on it, a few people standing around in company polos, plenty of brochures or flyers, a signup sheet, some killer swag and a bowl of candy. A few might have a television playing some sort of advertisement that nobody can hear over the general roar of others, or have a game with some trivial prize (again stamped with a logo), or a raffle prize and a bowl filled with hundreds of names.
There are some slight variations depending on the event, but the booths are fairly standard. They have some sort of bait, be it a treat or swag, and then the salesman gives a pitch, hoping it strikes a chord with at least a few people, making the whole event worthwhile.
This method completely misses out on tons of potential leads. These sales people are looking to snag leads that will transform into quick sales, but completely miss out on people in different stages of the buying process.
Catching more leads in your marketing funnel
If your main focus is to talk to people ready to make a decision, you are losing out on huge opportunities to fill your marketing funnel at every stage. One major difference between digital marketing and physical events is that you have a massive audience physically in front of you. You’ve now removed the barrier of search engines and keywords, and limited your competition to people at the event.
People at your event are going to be in a variety of different places that relates to your marketing funnel. Most will not be interested (at that exact time) in becoming a customer but might be interested in learning about different solutions to a problem they are experiencing. They could be experiencing a symptoms of a bigger problem, but have no idea what the underlying cause is. You now have an opportunity to market directly to them with stellar content.
What Should Your Booth Have?
Outside of the above mentioned basic (tablecloth, swag, candy), your table needs content. This is where your content marketing will overlap with more traditional advertising methods. Identify what type of questions, problems, pains and concerns that event attendees might have related to your solution and industry, and produce content that addresses those pain points. This can be through flyers, brochures, or other handouts you may have. To support this content, have proper signage ready that will intrigue event goers to investigate. Proclaim that you have the answer to their questions or problems, so they can’t help but check it out.
Your content should also have a call to action to investigate further. The easiest action would be to visit your website for more information. From there, they can engage with your other content marketing strategies, ultimately leading to a decision on your services or products.
What should your employees be doing?
Remember those people wearing company polos standing behind the booth? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them. They can play an important part in applying content marketing concepts to your booth.
People don’t like salesmen. The fear of a sales pitch can discourage attendees from approaching your booth, so your bait needs to overwhelm that emotion with the promise of free stuff. Make sure it’s awesome. Plus, the extra logo exposure can make a big difference when it comes to being memorable.
The next step is not having your salespeople jump directly into a pitch. That’s how you get people avoiding eye contact and shuffling away awkwardly. Instead, you want your employees more concerned with having a casual conversation focused on identifying where they would fit in your marketing funnel. Ask friendly questions about subjects covered at the event or about their business. Pressure-free conversations will lead to longer booth visits with show-goers sticking around long after they’ve snagged their swag and invest more time talking with your sales team.
Once it’s determined where a person is in their marketing funnel, your sales team can recommend relevant pieces of content for that person to read. Every person who walks up to your booth should walk away with at least one piece of content. If a person is ready to make a decision, your sales team can launch directly into the sales pitch, but should first get to know the attendee’s needs.
Combine Social Media, Content and Live Blogging
From trade shows to fundraiser walks, every event has its own social media channels and specific hashtags. These digital outlets are used to promote the event, but many also maintain them during the event to give attendees a chance to share thoughts, connect with speakers or share pictures.
It also gives you a chance to quickly inject your content into conversations. This requires you to be involved in the event and not hiding out at the booth. If a speaker touches on a subject and you have a blog post or study that helps support it or explains it further, tweet it with an event hashtag. This sharing practice can get your valued content in front of new customers, especially effective millennials who are more likely to focus on social media before, during and after events.
If the event is highly exclusive and you would like to share a show topic with a larger audience, run a live blog on your site detailing the highlights and impressions of the day. This gives you another opportunity to link to relevant content and capture the attention of more potential customers. People who weren’t able to attend will appreciate any information you can give them on the event, establishing your brand as a trustworthy source while expanding your digital reach.
An incredible opportunity
Just remember that attending events isn’t just an opportunity to snag a few sales; it’s your chance to meet new people and help guide them into your marketing funnel. This can lead to a more sustained sales boost over a longer period of time instead of a one time bump.
What events are you planning on attending in the coming months? Have any tips for first time conference attendees? Share with us in the comments below.
About the Author
Ben Allen is a content creator and digital marketer who is passionate about helping small businesses succeed. When he isn’t working, he writes about education, social issues, and video games. Read more of his thoughts by following him on Twitter.