Trade Show Marketers Need to Prep to Ride 2019 Growth

Demand for meetings and events is projected to rise worldwide next year, pushing the global market up by 10% and boosting attendance numbers in North America by 14%, according to the “2019 Meetings & Events Future Trends” report from Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). But AccuList USA’s trade show marketing clients will still need to address new attendee expectations if they want to catch that market wave.

Planners Focus on Attendee Experience in 2019

In fact, the CWT report found that attendee experience was the concern that was top of mind for planners, including delivery and tracking of attendees through innovative applications of technology, use of unique venues, and more engaging and interactive content. Along those lines, Ryan Gould, vice president of strategy and marketing services for Elevation Marketing, recently posted about five key trends affecting 2019 attendee experience. First, he urges marketers to commit to an experiential, customer-centric booth design that goes beyond square footage and demo stations to address comfort, engagement and interaction, with a focus on a big first impression.

Multisensory Booths Create Brand Connections

One way to enhance experiential booth design is to create a multisensory experience, with unique lighting design, touch-panel interfaces, gamification, interactive displays, and even scent marketing that uses attractive aromas to capture visitors. Think it’s nonsense? The respected Harvard Business Review concludes that amplifying the sensory qualities of your exhibit is a top way to get attendees connecting with your brand, notes Gould.

Virtual Reality Now a Proven Sales Tool

When it comes to multisensory options, Virtual Reality (VR) has earned a big buzz in the trade show market. VR both shows prospects that a brand is tech-savvy and creates interaction beyond the typical sales rep chat.  In fact, Gould points out, studies show that 53% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand that uses VR than one that doesn’t. Plus, proliferation of VR platforms has increased affordability, with VR app Google Cardboard now available for as little as $10 as an example.

Attendee Comfort Draws & Keeps Crowds

It’s exhausting to spend a day walking a trade show, so exhibitors who offer lounge areas are luring attendees into their booths and keeping them there for extended periods of time (including a sales pitch, of course). Savvier marketers have been adding charging stations along with comfy lounge chairs to further draw visitors, applying the lessons from crowded airport or mall public USB ports.

Sophisticated Light Shows Wow & Woo

A trade show booth with a single flat-screen TV for presentations is now behind the technology curve.  With technology advances, you can transform the entire space using multiple screens and unique lighting elements to direct visitors to specific displays or products. Use of 3D projection mapping can further transform a space, turning a whole wall into a 3D video image or projecting a personalized image on a prop, statue or other surface. Gould urges marketers to make creative use of light and shadow to wow visitors and woo sales.

For more forecasts of the 2019 meeting and event market, see https://www.tsnn.com/news/meetings-events-future-trends-report-predicts-2019-market-increase

 

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

B2B Event Marketers Miss Out With Slow Lead Follow-up

When business-to-business marketers successfully build event attendance and booth traffic to maximize lead generation, they are disappointed and baffled by a smaller than expected sales harvest. One of the reasons for poor lead conversion, as it turns out, is a simple lack of timely lead follow-up! With better systems and planning, we hope AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketing clients will outdo the benchmarks for post-event lead processing revealed in a recent study by Certain, an event automation provider.

Sluggish Lead Prep, Tech Gaps Delay Follow-up

As reported by Direct Marketing News, Certain found that just 2% of the 150 B2B marketing-decision makers surveyed said they follow up with event leads the same day. A quarter follow up in one to three days, 29% follow up in four to six days, and 27% follow up in seven to 13 days. And another 12% said this process takes two to four weeks, with the slowest-moving 6% saying it takes them more than a month to reach out! Why are almost half of those surveyed taking more than a week to contact prospects? Lead processing is a key problem, with 57% of the study’s participants saying it can take hours to manually get leads “sales ready” for follow-up, and 23% reporting that the prep process takes a few days. Surveyed marketers blamed the sluggish prep time on a variety of reasons: 23% of respondents cited lack of technological tools, 15% blamed lack of organization, 11% claimed the delay was intentional, and 7% admitted to simple procrastination.

