For exhibiting companies, there’s a lot riding on a major trade show in terms of the expected return on investment. With significant costs associated with stand design and build, and major commercial decisions being made about what to exhibit and how to engage prospects effectively, pre-show communications can easily be eclipsed by other priorities.
It’s a common situation that we see a lot.
But it’s this piece of the exhibition marketing puzzle that really makes a difference to that all-important ROI. Why? Because if you don’t get the right people to the stand, you’re hindering the very point of exhibiting in the first place – the opportunity to sell.
There has been a general pattern in B2B events, particularly post-COVID, that the bulk of visitors are drawn from the most senior decision-making tiers of a business. This means that they come with limited time, a clear intent to invest, and a list of priorities. While most decision-makers understand the value of some free-form wandering at a show to be inspired by things they didn’t expect to see, they spend the majority of their precious time following a well-planned schedule.
So, before the show, it’s critical to make these decision-makers aware of who you are, which products they can find at your booth and the compelling reasons for them to allocate time to visit you. Essentially, you need to be on their ‘must-see’ list, and pre-show communications are key to getting on it.
How do buyers decide who to devote time to? It’s a combination of factors. (1) Companies they have a relationship with already and want to visit in person to see what’s new. (2) Competitors of those suppliers who might have something compelling to offer – maybe a superior product, or a better price, (or both). (3) Cool product innovations that are in the ‘must-see’ category. (4) Major suppliers of products that are on the medium-term investment radar… You can see why, if you’re hoping that a valuable but as-yet-unknown prospect will just stumble across your stand, you’re likely to be disappointed.
To gather this intel, those decision-makers are filtering information from supplier sales teams and direct marketing, company web sites, trade media articles, social media channels, colleagues and peers. So, to cut through, your pre-show communications need to be well integrated across all these platforms, with a clear message that’s impactful enough to rise above all the other pre-show noise. That message needs to be buttoned down several months before the show, because the effectiveness and clarity of all your other communications depends on that solid foundation.
Timing is crucial, as all these channels have different lead times and they’re often longer than you anticipate. You may need to work with trade editors several months out from the show to provide them with product information and other content ahead of their preview deadlines. Even in the online news age, magazine reviews and pre-show reports are compiled well in advance of a major exhibition, so simply sending a preview press release out the week before the show means you’ve missed out on a host of potential editorial opportunities. And the event itself is your most important selling platform, so leaving major announcements to the show itself may grab some online and post-show headlines, but it won’t particularly help your sales strategy.
Creating powerful content takes time, and your teams are juggling multiple projects. Start early, whether it’s updating or producing new sales collateral, creating social campaigns with accompanying visuals or animations, or capturing up-to-date video content and refreshing imagery.
The most ground-breaking new product doesn’t sell itself. Your sales teams need to have well-crafted messages to pitch, to be crystal clear on features and benefits that really matter to the target audience. They need to be thoroughly briefed on competitor offerings, ready to handle objections, and have effective selling tools to support meaningful customer conversations and make it easier to close deals.
If that ‘to-do’ list seems overwhelming, immediate pain relief is at hand! We’ve supported clients at a variety of major international exhibitions, including Drupa, FESPA, Interpack and ITMA, for four decades, so there’s no challenge we haven’t dealt with. We can help with everything from messaging, to visual concepts, to visitor campaigns, to product launches, to pre-event media and influencer relations, to spokesperson preparation and sales enablement.
So, if you need another pair/s of hands – don’t hesitate to get in touch!