If conferences and trade shows are strictly a marketing function, the true value of the events will never be satisfactory
By Ed Pierce, Fleet Industry Marketer
With the fleet-related conference season getting underway again, this is a good time to ask the question: “Why do so many companies consider trade shows and conferences as marketing events?” As a marketing professional, I love nothing more than to have a strong presence at a show – the largest booth, located by the front door, with some phantasmagoric draw that has plenty of stopping power. Giveaways, drawings, coffee…whatever it takes to have a large crowd in the booth.
Of course, we will have sales reps assigned to the booth to say hello, catch up with other vendors, network with allied company reps. If we’re really good, there will be a ton of leads, too. Quantity counts when it comes to trade show leads.
Of course, after the excitement of the show, the bills arrive – trade show space, booth rental and construction, installation & dismantling, shipping, travel, entertainment, and so on. That’s about the time Finance and senior management asks the question, “What did we get out of it?” The marketing response many times is, “Lots of positive comments by attendees about our great booth or great giveaway or our great dinner!” “Or, …40 leads!”
The sad truth is that if conferences and trade shows are strictly a marketing function, the true value of the events will never be satisfactory.
Sales Should Be the Prime Motivation for Participation
By thinking sales, and prioritizing the goal of positively affecting the selling process, an exhibitor can set realistic expectations and obtain quantitative proof of a conference’s value.
Knowing that the selling function has many phases, the trade show can shorten the existing selling cycle by delivering qualified prospects to your exhibit sooner rather than later. However, to do that, sales and marketing must work together right from the start to determine the sales opportunity with prospects and clients.
Has each sales rep identified his or her list of prospects and accounts that will attend based on contact months before the event to encourage attendance and begin the conversation that leads to a face-to-face meeting at the show? If there are no customer or prospects from a sales rep’s region, why is he or she even going?
Have the intended marketing theme and exhibit “hooks” (product demonstrations, speakers, SME’s) been sent out early enough for the sales reps to entice a prospect or customer to visit the booth during these early conversations? If there are demonstrations, is there a customer and prospect demo schedule? Is there a plan for company executives to meet with key clients or prospects…possibly in a suite or meeting room? Is coordination of extracurricular activities planned by sales reps to improve efficiency and foster networking?
How are sales leads being handled and tracked in the company CRM? Events such as these usually demand immediate follow-up even that involves nothing more than a thank you for visiting the booth.
By bringing sales and marketing together in the planning and execution of a trade show as an exhibitor or even as attendees, any company can realize greater value from a trade show and improve the return on that investment.
If you have any questions, comments, experiences, or opinions about fleet industry-related marketing that you’d like to share, write to me at edpierce@ITAcommunications.com