Sales’d it! -Outside the Circle
Strategies, techniques, tactics, thoughts, and executions for association and event sales and marketing
Intro: Short & Sweet
There you go. Off on another business trip after landing around 24 hours ago. That is sometimes the life of those within the event industry. Globe Trotters…or preferably America Trotters? On the seemingly endless road, going on site visits, attending events, and of course, putting on your event. The travels never quite stop, and many wonder when they could possibly have time to themselves, to finish a long and tedious business book which would help them grow personally and grow their event or organization. Between the draining travel and workload, and the “I finally have time for a glass of wine with friends,” it’s tough to take time to learn and as well help improve yourself to help improve your event.
I make this promise to you, I will keep this book very short and sweet, so that you can finish it within a short plane ride to your next travel destination. I also promise that you will come away with at least one nugget of goodness that will spark an idea within your mind. I do not pretend to be an expert with forty years of experience. I am a catalyst, I will spark all sorts of ideas that might be dormant in your own mind, and I will also help bring them to life. In fact, if you have ideas that you would like to talk through, connect with me and I will be more than happy to talk through them all with you.
Lastly, many of the “sales” talk, techniques, and lingo within this book are meant for the event industry. However, that does not mean you cannot apply many of these techniques across all sorts of businesses. In fact, there are parts of this book that would serve as a perfect education for your exhibitors and attendees. A part of selling and growing your event is educating everyone involved. Only then, in my opinion, will your event grow to its fullest potential.
Alright! Let’s get started so you can Sales’d It! and grow!
Sales is for everyone…or isn’t it?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the line “sales is for everyone.” After a decade in sales, I beg to differ. Sales is not for everyone! In fact, scream it out loud in order for it to sink-in to everyone around you. Maybe then, it will catch on.
Not everyone likes to make cold calls or talk to a random stranger on the phone. Not everyone enjoys asking those they have finally made a relationship with for more money. In fact, most people fear it. It’s not easy asking a customer to spend money on a sponsorship or to upgrade their booth space. You know what, take the other side as well. It’s not easy to do a personal reach to attendees and ask them to spend money on your educational sessions. It’s a fact…indisputable…it’s gut wrenchingly, fear ridden, downright hard to ask people for money. It’s not for everyone and not everyone can do it…and that’s actually fine.
If you are reading this, you are most likely in sales and you enjoy it, or you’re in sales and pretty much putting up with it or looking for a way to make it better. Guess what, you can make it better and you can also Feel better about it. The key is…have fun and put your own personal touch in your sales. If there is one thing you should learn from reading this book, it’s this. No one likes boring, drone like, robot salespeople. They enjoy jovial people; they enjoy talking through their business roadblocks and having a shoulder to lean on. You know what else they enjoy? A well thought out, clever sales and marketing approach.
Nugget #1: Have fun, be clever, and make it personal.
If by now, within your career, you have not realized that sales and marketing need to be in unison and working in harmony…then continue reading on. If you do realize this already…continue reading on. This is because, it’s easier said than done to be fun, clever, and personal in a sales marketing approach. We will revisit this a little later in the book.
Robots? No, we are humans
Robots are sexy, incredibly intelligent, fast… and only exist in the movies. At least, for now. Some will argue that computers are robots and the fact that we can send mass email after mass email means we can automate everything…including sales. Good luck with that. Don’t get me wrong, mass emails can sell, but they can’t sell everything. There is only so much a mass email can do. Eventually, you are going to need a human touch, a phone call, or in this case, a “personal” email. Now, can this be accomplished through segmented drop campaigns? Yes, if carried out correctly.
If you want to truly sell your solutions, your booths, and your sponsorships, you need to add a personal touch to your emails. Also, you need to spend time to send REAL personal emails. Yup, that means you must actually rack your brain and type something coherent. What’s the best way to write a personal email? That’s easy…get to know your audience! We are so stuck in a digital world that we forget we are all humans. Humans who need an emotional connection. Computers lack empathy and emotion…well, some humans do as well, but we won’t go there.
It is essential for humans to connect with each other. It is this connection that can help us build those relationships and as well drive sales. Even to this day, scientists, engineers, and computer wizards are attempting to get AI to learn emotions and connections.
