Is there another marketing initiative less understood than the trade show? The water cooler conversations: “Oh, you’re so lucky you get to travel to Orlando. You can visit Harry Potter World!” or “New York! Wow! And Javits Center is so close to Broadway. You can see a lot of shows.” And let’s not forget, “Las Vegas! [wink, wink] what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Or perhaps someone in senior management really would like to see leopard-striped carpet on the walls of the closet or has friends who design graphics in their garage—won’t you let them bid on the booth graphics? Don’t forget the product managers who worked two shows over their five years as reps and know exactly what will create buzz for their product launches. (T-shirts? Stress balls?)
No one talks about delayed flights, hotel rooms that aren’t ready when you arrive, lost shipments to the show floor, recalcitrant technology, or working into the wee small hours so your exhibit is show-ready first thing in the morning.
Internal marketing and potential outcomes
Internal marketing of your face-to-face program is just as important as your external marketing. When you have internal support for your program, you are much more likely to:
- Protect your budget.
- Get support from sales management when you need to staff with reps from the field.
- Work collaboratively with product/brand managers and their agencies.
- Shorten the learning curve when discussing your program with finance and procurement.
- Build enthusiasm among sales people who will ask to work shows.
- Heighten awareness of the role face-to-face marketing plays in producing revenue.
Sounds good, right?
Here are ten ways to help you both (a) correct the false image of trade shows that still exists and (b) build internal support for your program? (You can probably come up with a few more ideas on your own.)
- Use social media or your company’s internal communication platform to share details of your exhibit program, one show at a time. Talk about the goals and objectives you’ve established, what customers you hope to see at any given show, and how you are going to communicate with them. Ask if anyone knows someone who will be attending this show—and make sure that person is encouraged to stop by your booth.
- Post videos directly from the show floor via YouTube or Facebook Live. Invite the company to see the team at work, how crowded your exhibit is, and how effective your staff is. Explain your lead-taking process and how you use catering to interact with visitors.
- Post photos from the show on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. Tweet from show site. Use a hashtag that incorporates your company name and the name of the show.
- Become best friends with the people involved in updating the company website so that your photos get posted. Almost every corporate site has a press room or an event tab. Photos of your exhibit and your program in action impress analysts and potential customers.
- Share your external marketing. How many people actually see the ads you are running in trade journals? No one on the inside knows about the pre-show mailer you sent or the room drop you are doing. Don’t just share the “what”—share the “why” as well. (Example: We’re sending this pre-show mailing announcing our product launch because research shows trade show attendees create a “must see” list before leaving their offices.)
- If the trade show is close enough to your office, work with management to facilitate a field trip so employees can visit the show and see how everything comes together.
- Invite finance and/or procurement people to the show. Take them through set-up, staff training, and everything that leads up to the show opening—then invite them to stay the first day of the show.
- Turn your booth staff into ambassadors. For instance, a rep working an exhibit will connect in a productive way with a prospect who is next to impossible to see in the field. At the end of each day of the show, do a debrief so that reps can share their stories. Word will get out.
- Encourage networking among the staff. Chances are, most of your staffers don’t know one another. They are probably from diverse product groups or departments —or from different geographic locations. Foster camaraderie.
- Celebrate your success. Report the number of leads you received. Talk about Facebook “Likes,” Tweets, and press mentions about the company that resulted from your face-to-face program. Let everyone know about the positive reception the speech by your product engineer received. If you sponsored an event, talk about that, too—how many people participated in the 5k the second morning of the show or attended the media breakfast.
Remember your internal customers are as important as your external customers. Let them know how much you value their support.