Slow Lead Follow-up Has Real Costs

Unfortunately, correcting slow lead processing doesn’t seem to be a priority with many marketers. The Certain study found that despite generally slow lead processing, 72% of respondents are “somewhat” or “completely” satisfied with their lead follow-up time.  That complacency has a cost that marketers are ignoring, we would point out. Most event marketing pros urge a 48-hour follow-up window to try to stay ahead of competitors. In fact, according to a study from InsideSales, 30% to 50% of leads are closed by the vendor who follows up with them first. Slow lead processing also can result in a smaller harvest of contacts post-event. For example, while a quarter of those in Certain’s survey expect to contact 200-999 leads per event, that is balanced by another quarter expecting to reach only 10-49 leads. E-mail is the main form of follow-up, per Certain’s survey of marketers; 52% of respondents rely on this channel first to reach leads. Some professionals do initiate follow-up via phone (23%), social media (18%), or direct mail (7%). No wonder 96% of those polled are focused on adding leads’ e-mail addresses to their databases for future campaigns.

Unhappy With Event Data Collection? Join the Crowd

Even if their lead processing is speedy and they succeed in gathering e-mail contacts, marketers are generally dissatisfied with the quality of their lead data. Clearly, successfully tailoring sales pitches to leads requires more than a name and e-mail address. In Certain’s study, 82% of participants said they wish they captured more information about each individual lead at their events. The method of data collection is one issue. In collecting data at events, the largest group, 42%, said they rely on manual data entry through computers or tablets, followed by 31% who turned to business cards and sign-up sheets, and 27% who relied on electronic scanners.

For more on the Certain’s event leads study, see the DM News article.

 

 

New Tech Energizes Trade Show & Conference Marketing

AccuList USA has long experience in helping trade show and conference marketers with targeted lists and data services. But we also support an expanded event marketing approach that goes beyond promotion to engage audiences at every touchpoint in a multi-channel world, as a recent post for the Trade Show News Network (TSNN) blog promotes. Luckily, that is easier than ever thanks to emerging event technology trends.

Social Amplification & Content Digitization

Any event pro not using social media to the fullest is missing a key tool in building audience per TSNN’s “Top 10 Tech Trends” by Matt Coyne, Technology Engagement Architect at GES EMEA and a 10-year veteran of the events and exhibitions industry. By making it easy for registrants to share their attendance with their own social media networks, marketers can amplify an event and reach new potential attendees that can’t be reached directly.  Social media can also work in tandem with traditional channels, as with our Digital2Direct tool matching postal records to Facebook users for targeted social ads. Just as important as the boost in registrations is the increase in registration-to-attendee conversion driven by social media engagement, Coyne adds. Digitized content is then the engagement tool that creates an interactive event experience, building repeat attendance and luring prospects via social sharing. For example, Coyne cites the growth of devices like “Smart Badges,” which act as a digital briefcase for attendees to collect digitized content. And tools like Facebook Live increase the dissemination and sharing of digital content.

Gamification, AI, and Selected Apps

Digitized content also can be leveraged with gamification to increase event participation, say by awarding points for Smart Badge usage with exhibitor contacts, speaker downloads, session attendance, etc. and then posting competitive results. Event planners can then help boost participation at less popular sites and activities by boosting their points. AI is another way to help expand attendee experiences; an example is the use of chatbot software to answer attendee questions and offer learned guidance. Finally, there are event-specific apps. Although Coyne provocatively declares apps “dead,” he really means that cost-effective use of apps today must be selective. Not every event needs to spend for an app, but a large conference can benefit from an app that enables visitors to track their schedules or from a dedicated lead-capture app.

Facial Recognition: Security & Feedback

Facial recognition software has recently been in the news, and Coyne sees it as a future boon for some trade shows and conferences. Consider how facial recognition at high-security events could decrease the hassle of on-site screening requiring multiple forms of ID, creation of photo IDs, and so on. Plus, facial recognition software that can recognize emotion could also be used inside halls and conference rooms to get real-time feedback from attendees, and thus a chance for planners to react and improve audience experience, Coyne suggests.

For more of Coyne’s tech trends, see the full blog post.

