Attending a B2B event or trade show in 2024? Read these tips first
B2B events and trade shows offer a unique platform for industry professionals to network, learn about the latest trends, and forge valuable connections. In this guide, we offer tips on how B2B marketers can maximise their presence at events and trade shows in 2024. The article is structured into three sections: what you can do before, during, and after the event.
Before the B2B event or trade show
First, research and choose the right events to attend
The first step is thorough research to identify events which align with your business objectives. Look for events which draw a diverse and relevant audience from your target markets. Consider industry focus, geographical location, and event scale. Attending events which bring together professionals from different countries is a good opportunity to expand your international network.
Ideally, attend the event as a visitor before deciding to attend as an exhibitor, speaker, or sponsor. This will give you a chance to identify the best place to have a stand, how well attended the talks are at different times of day, and to see if the calibre and number of visitors lives up to expectations.
Prioritise pre-event networking
Start networking before the event by connecting with potential contacts on social media, professional networks like LinkedIn, and industry-specific forums. Reconnect with contacts from previous events, letting them know about your upcoming attendance. This approach lets you schedule meetings at the event and ensures you make the most of your time.
Go digital in advance
If you have a stand or booth at a trade show, or are speaking at an event, maximise digital tools beforehand. For example:
- To set yourself apart from other exhibitors, decide on a relevant and memorable call-to-action or hook. Prominently display this information on your website, specifying what you will offer at the trade show and where attendees can find you. Encourage attendees to follow your social media channels for updates and reminders.
- Position yourself as an industry thought leader by creating engaging content that offers insights into what attendees can expect at your booth. Allow prospects to download premium content like guides, whitepapers, and infographics. Depending on your resources, use a blend of written and video content. Include a link to the event’s registration page so leads don’t have to search for it.
- Send teaser emails to contacts and prospects, offering valuable informational content and the opportunity to book in-person meetings.
- Run paid social media campaigns and if appropriate, use a branded social media hashtag for the event. Engage actively with posts related to the trade show to generate excitement. Incorporate event-specific hashtags on social media to engage a broader audience and stimulate conversations.
- Copy in or tag other non-competitor exhibitors saying you’re looking forward to seeing them at the event. They will often reply putting you in front of their audience too.
- Many events offer their own apps, allowing you to identify fellow attendees and schedule meetings. If there is an event-specific app, use it.
- Watch out for non-affiliated list sellers. Lots of people offer access to event attendees. If it isn’t an official event partner, it’s unlikely to be accurate data.
- Think about how to make your stand memorable to visitors, or if you can include an element that makes a good social media photo or video. Make sure you have agreed it with the event organisers in advance. Different coloured flooring, an eye-catching prop, or an exciting promotion can all help draw the crowds and make your company stand out.
During the B2B event or trade show
Send the right people
Your team plays a pivotal role in trade show success. Think carefully about which team members are best placed to engage with prospects at the booth, give a talk on your behalf and represent your company effectively. Ensure that your team is actively involved in seminars and networking opportunities to enhance your brand’s presence throughout the event.
Train your team on sales techniques before the event
People who give great talks aren’t always great salespeople. Make sure you train your team on messaging and cold sales techniques before the event. Some people can feel uncomfortable approaching strangers, which applies to event attendees as well as exhibitors. Having a prop such as a leaflet to hand over, or a good opening question can make it easier to start conversations with prospects.
Connect with your visitors
Generate meaningful conversations with even attendees by connecting on a human level and showing a personal interest. Coach your team to engage prospects by placing the customer at the centre of the conversation.
Talk to other exhibitors
Doing so will help you find out why some stands are drawing crowds and give you new ideas for your next event. You may find some prospects in the process.
Host networking sessions
If possible, host your own networking sessions or workshops during the event, or the evening before. Many prospects arrive the day before an event and are open for an activity such as a short talk and networking in the evening. This positions you as an industry expert and provides an ideal platform to connect with like-minded professionals.
Build ties with event merchandise
Use promotional merchandise (‘swag’) to draw in prospects and express thanks to attendees. Select high-use, cost-effective items that resonate with your prospects while ensuring that they are branded appropriately. Make sure these items suit homeworkers as well as an office environment.
