By Ed Pierce, Fleet Industry Marketer
Possibly the most viewed “Call to Action” column I’ve written is “Think Sales to Get the Best Return on Your Next Trade Show.” In fact, NAFA has referred fleet service providers to this column to prepare properly for the NAFA I&E. That column’s conclusion was that a big booth, giveaways, and other marketing ideas do not ensure an acceptable return on the investment without a sales focus. All in all, an industry trade show exhibit and conference strategy should be handled by a sales and marketing double-team.
Trade show participation can shorten the decision-making time on the typically long sales cycle. It can help initiate or bolster relationships between sales and multiple sourcing team members. It also provides a unique opportunity for captive-audience product differentiators or user experience demonstrations.
Because conferences are must-attend events for so many decision-makers, they are convenient and timely opportunities to arrange single-customer or customer advisory group meetings with your company’s management team.
Marketech Study Exhibit Study Findings
You can read about the sales and marketing steps in my previous column; however, this update focuses on a Marketech study sponsored by Skyline -– both the good and the bad.
First, according to the study, the top two reasons given to enter a trade show booth are to obtain product information and to see a product demo. Promotion can deliver a high number of exhibit visitors, said the study. Based on my experience with NAFA and other exhibit-centric conferences, however, a large number of “visitors” should NOT by a goal.
In fact, a crowd is usually detrimental to sales’ need to meet prospects and customers. While the study endorsed the idea of a large promotional budget, my recommendation is to implement a targeted, even micro-targeted, promotional campaign.
Another study finding that exhibitors should keep in mind: attendees said they visit booths because of the greeter, a product demo, and a rep meeting. Meeting the rep is the best reason because it can help move a prospect along through the sales funnel.
Other Findings from the Study
While sponsorships and advertising do increase brand awareness among trade show attendees, they do little to increase booth visitation. If the goal is to get leads, then sponsorship appears to be the wrong promotional tool.
Confirming my belief, as stated in my previous column, the study found that pre-show promotion is the key to getting attendees to the booth — only 20 percent of the visits are the result of “happenstance.”
A particularly telling study fact is that 89 percent of the booth engagements are initiated by the vendor’s rep – another reason why sales reps should be in the booth.
A Strong Correlation Between Learning and an Inclination to Buy
A key takeaway of the study is that there is a strong correlation between learning from an exhibitor and being more inclined to buy from them. Specifically, when an attendee learns something new, they are 27 percent more inclined to buy from that exhibitor.
Once again, keeping sales present in the exhibit is critical: “Identifying the visitor’s agenda and speaking to it must be one of the most important elements in preparing a staff to work an event. Otherwise, the exhibit staff is merely delivering an information dump that does not achieve either party’s objectives and is a waste of time.”
A NAFA Exhibitor Recommendation Column in January?
Yes! The work to take full advantage of the NAFA and other exhibit opportunities in 2020 begins now. This the time to influence attendees’ attendance plans and to put your exhibit on their “must-see” trade show booth list.
Now is the time for your sales reps to begin promoting and obtaining commitments from prospects and customers to meet. Through the years, I’ve found that a correlation between sales rep conference attendance with a suitable number of pre-show-scheduled meetings delivered the best results — reducing travel costs and delivering the best conference sales contact results. These contacts can come from booth visits, private meetings, company-sponsored meetings, educational sessions, seminars, or special events.
As you move ahead with your 2020 plans, just remember to create a conference strategy that drives purchasing behavior. If you have any questions, comments, experiences, or opinions about successful exhibit strategies or fleet industry-related marketing that you’d like to share, write to me at edpierce@ITAcommunications.com.