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

B2B Marketing Principles 10: Ultimately, think consumer!

The driving force behind this blog series has been to expose the common challenges that affect and afflict B2B marketing. It is clear that planning is critical to succeeding with a B2B marketing campaign.

You must, as a B2B marketer, understand your target audience, understand what they need rather than what you have to sell them, understand the complexity of selling to specifiers as well as users, create a value proposition to differentiate yourself from other providers, use all data you have as fully as possible, create ways of measuring how your business and its brand is performing, use eye catching, interest-grabbing creative campaigns and adopt the latest, and most relevant digital and online marketing techniques.

Interestingly, this often means rethinking your complicated marketplace and your complicated customer with their complicated needs and complicated multi influencer, multi specifier team dynamics, and your complicated product/service solution. But that’s unnerving so we tend not to.

Maybe we should ignore everything that has come before on this blog about why B2B is different to B2C and approach your challenge from a different perspective. As mentioned right off the bat in B2B Principles 2, we are entering the people-to-people era of business communications.

Approach it from a consumer perspective. You are a human being working within a team providing solutions to another human being or a team. Regardless of what it is you’re promoting, rethink the value proposition you give to this person or team. Are you the fastest, the widest choice, the most customised, the expert, the biggest, the specialist, the best quality, the best service, the best after sales care?

It would be great to hear what you think. Please leave your feedback on the blog, contact me on Twitter @renepower to engage further.

B2B Marketing Principles 3: The specifier

We know that there is more than one buyer involved in most B2B transactions, and that positioning your offer to the right people is critical. Different influences come to bear from different perspectives, and you as the marketer are missing a big trick if you don’t try to convince them all to select you.

Whilst in some B2B transactions, the rise of procurement may be the biggest challenge to some suppliers, I think the biggest and clearest opportunity sits with the specifier. Convince them that you have what it takes and you are on to a winner.

There are often two types of specifier to consider, the specifier within your customer company, and industry specifiers. I’ll explain what I mean and why you need to target both.

Take construction for example. You want to supply materials to the major house, school and hospital building contractors in the UK. Going direct is tricky because of the decentralised structure of materials procurement in most of these companies. Why? They have regional project managers who source what they need on a project or site basis. But they draw information and recommendations from architects, surveyors and other industry professionals. These professionals provide thought leadership on building standards, sustainable building and the contractors take their recommendations about materials very seriously.

Given the preferred supplier nature of this market, and the need to tender and get a place on the list, advertising and direct selling is only going to help suppliers so far. That’s why testimonials and credentials selling is more relevant and the key to this is using third party endorsement of your offering. In construction the architect and surveyors (designers and specifiers) are key players.

But what about the specifier standing between you and a sale? ‘He’ responds to your marketing and sales messages and seeks to balance this with impartial information from the community. He often knows what he wants and needs to validate his selection to the other influencers on the decision to purchase. He needs to present cast iron benefits for why your product or service will meet his company’s specific requirement. You need to solve a particular problem, and more commonly, provide some form of return on investment or reduced exposure over a given period of time. That way he knows he is making the right decision for himself and his company.

So, knowing who the user is not enough. Find out who the specifier is, meet their needs, support them in advocating your solution, and you stand a better chance of business success.

Do you actively target and develop relationships with the specifiers and best practice leaders in your market?

Image: http:// salesmanage.com

Principles of marketing 12: Control

If you were to look at the time most marketing functions spent on pulling together a marketing plan, they might spend 10% on planning, 80% on implementation, and 10% on control and evaluation.

But what is the point in bothering if you don’t really monitor and analyse what is working and what is not. This split needs to be more like 25%-50%-25% on the part of the plan owner and here’s why.

Control is all about keeping things on track against objectives, removing and adding elements, reapportioning spend and resource as needed, and informing plans for the following year.

Control means keeping an eye on men (resource) money (budget) and minutes (time).  The expected and the unexpected can all have a major impact. And technology now exists to track performance against objectives and KPIs on an ongoing basis.

Electronic timesheet and project management systems like DataValley, Rebus or Filemaker can provide detailed reporting on costs, tasks/timelines, job status and invoicing.

Automating your website keeps staff overheads to a minimum, focusing resource to the right departments for example taking campaign specific calls, packing and despatch.

Programmes like Google Analytics and WordPress blogging provide incredible traffic statistics to allow you to immediately see what is working and what is not. Customer traffic flow, buying patterns, drop off and satisfaction rates can all monitored and modifications made instantly.

Database and CRM packages like Dotmailer, Salesforce, MailAgent, Constant Contact can all be used to keep your opt-in databases up to date and in the know.

And good old Microsoft Excel, together with an increasing number of compatible free open-source programs, can help you keep on top of your budget.

Plans are often built on a forecast for future trading conditions. But what happens if the recession deepens, the pubic purse contracts and greater pressure is placed on cost in your sector? Only a fool would continue on doggedly with a plan conceived 8 months previously.