October 01, 2021
By Saumya Chaudhary

It’s no secret that trade shows are one of the largest business development channels for organizations. They are a great place to showcase new products and attract potential buyers – not to mention the advantages of networking with your customers in person. They are also one of the biggest line items in marketing budgets, and with such huge investment comes the need for a trade show strategy that generates qualified leads, maximizes the sales pipeline, and drives revenue.

Like most organizations, it’s probably been a while since you flexed your trade show muscles. The global pandemic brought in-person events, including trade shows and conferences, to a standstill, and the industry adjusted to virtual events. It’s not a question of if but when trade shows return in the future, and marketers and planners must be prepared with the latest strategies to meet new market demands.

The Need for a New Trade Show Strategy

Below are some of the most common questions every trade show marketer must be prepared to answer after an event:

  • How many meetings did each representative have at the show?
  • How many C-level/VP-level meetings did we attend?
  • How much did the event influence new and existing business within the sales pipeline?

While trade shows provide many unique networking opportunities, most organizations are just scratching the surface when it comes to ROI. So, where exactly are your trade show leads going? For most organizations, the business cards collected at the show are either still in the hands of their sales representatives or hurriedly typed into an excel file waiting to be uploaded into the CRM. Here are some of the common problems faced by trade show marketers after the event:

  • Inconsistent data upload into the CRM
  • Slow follow-ups causing cold leads
  • Inaccurate ROI analysis due to inconsistent data
  • Dealing with new lead retrieval providers each time
  • Proving the overall impact and success of the event

It is safe to say that whenever data is entered manually, there is a high risk of human error and of losing critical information. So, how can trade show marketers avoid reinventing the wheel each time in the future?

Maximizing Your Strategy – Before, During, and After the Show

It is crucial to improve data visibility in order to prove the impact of your trade show. But how do you do that? Today, the right technology can easily help take conversations from the floor to your sales team at the touch of a button.

Whether you’re a marketer or a planner, you need trade show solutions that can help you at each stage of your event, be it pre-event appointments, onsite lead capture, post-event reporting, or off-site networking events after the show. Let’s look at six ways you could maximize your trade show strategy:

Before the Trade Show

  1. Attract Qualified Booth Visitors: Planners and marketers spend a huge amount of money preparing their booths with the perfect lighting, setup, and location to attract visitors. But what do you do when visitors enter the show with their booths of choice in mind? To attract qualified attendees, get ahead of the competition and schedule appointments with predetermined time slots before the event starts.
  2. Self-Schedule Appointments: Let your attendees self-schedule appointments before the event, use a shareable link for promotions, and eliminate the need for an intermediary. As a planner, you could also use appointment scheduling tools to create and edit meetings on another’s behalf, view them by location, and manage approvals for executive-level meetings, room reservations, and sending emails.

During the Trade Show

  1. Capture Leads Instantly: Setting up appointments is only half the battle. Collecting and managing leads on the day is crucial for your event ROI. Empower your sales representatives and SMEs at the trade show to instantly capture and manage leads right from the floor. It will allow them to check-in attendees, view meetings, take notes, qualify leads, and share e-literature then and there.
  2. Three Ways to Capture Leads: Using lead capturing technology, you can instantly capture leads in three ways: business card scans, QR code/bar code scans, and manual entry into the app. Marketers can simply use their smartphones to scan the badges or business cards and send them straight to their sales teams, all within a matter of minutes.

After the Trade Show

  1. Integration to Marketing Technology: Being unaware of where your trade show data is being collected is a huge challenge. Using multiple software to manage various forms of data could be worse. Trade show technology with an integration hub can help you build the MarTech integrations suitable to your business model, so your data can flow seamlessly through your tech stack.
  2. Post-Show Actionable Insights: Once you’re ready to present your event ROI to your stakeholders, you must have all qualifying information to answer questions like: Why was a certain meeting important? What was the attendee interested in? Why should they be moved to the next phase in the pipeline? Trade show solutions with event reporting and insights can help you answer such questions and compare the revenue generated from attending or hosting various trade shows, therefore futureproofing your strategy.

Getting Ready for the New Trade Show

As marketers and planners, the global pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to pause and reflect on our previous strategies and how to do things differently in the future. It’s just a matter of time before hybrid and in-person events start ramping up, and we must be prepared for the unique challenges they present. Here are a few things to keep in mind to address the challenges of the “new trade show”:

  • Space Planning: Adhering to social distancing guidelines is part of the new normal, and planning your booth designs, seating configurations, and break-out rooms accordingly will be a top priority.
  • Communication: Remember to keep your teams informed about the latest developments and communicate regularly and effectively to avoid missing out on last-minute updates.
  • Cancellations: With unpredictability around new strains of infection, cancellations must be accounted for, and your trade show solutions should help you track last-minute cancellations and financial implications before and during the show.
  • Networking: Leverage technology that helps you and your visitors network and collect leads virtually or in a socially distanced setting.
  • Global visibility: You should also be able to identify attendees travelling from high-risk areas and gain global visibility into the overall attendance at your trade show.

There is no comparison to what face-to-face meetings, small conversations in the halls, or quick chats over meals at trade shows can achieve for your business. As you plan and strategize for in-person and hybrid events in the future, be fully prepared and stay one step ahead of the competition.

To help refresh your trade show strategy, check out our latest webinar.

Saumya Chaudhary

Saumya Chaudhary

Saumya is the Assistant Team Lead for Content, Enterprise Marketing at Cvent and is passionate about exploring storytelling as a brand strategy.  You can find her immersed in a good book in a small café, hiking through offbeat Himachal towns, obsessing over women writers, or in deep conversation with her birds.
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