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Trade Shows & Events
Leveraging Interactive Business in Planning and Preparation
First came the paper era. Years ago, you’d attend conferences or trade shows armed only with a pad of paper and a pen. You’d collect business cards, gather receipts, and carry around a briefcase full of exhibitor booth sell sheets and sticky notes; only to arrive home with enough reams of paper to put together your very own book. Then, we heralded in the laptop era.
by ENVANO, INC.
Amidst those still transcribing notes on paper, a few forward-thinkers emerged with their laptops. Wi-Fi was still uncommon, but word processing programs had the ability to save notes for later review. As more people leveraged laptops, technology made its way into the arena and outlets became conference campfires. Enter the year 2014. Welcome to the. Now you likely come armed with a tablet and a smartphone to make the most of your conference or trade show experience. You take notes, grab pictures, and record videos. You connect, engage, interact, and follow up. Interactive is changing the landscape of trade shows and major events - fast. People want to interact. They want to engage. They don’t want to talk to a salesperson, grab a brochure, and walk away in the fashion they used to. They want and expect new ways of engagement thanks to a fundamental shift in the way people gather and digest information. As expectations shift, companies who host events, man booths at trade shows, and hope to expand and monetize a prospect and customer base must provide an integrated, compelling, and interconnected experience.
Trade shows come at us around the same time each year. Due to a heavy workload, there is often limited time to plan for these shows, especially when the technology landscape changes as rapidly as it does today. Rather than just pull out last year's plan and adjust it, a holistic strategy may help drive advanced planning and lead to a more productive show. Not every show is the same, yet there are some pre-show, at-show and post-show activities that can create impact and leave a lasting impression for attendees. This communications plan acts as a blueprint strategy in planning and preparation for trade shows or major events.
One way to add consistency and uniformity to your trade show store front is to develop a list of questions designed to identify any shifts in logistics, audience, budgets and messaging. This list of questions can be provided to a business unit and other key internal teams, then the feedback consolidated and incorporated into the plan for the show. The following basic questions help to strategically prepare for live and digital experiences.
What is the Trade Show or Event? And When? Is the event Indoors or Outdoors? Who else will be there? How do they compare to us?
Who is our Primary Audience? What is the goal/objective of the booth?
What is the experience visitors will have?
What is the feeling we want visitors to leave with? Is there opportunity to take a new approach, do something out of the box or innovative? What is our budget? What is the space/booth like? And who else is around? Are there any special needs that we’ll have to implement our plan? (extra power, devices, etc.)
The role of Interactive at trade shows:
Excite. Connect. Engage.
Your interactive trade show booth must create a welcoming environment, something that will draw people in for a closer look."Here are some general guidelines and high level ideas for making booths interactive and engaging.
Social - There is no better time to generate pre show buzz or to let your customers know you are making an appearance at a particular event. Using social media channels, use attendees as a mouthpiece. Encourage them to share details of the event early by offering incentives for spreading the word, particularly via their social networks as they decide to attend. !Polls, contests, group chats, and event advice allow you to begin building relationships with people attending the show while maintaining the interest of those who can’t make it. Consider using your fans and followers to help plan the booth. Ask them what they want to see, make it into a contest. Email - Email blasts to customers in your current contact lists are also key to driving event attendance. In certain situations, attendee feedback prior to the start of the show or event can help craft the event experiences, ensuring a positive response yielding a similar ROI. Design and create a string of email blasts to current customer and prospect lists, relevant to the show. Use these emails to: tell people you have a booth, encourage feedback and ideas, provide an incentive for attending and visiting. Text and Mobile - Without going to great lengths, you can use mobile SMS messages and polling to conduct simple alerts and polls before the event. Text communications are particularly valuable when you will reveal something at the event having to do with mobile - apps, mobile sites, games, etc. Use SMS and MMS messages to reach people who have subscribed via mobile phone or short code. Like social, text polls are a great way to gauge the perspective of the audience regarding what is valuable for them come show time. Bloggers - Bloggers have been part of events and trade shows for a few years now, typically used to create content from an event released across social media, the event’s own microsite, and that blogger’s loyal followers. As with all things - this too is evolving. Consider using industry bloggers not only to create content that promotes your presence at a trade show but to qualify your content, lending credibility to the brand and encouraging show attendance. Social Currency - A top term for 2014 as event marketers start to put a monetary value on having event attendees link their social media networks to live brand experiences. Consider product cost savings or discounts, or offering giveaways in exchange for tweets, posts or mentions. You can also give exclusive access to certain area of the booth or content for LinkedIn posts about your company at the trade show. Microsites - Identify different types of attendees and market to each segment differently with speciﬁc microsites. These sites allow attendees to interact with the event or trade show and you before, during and after the actual event starts and ends.
