By Megan Tanel, AEM Senior Vice President, Exhibitions and Events
So many of you are extremely engaged in the data discussions related to your equipment and the info that is shared with your customers. But an area where you can own in-depth info on your customers or better yet, prospective customers, is left out in the cold.
I’m specifically referencing your access to data regarding one of the largest spends your company might have – on face-to-face events. Yes, I felt the collective eye roll (again) and your immediate reach for your wallet. But what I’m referencing is not a call-out for you to spend more money on what you’re already doing. Instead, I’m urging you to spend smarter and redefine your plan for how you utilize trade shows, specifically regarding data.
Size Doesn't Matter
The value of a trade show (specifically within the realm of face-to-face interaction opportunities) is not how big your space is or how tall your structure might be. It’s not in how many signs you buy through sponsorships or how many staff you bring all in the same logo’d shirt.
Instead, it’s about what your plan is for introducing yourself to prospective new customers, how you’re continuing your relationship with your existing customers, and when you will continue to utilize the show brand (reminder -- AEM members through the Association own CONEXPO-CON/AGG, ICUEE, CONEXPO Latin America, part of World of Asphalt and IFPE and bauma CONEXPO India and Africa and working toward equity within Commodity Classic).
Why did I remind you about your ownership stake within the AEM portfolio of shows? Because there is more opportunity for you through engagement with the above mentioned brands if you consider yourself an owner as opposed to an exhibitor. And as a member of AEM, you are supporting the events that represent your industries.
When not planned for appropriately, trade shows by their nature are expensive and can offer questionable return on your investment. But with all of you as the driver of our events, we strive to offer you ways to track your return, see the value and participate in the direction-setting of the events.
Cozy Up to the Data
Data offers one of the best ways to increase your return at trade shows as well as to know who your audience is or who they might be. I borrowed some insight from Reagan Cook, manager, strategy & MarketWorks at GES. Reagan outlines some great ways to harness the power of data that you may already have or that you can obtain from AEM as show owner/organizer.
According to Cook:
You need to know what’s important to people when they decide to attend (as well as leading up to the event, during the event, and after). Here’s how you can befriend data to increase engagement and make meaningful improvements to your offering:
1. Digest the data
Your first step should always be to get cozy with the data set available to you. For example, you can download the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s (CEIR) “2016 Digital Toolkit to Enhance the Attendee Experience” report, which helps both organizers and exhibitors answer questions around attendee preferences.
It covers crucial segments of the visitor’s journey: the decision to attend, pre-show planning and registration, attending the event, and post-show follow-up. It also illuminates the different preferences between members of your industry segments and special attendee groups, like frequent attendees, final decision makers, women, and young people.
Without data, your crowd is a sea of faces. With data, it’s a room full of friends.
2. Plot your engagement story
Map your attendees’ journeys, marking the points where they already engage with your brand. Now, plot new points of engagement. Make use of opportunities to influence attendance and spur interest, especially with the technologies and channels they tap most frequently. Use what you’ve learned from the data to step into your attendees’ shoes and predict where and when they’ll want to connect with you.
3. Sponsor up a storm
Attendees are more likely to attend and engage with your brand if they associate good things with you. Take a targeted approach to how you present your brand at an event. Identify sponsorship opportunities — use the data to discover what organizers can offer you, how you can use sponsorships to add value for attendees, or how you can gain traction by attracting a larger attendee share. Don’t make it hard for attendees to find you — get in front of them.
4. Galvanize your existing channels
Using data to enhance your brand story around an event will fall flat if you neglect your existing channels, such as your website, partner websites, editorial content, and social media. Activate your brand in those channels. Candidly assess the effectiveness of your messaging in light of what you know about your customers and prospects. If your brand experience isn’t punching you in the face, you’re not making the most of those channels.
5. Measure, improve, repeat
You should collect data on traffic, revenue, and leads raised during and after the show. Track the results across shows and years to measure changes. Beyond that, constantly re-evaluate your target markets because they are subject to constant change. How else are you going to guarantee a better show next time?
Reagan’s concepts probably sound familiar to you as you use these tactics in evaluating your brand with your customers in other marketing tactics. But so many are not utilizing these concepts when participating in trade shows. If you are just buying a booth, setting out product and sitting back and waiting for traffic in the aisle, you will not see value in trade shows.
If instead you are promoting yourself on your own as well as through the show brands, you are already a step ahead. Now take that next step (or leap) and utilize the data we can provide or that you can provide on your own and speak to your customers or prospective customers the way they want to be spoken to, and then add in that extra flair you all have within your show plans to give them the Wow factor they weren’t expecting.