Pay for event contact scanners
Use the event scanner if the event offers one. This allows you to quickly scan the badge or wristband of people who attend your talk, visit your stand, or who you meet around the exhibition. Attendees are usually more willing to use these to provide details than hand over their contact details to you in person. You are also more likely to end up with official work email addresses as they will have used those to book their place at the event.
Take your business cards with you
People are keen to meet new contacts at events. Share your business card with people you meet so they can contact you if a relevant opportunity arises.
Use your CRM
Customer Relationship Management software is a vital tool for storing contacts and ensuring follow-ups. Upload contacts acquired at the event into your CRM, categorising them based on their journey stage and score. This data is valuable for future marketing efforts and post-event reporting.
Use QR codes
If you are giving away branded materials (such as brochures or promotional items), include a QR code on those assets. A QR code that leads directly to your website or trade show landing page is a great way to offer value and provide more information about your company.
Continue to post on your social channels throughout the event
New contacts could be following and it’s important to remain top of mind, so share real-time photos of your booth, team members, and any potential giveaways (including winners).
After the B2B event or trade show
Organise your leads
Start by organising the leads you collected during the event. Categorise them based on their journey stage (if known). This will help you tailor your follow-up efforts to each group’s specific needs and interests.
Send a thank you email
Follow up with a prompt thank you email. Express your appreciation for attendees’ time and interest and remind them of your interaction during the event. Personalise these messages to make a lasting impression. Refer to specific points from your event conversation, such as shared interests or pain points.
Provide relevant information
In follow-up emails, offer information that matches the prospect’s interests and needs. Share resources, such as whitepapers, case studies, or webinar recordings, that can further educate them about your products or services.
Set up meetings
If you had promising conversations during the event, aim to set up one-on-one meetings or calls to continue the discussion. Don’t rush into a sales pitch; instead, focus on building a deeper relationship and understanding their pain points.
Use multiple communication channels
Don’t rely solely on email. Use various communication channels, including phone calls, video meetings, and social media, to engage with your leads. Different people prefer different modes of communication, so diversifying your approach can be more effective.
Offer exclusive post-event content
Create and share exclusive post-event content, such as in-depth reports or articles about trends discussed during the event. This content can help sustain your connection and reinforce your credibility.
Use promotion winners to gain new contacts and content
If you ran a promotion during the event, pick winners and send out prizes promptly. This allows you to communicate with everyone who entered the promotion (winners or not) and to build new contacts. Make sure you offer content of value to those who didn’t win. Ask the winners if you can mention them and their company on social media (or state in the promotional terms and conditions that you can mention the company). Ask the winners to post on social media when they receive their prize from you.
Use marketing automation
If you have access to marketing automation tools, use them to create automated follow-up sequences. These can ensure a consistent and timely flow of communication with your leads.
Include a clear call to action
In each follow-up, include a clear call to action. Whether it’s scheduling a demo, signing up for a webinar, reading a whitepaper, or simply continuing the conversation, make it easy for your leads to take the next step.
Track and measure
Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your follow-up efforts. Track email open rates, click-through rates, and response rates. After several months, evaluate the return on investment (ROI) from your event participation. Assess the number of qualified leads, conversions, and revenue generated from the event. Use this data to justify future event expenditure.
If you exhibit internationally
Check your stand and sales messaging works in the local market
For example, different markets have different definitions of SMEs for example, different expectations around how to do business, and usually their own language. Work with Local In-Market Experts beforehand to make sure you have the details right.
Prepare marketing materials in relevant languages
If you’re attending events or trade shows in non-English speaking countries, prepare marketing materials in the local language. Having business cards, brochures, and sales collateral available in the local language will help bridge language barriers and create a favourable impression.
Collaborate with local influencers
Partnering with local influencers can expand your reach by co-creating content, webinars, or joint presentations at events. Collaborating won’t be right for every event but where relevant, can significantly boost your exposure and business growth. Work with Local In-Market Experts beforehand to identify relevant local influencers.
In the ever-globalising business landscape, B2B event marketing is a good strategy for network expansion and international growth. Choose the right events, prepare effectively, and nurture connections to unlock opportunities for collaboration, partnership, and business growth. Networking is a two-way street—the more you invest in it, the more you’ll gain in return.
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To find out how Oban can help your business achieve international growth using our unique network of Local In-Market Experts, please get in touch.
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