The question remains, how do we insert this personal touch via an email? How do we get someone we’ve never met before to connect with us through an emotionless system? I wish I had the ultimate answer for you, but the truth is there is no particular answer. Since all humans are unique, everyone has a variety of characteristics, it is hard to have one simple way to connect with someone over email. It is only through research and relationships that you can find this answer. That is why, especially in the event industry, it is paramount that you attend events and conferences, and connect with others. Through these connections, you will build relationships and from these relationships, you’ll have your answer for the personal emails. It is through these relationships that you will begin to form personas. These personas are the embodiment of your audience. This is the start to your personalization.
Let’s shift focus to something that has lost steam in the last decade but is now picking up again within sales. More and more people will initiate contact through email, because those that are being contacted do not want to be bothered with a phone call or a voicemail. Let’s be honest, I hate listening to voicemails, in fact, I loathe it. Why go through the hassle of listening to a voicemail when you could have easily emailed me with either the question or your phone number for me to call you back? The reason why we all despise phone calls is because we are all busy in this digital age. We all have something to do, somewhere to go, and someone to see. The last thing that we want to be bothered with is a random phone call, especially one that is offering them a solution or service.
This does not mean that we should completely forget about phone calls. Phone calls are really great after the initial contact is made. They help to solve and to also answer any question quickly, rather than a back-and-forth email chain that could go on and on. Some people forget that this phone call puts a voice to an email, and therefore creates another connection. Use phone calls to your advantage, so as to further the connection to the prospect or client. DO NOT send out blast automated calls. If you really want to piss off your target audience, send them an automated call. Let’s hope they’re lucky enough not to pick up the phone and it immediately goes straight to voicemail.
We’ve covered the personal side of reaching out to your audience. Nonetheless, what about the fun and clever ideas that you can utilize to attract them? One thing I’ve heard and seen recently is companies sending out faxes. That’s right someone is using a fax machine and actually knows how to use it. Why does this work? People are not used to receiving faxes anymore, so, anything they do pick up, they read, and it draws their attention. Have you ever heard of a rolodex? I spoke to a large group of millennials one time and only three of them raised their hand. Back in the day, you were the coolest if you had the biggest and baddest rolodex. So, where am I going with this? A clever way to draw your audience into a conversation is to say you are updating your rolodex. Well, maybe records or database these days. It’s a clever way of getting through the figurative door and starting a conversation.
Now, I know what you must be thinking. I can easily set up an email blast to do this for me and make it look personal, because technology is great and all powerful. No arguments here…you can utilize robots for this, and it should help in opening some doors.
Nugget #2: Humans crave connection, however, using technology for some instances can get you through the door.
The point here is that using a clever and funny approach can help create a connection with your audience. It gives them a personal insight to your own character, and therefore, it is a personal touch. Not all the emails have to be personal. There are multiple approaches to sending these emails. There is the 10-80-10 approach, as well as the 20-80 approach. Now, in the first approach that’s 10% personal, 80% automated and 10% personal wrapping it up, the reason why some individuals have success with this approach is because many people will read the first 10%, skip the middle and read the final 10%. This came from the same principles of those that read the first sentence of the paragraph and the last, and that is what they remember the most. The 20-80 approach is 20% personal and 80% automated. The reason this approach works is because by incorporating more personal information in the beginning, the thought is that it will entice the reader to continue onto the 80% which is automated. Lastly, figure out which approach works best for you and which approach works best for bringing in your audience. My approach, you ask…20%. Yup, not 100%, only 20%. The rest of your email is useless. I prefer to get straight to the point and set a follow up call right from the get-go. My approach is to be very direct. It’s not for everyone, but I appreciate it and I’m cognizant of my time, and more importantly, my audiences’ time.
Developing the right cadence for your reach outs is key, as every industry and every audience is different. Some say seven touchpoints, others say eight or even ten! Truly, it is up to your research to find the correct number of reach outs and the time in between those reach outs that will be effective for you.