 

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

Event Marketing Pros Foresee Spending Boost

Many of AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketers are already looking ahead to 2018, and event technology firm Bizzabo’s recent “Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends” report has some good news: Event marketers and business execs plan to invest more in live events in future.

Marketers & C-Suite Plan More Dollars for Events

One of the key findings of Bizzabo’s global survey of 400 mid- to senior-level marketers is that most event marketers believe that events are the single most effective marketing channel, better than e-mail, social media, and digital and traditional advertising. The majority also plan to invest more in future live events, both in terms of budget (63%) and number of events (63%). Plus, the majority (91%) of businesses with top performance place a greater emphasis on live events as a marketing channel than the underperforming businesses or businesses performing as expected–and those overperforming businesses plan to grow their event marketing budgets by more than the rest. Regardless of performance, an overwhelming majority of C-Suite executives surveyed (87%) say they believe in the power of live events and plan on investing more in the future.

But Event Success Still Doesn’t Come Easy

Though event marketers and executives have confidence in the marketing effectiveness of B2B trade shows and conferences, that doesn’t mean they think success is assured. In another survey, Bizzabo asked leading event marketers for advice on overcoming common event hurdles. For example, what if attendance is sparse? To avoid staring at an empty hall in horror, make sure the event is clearly advertised on all social media profiles, blog, and website, including paid ads; empower those who have already committed attendance (especially speakers) to be event ambassadors by sharing the event on their own social media profiles and websites; and use RSVPs to keep attendees accountable. Then what if the attendees are there, but enthusiasm is low? To boost engagement, the pros suggest crowdsourcing questions for interviews and round tables before the event; creating hangouts or webinars related to event sessions; and sending segmented e-mails based on registration data to get attendees pumped up for specific aspects. So how do you get data in real-time to keep steering the event toward success? There are now mobile event apps that can track every touch, and mobile polls and surveys can instantly collate results. Beacons can measure crowd movement and dwell-time in exhibit booths, and social sentiment analytics tools can get direct, immediate feedback. To see solutions to nine common problems–including managing multi-track events, avoiding long lines, planning social media effectively and more–go to https://blog.bizzabo.com/event-marketing-nightmares-and-how-to-solve-them

 

 

Survey: Mismatches in Event Marketing Channels, Attendee Interest

Where should trade show and conference marketers go fishing for potential audience? In a multi-channel world, it can be challenging to balance online, e-mail, print and social media for best results. Now a recent survey by XING Events, as reported by MarketingProfs, shows interesting gaps between where event marketers are casting their nets and where potential attendees pool to research events.

Event Attendees Are Drawn by Word-of-Mouth & E-mail

According the the XING Events study, which is based on a global survey of 2,621 event attendees and 1,630 event organizers, event attendees most often learn about work-related events through word-of-mouth mention by friends and acquaintances (66%) and via e-mail newsletters (59%). Fewer event attendees (20%) report being influenced by ads for print and online professional publishing. Online search has more impact when the audience is already aware of the event; for example, 49% say they use online search to find details about trade shows or conferences they already have heard about (via word-of-mouth, e-mail or print). Just 22% learn about an event by doing keyword searches. However, an even smaller portion (16%) of event attendees report that they use social media to research events.

Event Marketers Focus on Websites, E-mail & Social Media

Event marketers don’t exactly mirror attendees’ preferences. About 89% of surveyed event organizers say they market their events through their own websites, culling search traffic. Some 76% say they market through e-mail newsletters, which is in line with attendee activity. The surprise is that 73% of event pros say they promote via social media even though it is not where most of the audience is currently looking for event information.  And about 47% use traditional print channels.

Event Planners Foresee Social Media Expansion

Despite its current lower usage among event attendees, social media is the marketing channel that most event marketers plan to grow in future. Some 65% of organizers say they would like to use social media more frequently in the future. The next most popular target for expanded investment is their own websites (48%) and e-mail (41%). Although “influencer marketing” is a trendy topic, only 33% of event pros plan to increase influencer or multiplicator marketing to pump word-of-mouth.

For more study results, see https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2017/32765/how-events-are-marketed-to-and-found-by-attendees?adref=nlt091817