Appeal to the Senses: Memories are strongly linked to the senses, especially the sense of smell (which is why many companies use food or other recognizable scents to attract booth visitors). If you are able to appeal to the five senses, you stand a more likely chance of being remembered. Invite customers and prospects to fully experience your products - allow visitors to manipulate or sit on machines, use vivid displays and demonstrations, and catchy music to help entice visitors. You may even consider trying to appeal to the nose with the scent of grass, dirt, concrete etc. Promotional Giveaways and Raffles: An ideal way to get your contact information out to the public is to place it on promotional giveaway items like pens and coffee mugs, which the recipient can use frequently. But instead of sticking with traditional items like those above, consider sharing something unique with booth visitors. A small, branded part from an old product is unique, shows a longstanding company history, and is a great conversation piece. Also, it’s a good idea to encourage visitors to enter their contact information in a drawing for bigger prize, like a cost savings or branded iPad with the latest company apps. Demonstrations: One of the best ways to promote your product at a show is through a hands-on demonstration. As mentioned before, appealing to the senses is a key to success. Find ways to have visitors feel, taste, smell, and listen to the product. You need to engage the audience as much as possible and encourage volunteers to join in. The person who does your demonstration needs to be charming, well spoken, outgoing, animated, and quick-witted. Strut your (new) stuff whether it’s a new product or an addition to the fleet of apps, showing something new to your customer is an easy way to succeed at a trade show. Model replicas are always a hit. Games: Everybody loves a good game. The key here is for your booth to provide games that are not only engaging and fun but also provides information on your product. Develop a trivia game both about company history and products and reward participants with branded prizes. Also, any type of social or mobile app game can encourage networking among visitors and improve their experience at your booth. Mobile -Social media is a great tool for generating buzz and engagement, but the opportunity to foster business value at events is often realized through mobile initiatives. Elevate the functionality and experience of your trade show booth with an interactive iPad app, designed to increase engagement with consumers while fulfilling key interactive business functions of lead and list generation. Create a new mobile iPad app that incorporates a content focus with the concept of gamiﬁcation - geocaching is popular among outdoor enthusiasts and may add a unique element to your booth, think mixing iPad app with ﬁnding certain objects in the booth or event center. Crowdsourced Content - As more events become social, use peer-to-peer elements and digital content to allow attendees themselves to interact with the booth. Turn over event documentation to show attendees by giving them a location (i.e. a crowdsourcing app) to share their content (social posts, pictures, stories, videos, etc.) all of which your company can curate later for content.