Let’s “rap” this up. Connections are key in the event industry. Automation is cool, but not always the best tool. If you want the sale, make a personal email. Be clever and funny, you’ll bring in the money
Hold My Hand…
There are several thoughts that sales and marketing are the same. In some instances, maybe, however, they are not. They are two completely different departments in any company. Let’s not misconstrue that last sentence, they are different, yet, they need to work hand in hand in order to accomplish the goals of any organization. It is essential that these two departments align. Both help each other in accomplishing the organization’s goals, as well as each department’s individual goals.
Let’s take a look at how they can accomplish each other’s goals. On the sales’ side, it’s easy to see how marketing helps accomplish its goals. Creative marketing drives traffic and inbound leads, giving salespeople more time to focus on warmer leads, rather than cold calls. Marketing creates collateral used by salespeople to showcase the solution or product. We all know collateral helps showcase the high-level aspects of a solution or product. This helps keep prospects and clients focused on the main benefits, while salespeople explain the details.
It’s easy to see how marketing helps sales. How does sales help marketing? Sales plays an important role. They are out in the field, listening to the objections, the needs, and the wants of the audience. Marketing departments need to listen this feedback and come up with clever ways to better their marketing, and also battle these objections.
Take a sidebar here for a quick minute. Sales is a dreaded field to be a part of. Even those that consider themselves the best of the best in sales, some days are just more difficult than others. The best way I have discovered to overcome these difficult days is to be like the best of the best in sales. Well, that’s an odd thing to say. However, it’s not. Some of the best salespeople do not call themselves salespeople, they look at themselves as relationship experts. In order to better a relationship, you must go on fact-finding missions. This does not mean to probe and prod a client or prospect to get the answers you were seeking. The best relationship experts will tell you that not all relationships will last. The key here is to change your mindset and not think of yourself as a salesperson. You are a relationship expert who is figuring out ways to better your current relationships, even if that means that one of your prospects doesn’t know you have a relationship yet. That sounds creepy…but shifting your mindset to becoming a relationship expert is the key to winning more sales.
Going back to our previous paragraph on how sales helps marketing, by changing your mindset to be a relationship expert, you are now gaining the necessary words and tools to give marketing the edge. In turn, they will provide you with better collateral that will ultimately help you sell or better that current relationship. By asking the correct questions to further a relationship, you help to define the correct needs and wants, and thereby helping marketing to put together the correct value statement. The flipside, marketing and sales are on two completely different paths. Neither of them is aligned in its goals and therefore, marketing will create collateral that has nothing to do with what sales needs. Sales will have collateral that they will never use, due to the fact that it does not help. How does this help a company achieve its goals? The answer is, it does not. When they are not aligned, both time and effort in both departments is wasted, and ultimately, the company is doomed. A doomed company has no marketing or sales department…that seems obvious. When you look at the flip side of the coin, it seems like a pretty bleak outlook. How then did companies in previous years and decades survive for so long? Most had some sort of alignment in their sales and marketing efforts, while others had incredibly strong salespeople. Others were either too big to fail or were far too cool to fail. This is evident with the event industry as well. When you look at events that showcase the future of technology, you think to yourself how they could ever fail. Most likely, they will not, unless of course for some huge disaster. What about some events that offer the most mundane products? The key is to realize who, what, and why. The where and when play a role as well, but we will touch all these points later.
Is your mind racing with thoughts? Ideas about whether or not your marketing and sales teams are truly aligned? Make sure to look deeper. On the surface, most departments seem to be aligned. The saying is “Never judge a book by its cover.” This normally applies to the ugly duckling, but I look at it in a different way. It may appear to be good on the surface, processes working, and all seem dandy. However, when you dig beneath the surface, there are flaws and cracks in the system. No system is perfect. This system I refer to is your sales and marketing alignment. When is the last time you polled your sales team? Have you asked if what they hear on the outside is reflected in your marketing efforts? Do not assume this is always happening behind the scenes. Holding quarterly strategy sessions with the two departments can help keep everyone in the loop, and in-turn, keep the company moving forward toward its goals.
Great! Gave you another task and more meetings. Meetings are ok if they have a purpose and are properly structured. These strategy meetings are important, and they have significant purpose for your company. Don’t only take my word for it, try them and see how quarterly meetings can keep your sales and marketing teams aligned.
