Event marketing is now one of the UK’s most popular marketing channels, with 38% of SMEs across Britain harnessing the power of an experiential approach to make a profit. Above all else, the face to face element of event marketing gives this channel unique impact, with businesses capitalising on the direct engagement that comes with the live setting. With British SMEs set to ramp up their event marketing spends in the next year, we’re giving Britain’s ambitious brands a no-nonsense guide to using this platform to their professional advantage - complete with actionable tips you can put into practice today.
Our guide is designed to help businesses maximise their event marketing ROI and capitalise on the potential of this vibrant, multidimensional platform - with some help from leading experts across the wonderful world of industry events.
Take a targeted approach
Your success at any industry event rests on an airtight action plan, in order to ensure you choose the right trade show for your business. Thanks to the incredible range of local and sector specific events on the professional calendar, businesses can explore their options to find the perfect fit - and this crucial planning phase lays the foundation for everything that follows.
Exhibition calendars bring a vast collection of events together in one place and offer a vital resource for regular exhibitors. Doing your research is the first step towards finding the dates you should be adding to your calendar - so explore your options to see what’s out there.
Familiarising yourself with a venue prior to the big day helps you avoid a disaster on the morning of the event - with all questions surrounding location, transport and access answered in advance.
Liaising with event organisers in whatever small way you can will give you an opportunity to know the space inside and out, and optimise your display for the greatest possible impact - so be proactive in your approach to planning and contact whoever you need to, to guarantee your business the best chance of a successful event experience.
Make a brand impact
In our recent study on UK event marketing budgets, we found that 34% of British business owners are planning to up their spend on events in 2016. With over 10% of UK SMEs expecting to increase budgets by 50%, and a further 5% preparing to invest an extra 75% in this unique marketing channel, events are taking Britain’s business world by storm.
This increased spend on experiential marketing is a testament to the return on offer for businesses willing to embrace the potential of the platform. Recent research revealed that an eye-catching stand was the most successful method for attracting attendees, so this just goes to show, by investing in high-quality display solutions which project brand power and convey your company ethos, you can guarantee a satisfying ROI.
So the question is: which solution is right for you?
Banner stands: easy to transport and assemble, banner stands are a simple and effective way of bringing your brand identity with you - on top of being one of the most affordable options on the market
Pop up displays: an ideal solution for trade shows and street stalls alike, pop up displays come in a variety of bespoke designs and formats to help you find the option that best serves your objectives
Exhibition stands: custom-built and branded to your specifications, exhibition stands give you a chance to create an immersive brand environment on a budget - with end-to-end services available with the event marketing experts
Event furniture: from counters and workstations to podiums and AV stands, exhibition furniture covers anything and everything businesses need to introduce some powerful, practical branding to their event displays
Display boards: available in a range of shapes, sizes and structures, display boards help you to get your brand messaging across through a cost-effective medium that’s lightweight, durable and fully flexible
When it comes to exhibitions, nothing is as important as the appearance of your stand. We all know the saying “first impressions count” and exhibition stands are no exception to this rule. By creating an enticing and welcoming exhibition stand, you have gone some way to maximising the potential of new business opportunities that your exhibition may create. And let’s face it, you want to make the most of being at the show.Simon Wiser, Event Hire UK
Top tips for maximising your brand impact:
Punctuality is key. The early bird gets the lead - and the sooner you’ve found your spot and set up shop, the more likely you are to make a strong first impression with the event’s earliest attendees.
Offer takeaways. A brand experience ends the moment attendees leave your stand unless you give them a souvenir to remember you by - and professionally branded marketing materials can mean the difference between a short-lived encounter and a lasting connection.
Functional design wins every time. Aesthetics alone can get you so far - but to take your brand power to the next level, consider how your branding can be used to really demonstrate your strengths as a business (whether it’s a services breakdown, product diagram or visual case study).
What makes event marketing such a powerful channel? For me, it’s the impact of conveying enthusiasm and expertise. A strong combination. Alastair Humphreys, Motivational Speaker and Adventurer
Spread the word
Brand exposure is one of the most powerful benefits event marketing offers - providing a channel through which you can raise awareness and, more importantly, prove your worth. If there’s an industry topic you feel particularly passionate about or well informed on, seize this opportunity to share your knowledge and provoke debate by grabbing a seminar spot on the day. Taking to the stage means all eyes are on you, and you can use this moment in the spotlight however you like - to direct attendees to your stand, to offer actionable takeaways or simply to get your name out into the industry sphere.
Don’t feel the need to restrict your display to one dimension. Incorporating a variety of sensory elements into your exhibition stand gives you a range of diverse channels through which you can engage attendees - and audio elements in particular can help you convert foot traffic into genuine brand encounters. If you’d like to make some noise at your next event, PA system hire ensures your brand voice is heard in the highest imaginable quality.
