Hungry for more business?
So, after all your hard work, you finally got management to fund an exhibit at an industry conference.
The problem is, now everyone’s asking about ROI.
The key to a positive return on investment is two-fold: containing costs while generating a lot of revenue.
Simply put, your plan must support your sales team’s efforts to boost sales at conferences. All it takes is some cooperation and a solid strategy. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
While Marketing is responsible for developing the conference strategy, your sales team also has a major role to play. For things to run smoothly, marketers need to assimilate the needs of Sales into the conference game plan.
Sales professionals are always looking for a hook, something that compels prospects to take interest in their product. Conference exhibits are a wonderful opportunity to do just that.
Here’s a great list to help you get the most out of your company’s investment in these valuable marketing events. It all hinges on how your conference team can best support your sales team’s success.
Tip #1: Educate & Engage Your Sales Team
Brief your sales team about your strategy for the exhibit.
They’ll need to know how to get the most out of your exhibit booth:
- What you’re exhibiting
- Why your booth is set up the way it is
- What materials will be available for distribution
- Any other special elements, such as conference “swag” or giveaways
Request from sales any useful client information that will help them generate business. Do they have a VIP attending? Is there a big deal pending? Ask for background on any special attendees who may need a little TLC.
Prepare sample emails for the sales team to send to their email list with a schedule for special activities that will occur, including: VIP visits, contests or special presentations.
Build excitement and keep your team informed. This ensures everyone is prepared mentally when they get to the event. Plus, it allows your sales team to tease the exhibit to clients and prospects ahead of time.
Tip #2: Create a Solid Strategy
Make sure your salespeople understand your conference strategy before the event begins.
Your sales team should have an idea of who is coming to the conference and should create a target list of prospects they want to network with.
Consider arranging quick meet & greets throughout the conference.
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Networking functions (e.g. dinners, hospitality suites, receptions, etc.)
- Special booth features (e.g. coffee bars, wine bars, photo bars, etc)
- Meeting your social followers in person
For more ideas about creating a conference strategy, check out our conference success tips infographic.
Tip #3: Prep Your Social Media Accounts
The way that your posts are visually displayed on social media makes a world of difference when attempting to engage your audience.
In fact, tweets with images or video that display properly get 35% and 28% more engagement, respectively.
On Facebook, photo posts get 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs than standard text posts.
But to get these benefits, your website and social media accounts need to be properly set up.
To ensure your photos, videos, and links display correctly on social media, set up Facebook and Google+ Open Graph, as well as Twitter Cards.
You can find a great resource explaining how to do so here.
Tip #4: Use Social Media to Make Friends & Schedule Meetings
Now that your social media profiles are optimized, assign your marketing team to live tweet or live blog during the conference.
If you use the conference #hashtag and post valuable content, your brand can dominate the social conversation and generate lots of interest in your booth.
To generate leads using this tactic, have your marketers schedule in-person meetings with people that engage your content on social media.
Of course, that means your marketing team will need access to your salespeople’s calendars.
Tip #5: Use Your Corporate Execs as a Resource
Invite your corporate VIPs to attend and ask them to meet with prospective clients during the conference.
Be sure to set specific appointments that they’re willing to commit to, so your sales team can use this tactic to close business.
Ensure your VIPs follow through. A missed meeting is the surest way to kill a relationship.
Also, provide your corporate executives with background on any key clients they are scheduled to meet. The brief should include known opportunities as well as possible “landmines.”
Don’t let them walk into a meeting cold. Preparing your executives helps them engage more meaningfully with clients, so your sales team can close more business.
Tip #6: Have a Reliable Referral Process at the Booth.
You’ve created a great marketing opportunity, but capturing new business is what conferences are all about.
Ideally, everyone working your booth is pre-qualifying leads:
- Priority (hot? warm?)
- Area of interest (may be a specific product, or a problem they’re facing)
- Clues to getting the business (e.g. “We’re expanding…”)
- Contact info (if different from business card)
But, nothing is worse than finding a new lead and losing their contact info in the shuffle.
To establish a reliable collection process:
- Agree on the method your team will use to capture relevant info
- Get everyone in the booth to work the plan
- Revisit the plan during the event to see if it’s working. If not, adjust ASAP!
One of the best (and simplest) methods for this is to take notes on the back of business cards and store them in a secure place.
If you want to make digital backups on the go, use a smartphone app such as Evernote to sort and store the lead data online.
Tip #7: Create an Agenda
To keep everyone on your team working together seamlessly, publish a schedule of important timeslots during the conference:
- VIP Visits (yours or theirs)
- Special demos
- Key client visits
Conferences have so many moving parts, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. You can help your sales team maintain sanity by letting them know ahead of time where they should be and when.
Tip #8: Customize Your Message
Make your booth speak to your audience. Show how your product solves their problems.
If you’re at an industry trade show, customize your message for that market.
For example, if you’re at a healthcare conference, don’t discuss the retail applications of your product. Focus your message around what your audience cares about.
Your booth visitors should feel what it’s like to use your product.
Inform your booth team and product managers about specific client problems so they can gear their presentations towards solving them. This is powerful!
Another smart move is to create a video with one of your most knowledgeable and articulate reps explaining your products live from the exhibit floor.
You can also post these videos on social media to build even more buzz during the conference.
But the real magic happens when you get home.
Your new videos can be incorporated into your email marketing strategy to boost open rates, click-through rates, and sales:
- Including the word “video” in your subject lines can increase open rates by 18%
- Posting a video thumbnail in your email body increases click-through rates by 200-300%
- Embedding a video on your landing page (the page recipients land on after clicking the link), increases sales by 80%
Tip #9: Support Sales After the Conference
For many exhibit managers, the event is over as soon as the conference closes.
Be your own best friend and extend the value of the event by following up.
Make it easy for sales associates to report back to you any benefit they experienced, whether it’s closed business or strengthened relationships. But remember, management needs data to validate their investment, so quantifiable data is gold!
Solicit honest feedback from your attendees. What would make the experience better in the future? What worked well? Or didn’t?
You can’t get better if you live in a vacuum.
Share the excitement from the conference! Whether with customers who attended or those who missed it, highlight videos are a great way to put your best foot forward. They’re exciting and engaging.
Highlight videos advance your brand by showing your products against the thrilling backdrop of the trade show floor.
These can be a great opportunity to get the conference host to share your brand with the entire community after the event.
If you plan well, it will be easy to show a return on your company’s investment. You may even have a little fun doing it. Remember:
- By using social media to dominate the social conversation at the event, you can get a ton of free marketing
- Creating a video of your product experts gives your sales team an authentic tool to use later to help sell products
- By creating a special tracking segment in your CRM for incoming leads and meetings from the event, you can track business generated by the conference
- Executing an exhibit flawlessly puts your best image in front of your customers and competitors, which is invaluable!
With a strategy in place, you can run a tight operation that contains costs while maximizing your brand presence at the conference. Want to better support you sales team at conferences? Let us know what challenges you’re facing in the comments below.
Or, download our free conference success guide; an infographic describing ways to improve your sales, networking and marketing results at conferences and trade shows.
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