RFID triggered engagement and Near Field Communication (NFC) - Trigger experiences on the fly by targeting and speaking speciﬁcally to attendees as they pass by your booth - share quotes, facts, promos, etc. RFID’s faster and more far-reaching cousin, NFC enables smartphones and tablets to exchange data with each other when they’re touching or in close proximity. Clickable paper is also gaining ground fast as an alternative to QR codes. Social - Social media is becoming as important a live event as the live event itself. Leveraging social channels leading up to the event is a great way to spread awareness, but don’t stop there. Create a live broadcast stream and hashtags to view brand conversations, create dialogue, and engage in your booth. Include social media URLs and clickable paper on show communications so attendees can easily ﬁnd you online while they are at the show. Post photos and videos from the event and tag participants, while encouraging them to share photos and videos of their own. Video - Open up the booth to those who can’t attend physically. Live recording is the keystone to this and is easily accomplished through UStream, Facebook or a dedicated YouTube channel. At Envano, we call this documentation the “roving reporter” - referring to an individual dedicated to documented video, stories, photos, and more for live virtual engagement and post show use. Video stream presentations, clips of the event online, and presentation documents, or reward for participation through prize giveaways that help to build social “likes” and follows. Virtual attendees can ask questions via Twitter or Facebook, or comment on events using hashtags to create what is potentially a global conversation. Bring Your Own Device - Encourage attendees to participate in a variety of technology-powered experiences with their own devices. Watch in 2014 as the amount of events that previously provided the technology for attendees to interact on quickly gets replaced by events that provide “connectivity” for interaction - attendees connect with your booth demonstrations, speakers, content and networking on their own personal devices. Auto Posting - Create real-time triggers from live events to social media. First came social media kiosks, allowing event attendees at B-to-B events to post information about their experience online. Now companies are using RFID bracelets that “auto-tag” where a person is and what they’re doing, and in some cases, snap photos that are instantly uploaded to that person’s profiles whenever they walk past a detector or what some are referring to as “tag totems.” eBrochures - Use iPads not only for interactive experiences, but also to show off products. If an attendee is interested in more info, they can send product literature at the touch of a button, right from the device. Charging Stations - Offer charging lockers or stations so people can safely recharge their gadgets. This is an outside of the box idea but you may find that when you give people a cool, comfortable way to recharge, they might hang out for a while. Plus, it shows them you’re thinking about them.
Marketing Automation - Attendees at B-to-B events and meetings no longer follow a linear purchasing path. As a result, more companies are leaning on marketing automation software like eInbound to enable marketing and sales to automate and streamline communications and the distribution of strategically selected content to target audiences - after the event is over. Use content curated from the event through eInbound to gather additional lead information and funnel prospects through the sales process using inbound marketing.
Global Relevance - It’s important to consider how the look and feel of an event activation and content shared pre, at, and post event will translate overseas. What might be a great experience and content gathered at a trade show in the United States may have different connotations for International audiences. While International is not a main priority for trade shows held in the US, don’t forget that you may have audiences all over that follow many site and social outlets. Even a shout out to major International audiences can help strengthen overseas relationships.
Benefits and ROI
Using interactive as the foundation of your trade show experience has the potential to yield measurable results in the following four key areas.
Direct Traffic and Organic Search - Part of having a successful trade show presence is making sure your company generates additional brand awareness. Take a look at direct and organic traffic to your site - measure and compare before the event and after to calculate percent change and determine significance. Trade show efforts, when implemented strategically, will increase awareness and subsequent traffic to brand channels. Social Reach, Referrals, and Conversions - Another key result to measure is whether or not the trade show helped meet social media goals. An increased number of followers, social referrals, and social conversions are all signs of a successful social integration. After the trade show, take a look at which channels were the most successful. Did engaging with prospects through Facebook during the trade show drive more visitors to your website and increase onsite identified goals and conversions? Statistically, social engagement contributes to higher rates of social conversions and increased sales. New Leads - One of the most common trade show goals is expanding a database of leads to begin funneling through a lead nurturing and sales process. Set up landing pages with tracking URLs to capture leads, gather email addresses for additional communications, identify referral sources that helped to generate these new lead lists, and finally always track lead to customer conversion rate. All of this is possible with eInbound. New Customers - The final crucial metric to measure is the number of new customers that the event generated, which brings us back to the main goal of driving more business and increasing sales. Take a look at the overall life cycle of your event - everything from event registrations to purchases - and implement a closed loop tracking system. This will help you figure out a key component of your trade show's ROI.
Let them play.
Putting customers in an industry trade show is like putting kids in a candy store: they're going to want to touch things. So let them. PAGE !7
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