Overview of TFMA 2011

Technology for Marketing and Advertising (TFMA) is one of my favourite shows of the year. It provides lots of opportunities to catch up on the latest thinking in the digital space, to see the latest technology up close, to talk to leading suppliers and attend lots of free keynote presentations and seminars from leading brands.

Though there is an extensive exhibition, the real draw is the growing seminar programme. It was clear this year was the most popular yet, as organisers opened up a number of new sections on the exhibition floor covering email, mobile, analytics, social media, affiliate marketing and online advertising in addition to all the usual attractions.

Traditionally a free show, a Priority Pass was introduced this year, which guaranteed entry to all the keynote presentations, for £99. An interesting proposition given there were 2,000-3,000 attending, yet the keynote theatre probably only catered for 400-500. This left hundreds of visitors, myself included, unhappy at not accessing the first keynote from Facebook at the start of the day.

Less of a money spinner but more visitor friendly would have been to double the size of the keynote theatre or perhaps use unutilised space at the back of the hall to run video relay on large screens, perhaps seeking to make additional revenue by locating an additional (and over priced) coffee zone. This and the total mismanagement of queuing for all sessions need review for 2012.

That aside, most of the sessions were superb and offered lots of food for thought for the marketers and business owners attending. Though there was a natural bias on speaker’s parts to cite big brand FMCG consumer marketing case studies. I always think this is nice, but mis aligned with the b2b responsibilities of most attendees, but there was lots to learn.

Head over to The BDB Blog where you can get my take on the following sessions:

I also tweeted extensively yesterday on the Twitter hashtag #TFMA. Feel free to check back on what everyone was saying.

Marketing Metrics 6: Trade shows

Attending trade shows is one of the most expensive activities in a marketing plan. How do you ensure they provide return?

Trade show organisers have probably had to work harder than anyone else during the recession. The expenditure in this area is often the first thing scrapped in a marketing budget review as extravagant. This isn’t a surprise given most companies attending trade shows fail to manage their attendance properly from the outset. They are not ruthless about why they are attending and what they want to get out of the show. Going because you always have is a poor approach to marketing and business.

But done well, with appropriate consideration given to pre-event traffic generation, trade shows can be your most profitable marketing mix tool. Why? The lion’s share of your new business still comes through word of mouth, endorsement and personal selling, so it makes sense to be right in the heart of any gathering of your clients and customers.

I tackled this very issue in a recent post following my experience at the Total Packaging show in Birmingham.

From a metrics perspective, there is a lot that you can do to measure the effectiveness of attending an exhibition. Working through the following thought process throws up things to consider and the metrics to be employed to measure them. In these recessionary times, I’ve deliberately kept to the tangible lead generation focused activities.

1. Why, what, who? Start at the planning phase, and decide what you are exhibiting, why and to who? If you haven’t got a credible reason to exhibit and/or nothing new to promote, don’t.

2. Focus on ‘new’. Make a maximum of three key messages the core part of all pre-show and show communication. The rules of high impact PR apply throughout, so ‘new’ always works best and attracts the most interest. Demonstration and presentation are fantastic ways of getting ‘new’ across. This could be product, service, data or insight related. And ‘new’ doesn’t have to mean available – a measurable metric might be to take a set number of enquiries, even orders for a previewed/future product or service.

3. Calculate Total Project Cost. Price up space and stand costs, design & logistics costs, hospitality, literature, email/advertising costs, hotels, lost sales force productivity through being taken off the road and management time.

4. Apply a Cost Per Enquiry. Having a Total Project Cost will allow you to start to consider cost per enquiry and allows you to start to work out how many enquiries (and convertible orders) are required to cover the investment of attending.

5. Set enquiry/order targets. Plug in your rough order value and calculate how many orders will be needed to cover this cost and then ideally turn a profit.

6. Set specific enquiry targets. With all the previous steps completed, you’ll be able to allocate enquiry targets against the cost of attending, per product/service line exhibited, per sector and per sales rep. This gives you a minimum of four ways to set lead generation metrics, and informs what you should do next to promote your attendance at the show, to who, and by who.

