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As we continue to go back to true face-to-face marketing, it becomes clearer that it will not necessarily be back to business as usual. The pandemic has taught us many lessons, including that there is a place for virtual events and there isn’t a place for virtual events. Many of us are glad to be back on the show floor, or back to an in-person conference. It gives us some time to escape the everyday routine and refocus on an area of interest that is relevant to our professional or personal lives.
There will be, however, those who will be hesitant to return, for one reason or another. Attendance numbers though, seem to be coming back strong, and the quality of attendees seems to be better than in the past. As such, it will be even more important for smart exhibitors to up their engagement game at every step of the attendee journey to ensure those right attendees know who you are, get to your exhibit, engage with staff and move further into the sales and relationship funnel.
Start by designing a comprehensive engagement plan for not only your annual campaign, but individual events as well, allowing the ability to find commonalities in product/service offerings, audiences, messages, footprints, content, marketing and technology assets, even stakeholders that may provide budget streamlining, potentially allowing more dollars to be channeled into audience engagement.
Employ engaging pre-event touches to drive awareness and attendance to both the in-person event and/or it’s virtual companion. Provide strong reasons for “why” your audience needs to attend. As you compete for more share of travel wallet, giving them strong incentives to attend with compelling offers, clear benefits and even using FOMO messaging can help to drive audiences to act. And don’t just rely on email touches to get your message across. Sure, marketing automation makes email a great centerpiece of a campaign, but sometimes traditional direct mail can create a bigger impression and engage audiences that are harder to reach through digital means. And of course, social media offers great opportunities for your potential attendees to engage, to build affinity and to act.
At-event, look for opportunities with show organizers for effective sponsorship options, especially if your location is less than ideal. While a majority of attendees pre-plan their exhibit hall visits, it’s still possible to get on their consideration list at the last minute. Here too, provide a strong “why,” not just your booth number, logo and tagline. And, as always, put your best engagers at the aisle, whether that is sales or support staff, select the most engaging, most approachable and most fearless staffers as the first line of engagement. They can always provide a “hand-off” to a more qualified member of staff as the conversation becomes more detailed, but use people to their advantage and your advantage to get, hold and escalate the interest of qualified passersby.
In future posts, I’ll go more in-depth about some of these suggestions, as well as exploring the full 360 degree spectrum of pre, at and post-event engagement.