High quality PA (and A/V) can make or break an event. At the basic level, the right sound system will ensure that all presenters can be clearly heard and understood, and that the event can run as a totally interactive experience. Additionally, outstanding visuals and great sounding entertainment will make a lasting impression on every attendee, meaning the brand and/or products on offer will be more attractive and retain attention for longer.Elliott Clarke, Clear and Loud PA Hire
Work the room
Delegation is as important at an event as it is in the office - and ensuring your team members know how they fit into the lead generation process is key. Leave knowledgeable members of your team to man the stand and address any queries thrown their way by attendees and other exhibitors - giving you and any other colleagues in attendance a chance to work the room.
Best practice networking is crucial to the success of any industry event, since this is the one aspect of the day most likely to generate those valuable leads.
“In the digital age we live in it’s very easy to forget the huge value of face to face interaction. Being an online entity, our opportunities to meet with users is limited - hosting dedicated sports pub quizzes allows us to do that in an environment that combines our shared passions and is a great way to strike up meaningful relationships. No matter how good your chat is, you just don’t get that over email!” Peter Starr, MatchPint
Top tips for networking like a pro:
Show interest. The first rule of professional networking is to communicate on an honest and authentic level, and that means ditching rehearsed sales spiel in favour of a real conversation - so remember to ask questions, absorb the answers and find common ground with every connection you make.
Demonstrate awareness. A genuine, extensive understanding of your industry will impress prospective customers and clients - so bring your a-game when it’s time to network one-on-one. Expert knowledge inspires trust in potential buyers, so share this wherever you can to make an immediate and powerful impression.
Add value. Businesses and customers alike are well-versed in self-serving sales messages, but what’s less common is a company looking to offer unique added value to those they connect with. Be the exception to the rule and watch the leads roll in.
Social media is an exhibitor’s best friend in terms of maximising engagement. Whether you choose to live tweet throughout the day or share important updates from the event via Facebook, broadcasting your activities offers a chance to add a personal touch to your brand messaging and connect with other businesses attending on the day.
No matter the channel, there are a few ways you can make your posts as effective as possible - before, during and after the event:
Prior to and throughout the big day, jump on any hashtags relevant to the event. In all likelihood, there’ll be an official hashtag launched by the organisers for all exhibitors and attendees to use - and making good use of this in all of your posts will help you to engage with other businesses at the event
Ensure that social media posts designed to attract visitors to your stand include your location and, ideally, a photo of your display - that way, you’ll make finding your stand as easy as physically possible for attendees and your fellow exhibitors
For bonus points, work any time-sensitive special offers into your event posts. Whether it’s a limited giveaway, business card raffle or live product demonstration, any extra incentive you can offer attendees to visit your stand is worth the effort
To take your attendee engagement to the next level, explore the range of event marketing apps available. From push notifications and real-time feedback to attendee polls and live agenda updates, there are tons of mobile apps designed with experiential marketing in mind - each one hardwired with the functionality to help you create meaningful connections throughout the event.
Treat your leads with love
“Event exhibitors pay a lot of money to connect with prospective customers at conferences. The question is, do these conversations really pay off? Are events really worth the investment? Only if the exhibitor follows up. Infusionsoft helps exhibitors capture, nurture and convert the leads they get at events. Eventually the conversations you had at the conference will turn into new business deals because you’ve stayed in touch and provided them with relevant, timely information.”Laura Collins, Infusionsoft
While you’re browsing the App Store, keep an eye out for some of the best lead capture tools on the market. With a number of mobile apps created to take the hassle out of capturing contact information, attendees and fellow exhibitors can join your address book simply by scanning their business cards - making lead generation as easy as a contactless payment.
After you’ve captured these leads, the best possible thing you can do is stay on their radar. Importing new contacts to any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system you have in place, or adding them to an email workflow, means you can guarantee exciting new leads are nurtured carefully and continually until they’ve made their way to the very bottom of the funnel.
But if you prefer a more personal touch, there are a range of alternatives available. A proactive approach will serve you well during the follow-up phase, as leads are likely to go cold if you give them the opportunity to forget about your brand. So however you choose to make contact, make it timely and make it count.
“Social media channels are hugely powerful if used correctly and with a strategy. You can target/find speakers, engage with both people who are attending the event and with those who were unable to attend (providing value for them through social media), you can continue the conversation after the event and the list goes on. The key is having a strategy and measuring what you are doing.”Lynsey Sweales, SocialB
When it comes to follow-up, the first step is to choose your weapon:
The no-nonsense option. For extra follow-up points, try them on their mobile first time rather than asking their receptionist to take a message.
This method is best practice if your message is likely to be lengthy. An explicit subject line and succinct email are the key to getting what you want out of this communication channel.
Short and sweet. Track down their personal account, get following and send a friendly tweet their way to make yourself known.
The working professional’s bread and butter. Begin by asking to connect, and follow that up with a ‘smart casual’ direct message to take the next step.
Hot leads are the holy grail of event marketing takeaways - and by paying due care and attention to yours, you can achieve the fantastic ROI this increasingly popular marketing platform is known for.