7. Agree pre show marketing targets. Allocate enquiries to each element of pre-show marketing (personal sales call, invite, email, visit to site, online registration). Offer customers pre-registration. Stage an event or give a presentation within the trade show and use the sign up to this as a metric. Set up a daily blog/email summary/Twitter feed from the show and measure engagement. Twitter hashtagging is fantastic for events. Above all, set up a specific Internet landing page and employ Google Analytics to give you a thorough assessment of this. Any advertising and literature should cite all contact points.

8. The intangible. Some times it is important to attend a trade show to build or protect profile and reputation. In this instance, arrange meetings with trade publishers and editors in advance and set a metric on that, reviewable 3 months and 6 months after the show in terms of PR coverage.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give your trade show planning greater clarity and focus.

Image Beacon Alliance

Making an exhibition of yourself

Trade shows are often a mystery to me. They are an expensive, time consuming and resource draining element of the annual plan but done well, can energize or re-energize a tired sales force, a disinterested distributor network, or disengaged customer base.  They offer the opportunity to demonstrate, to research and to make introductions in a safe, if artificial, environment.

I recently had occasion to attend a trade show in Birmingham, visiting a client who was exhibiting their wares and I also used it as an opportunity to research the particular sector and to talk to some of the leading players. I think more and more people are attending shows as a delegate, opting to go about their information and contract trawl in a much more clearly defined, but guerrilla, manner.

I deliberately picked the second day to maximise time with influencers and decision makers on stands (they would simply have been too busy on day one). It became quickly apparent to me that many of the exhibitors were experiencing poor levels of traffic and interest. Most were quick to bemoan the show, its organisers, their promotion methods, and the decline of UK trade shows in general. Worryingly, few accepted their role in promoting their own attendance at the show and too many stand personnel were quick to offer sweeping statements without really ascertaining who I was or what I was interested in.

Trying to spin this experience (and fourteen years of managing trade show attendance) into some positives, here is my take on getting the most from trade show attendance.

1. Establish that your target audience attends. Surprisingly obvious, but despite waning interest, how many companies (yours included) persist with certain shows in a bid to keep up appearances?

2. Agree a single and central proposition and stick to it. Lots of stands are just too cluttered. Issue based communication is the order of the day. Delegates have problems to solve so reframe your whole approach by answering ‘Who do I help and how?’

3. Agree evaluation criteria by setting benchmark objectives. Don’t be so vague as to have a simple enquiries target – cut it by product, sector, customer type, geographical market or sales rep. Be bold, you are investing big money and you need to ensure  a return.

4. Design data capture early on and ensure it can be quickly used after the event. If you can invest in barcode scanners if they are on offer. Anything else is just fiddly, time consuming and unprofessional.

5. Take space only and design a stand that reflects the importance of the market to your business. If the UK packaging sector is your number one sector, reflect it by having a corner stand open on 2-3 sides, some good height and visual branding, hospitality space and on stand promotions and Meet the Expert type events. Put it another way, why not?

6. Befriend the organisers. Like in any other walk of life, they can give you a great spot next to the seminar hall, near the entrance or near the coffee bar, advance notice and deals on showguide advertising, ad banners on the website and in promotional emails, and opportunities to join the conference program. By not creating a relationship you are reducing your ability to do this.

7. Integrate the show into your marketing and communication activities. You decided months in advance to attend the show. Tell people. Add it to your website, stationery, advertising, emails, press releases, invoices, statements etc.

8. Invite key customers & prospects and get them to network. Use your best most loyal advocates to do your selling for you. Everyone knows word of mouth and referral are the best, and easiest routes to new business. Act as the facilitator.

9. Brief your stand personnel on what to plug, how to act, and ensure they are always mindful of looking open, engaging & interested. There really is nothing worse than the two suited guys clogging the stand, talking to each other or tapping into a laptop. All those thousands of pounds flushed down the toilet as potential buyers stroll by.

10. Invite editors of the major journals to visit the stand and meet the team. Yes, it’s a tough sell, especially if PR is not one of your strong suits, but by getting editors warmed up to you as a business and what you do, it makes it easier to get releases placed in the future and can help you position yourself as an expert when they write features about the things you excel at.

Here’s to making an exhibition of yourself, in the right way.

Image Danburgmurmur Flickr stream