Exhibitions are very important marketing, brand exposure and customer engagement tools for B2B businesses. Premium class international exhibitions allow vendors to exhibit their products and services to a highly-targeted audience, engage with customers face to face, provide physical and immersive brand experiences at their stands, launch products and announce news with extremely high industry attention, gain media coverage and so on.
However, attending a high-standard international exhibition can be a massive investment for vendors. Participation and sponsorship fees alone are usually counted in tens of thousands of euros in addition to which comes a range of cost components according to the company’s aspiration level: stand design, demo kits and setups, development of visual elements and stand build-out, content creation and material production, serving and catering, travel and accommodation for a team of several people.
World’s top exhibitions are massive happenings where, for most exhibitors it is extremely difficult to become noticed and attract visitors at their stand. This makes exhibitions particularly risky marketing investments for CMOs.
1. Schedule for Early Start
Scheduling of the exhibition rundown is key. The campaign should be activated early enough that the company’s event theme can be efficiently introduced to the target audience through different channels. In pre-event meeting booking, early bird catches the worm! Often the delegates including C-suite, vice presidents, directors, managers and media are being booked for meetings 1-2 months in advance. So, the pre-event meeting booking should be left sufficient time window.
2. Create a Compelling Event Theme
Most vendors drive their value proposal messaging to the markets 365 days per year, which probably means that the target audience already knows it by heart. Publishing a special, focused theme dedicated for the event helps in catching attention of the audience in advent of the event. A good event theme addresses topical industry challenges, is captured by a simple, yet attention grabbing story and it is driven out to the audience consistently through all channels.
3. Converge the Whole Campaign on a Single Landing Page
A dedicated event landing page is a must. It should deliver the event theme and story in an engaging manner, describe the main topics, products and demos showcased at the stand and end with an invitation and/or clear call to action to pre-book a meeting at the show. When all event related messaging is on one landing page, it is easy to direct all event traffic to the optimal location.
4. Produce Compelling Content and Material
The pre-event engagement campaign is of course supported by a range of compelling content and advertisement items, such as ebooks, presentations, booklets, flyers, web and social media banners and so forth. All the material should be designed along a unified visual identity aligned with the brand guidelines and optimized for online and social media use when applicable.
5. Promote on Social Media
Social media and its different networks and communities are today the main outreach tool in most B2B verticals, even more so during many event run downs. Most event organizers have established social media communities, groups and hashtags, which are a great outreach channel for pre-event engagement.
6. Harness Earned Media
Scheduling a press release, an industry statement or similar media engagement before the event helps to capture the attention of a wider audience and to spread the event theme. Unlike cluttered social media channels, industry media outlets present your message on a more focused and credible channel. The media engagement can be built on top of a contract announcement news, product launch, or an opinionated industry statement, formulated along the lines of the event theme and ended with an announcement of the company’s event attendance.
7. Invest in Top Industry Media Visibility
Collaboration with a popular industry media before and during the event costs quite a lot extra, but provides usually strong and valuable visibility and can enforce company’s thought leadership image, if done the right way. It is important to select the right media; a popular news portal that draws audience within the target segments. The visibility on the media should extend through the duration of the event, when the traffic is higher than during an average day. Banners on a premier spot on the site benefits you also when the competing vendors publish news on the site and drive traffic towards it.
8. Don’t Forget the Email
Email invitation submitted to the company’s contact base is naturally a good way to wake up the existing contacts, partners and customers for a meeting at the event. Sometimes hiring an email marketing specialist agency for booking meetings with new potential customers turns out an effective pre-event engagement method. The call to action on the emails should direct the clicks to the company’s landing page.
9. Make Your Stand a Physical Brand Experience
Stand experience is of course an important, perhaps the single most visible component of an event campaign and certainly one of the most expensive cost items. Visually the stand should repeat the brand’s look and feel, and at best, it becomes an immersive, physical dimension of the brand experience. Engaging demos, presentations, animations and videos should naturally be designed into the visual whole.
However, perhaps the most important component of a great stand experience comes free of charge; a friendly, positive and knowledgeable event team that radiates the company’s brand and acknowledges every stand visitor contributes the most for the best brand experience. And, as said, it only requires some coaching and positive team spirit!
Remember, the event is not over when the show is closed. Thank you emails and social media posts are essential, not to mention personal follow-up with the qualified leads. Images, video footage and interviews provide great raw material to transform the event campaign into a continued thought leadership campaign.
Big international B2B shows are too often treated as stand-alone projects where the sales guys travel to run their standard sales pitches, entertain the clients, and as a bonus, to crack a couple of deals.
If you as a CMO however want to crack the best possible ROI out of your exhibition investments, you should consider them as massive opportunities to bring company’s brand alive, deliver your value propositions face to face, collect valuable feedback and strengthen your industry thought leadership image.
When the exhibition campaign is done the right way, the exhibition itself actually becomes the centerpiece of a much larger campaign, which is woven into the company’s total marketing and brand strategy as a seamless and integral component.
Exhibition Marketing Case Study!
Grip Agency delivered Sicap Schweiz AG, the global telecoms solution vendor its best-ever Mobile World Congress exhibition campaign in 2018. See the info-graphics for an overview and key metrics!
Check out how Grip Agency helps international B2B tech companies in marketing!