The focus of these meetings is not to demean or air out grievances from both sides, it should be to encourage open talk in a respectful manner, with the understanding that both sides are speaking their opinions. It is up to the moderator to glean the important facts and propose solutions after the meeting. Questions that need to be answered from both sides are:
● What works?
● What doesn’t work?
● How is it working/not working?
● What are clients/prospects’ objections?
● What are good responses to these objections?
● What does sales need?
● What does marketing need?
● What are the trends?
● Are any of these trends useful to helping fulfil the company goals?
End with an open discussion on new ideas, where no idea is put down and everything is written on the whiteboard. Choose or vote on one to three of the ideas and have someone from the group put together more details and thoughts on those ideas to improve on.
Nugget #3: Together forever, Marketing and Sales deliver.
Keep it Simple, to the Point
There is a time and a place for fluff within marketing. Adding long intelligent words to make it look better and sound smarter isn’t always the best route to take. I am a firm believer in getting to the point. That could be my inner Northern NJ coming out, however, throughout the years, I have mostly gleaned that individuals want you to get to the point. Your audience understands you are trying to sell them something, they do not need the entire fluff. Go straight to the point and give them the solution/product, the benefits, and features. Most clients/prospects will know if something is right for them within the first 15 seconds of you explaining it to them. If they don’t, you can try to sell it to them, but it’s going to be harder than you think. The step that many sales professionals skip is the discovery call. This is the step where you can ask questions in order to gather the pain points. It’s in the next step that you can deliver the value, the benefits and the vision that will help ease their pain points.
This crosses over to all forms of marketing and sales. This is why infographics are increasingly popular these days. They create a visual representation of data that is straight to the point. There are no additional fluff words to draw attention away from the important facts.
Now we understand most marketing does not need as much fluff as we all believe, it is important to also note that you should sell to the individual and not provide only the solution/product. Treat it like a really intense poker game. You never play the cards; you play the other players. Same is true for selling in the event industry or sales in general. When you form the relationships and get to truly know your audience, you will know which solution/product is right for them and which isn’t. Funny urinal signage sponsorship might not be the best sponsorship for one exhibitor, but it could be amazingly perfect for another.
Ok, ok, but I need to sell slabs of concrete aka booth spaces. How does this help? Keep an open mind, we will touch base on how this approach truly helps sell booth space when we go over a few strategies later in the book. Remember this, individual is not necessarily one person, it’s a matter of approach.
Nugget #4: Know when to fluff. Simple is almost always better.
Clearly, we all know that proper grammar and spelling is crucial when it comes to sales, right? Why is it that we see so many mistakes in emails that are sent out, whether mass, individual or personal? How many of you read my last post and noticed all of the purposeful grammatical mistakes I made? I know a few of you emailed or texted me about it, and good on you for noticing!
The fact of the matter is we are always moving so quickly, and we tend to overlook the little mistakes we make that could cost us hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of dollars. We all understand we live in a fast-paced busy world, nonetheless, those that take the time to slow down and review their work are the ones that will gain the most. It is the little things in sales that often matter in this age. We are all used to the overload of data and reaches from hundreds and thousands of sales professionals. We tend to delete or ignore many of them, but the few that catch our attention, we are hoping are pristine Michelangelo’s works of art. Unfortunately, many a time, they are not.
In this short and sweet section, I urge you to slow down, take a breath and take a step back to review your work before sending it out. This not only applies to sales emails and sales professionals in general, but to everyone in your everyday life decisions. Being healthy, both physically and mentally, is a huge component of being successful in sales. Remove the stress of constant hectic antics and slow down. Make life count. Review your work. Create masterpieces.
You’re probably thinking right now about how your marketing campaign is set up. Are you following the latest trends? Keeping in touch with your audience’s wants and needs? Spending too much of your marketing budget on one focus area? These are all great questions to ask once a marketing plan has been set. First of all, you need to disseminate your data and choose target groups to focus your marketing efforts on. Mass blasting to everyone is a waste of marketing budget dollars. In this day and age, we all need to squeeze the most out of a tight budget, so, let’s make sure what we are doing actually works.
You have “clean” data, or as clean as it is going to get for now. Wondering what’s next? This whole big data phenomenon is too big for me to handle, isn’t it? Big data really isn’t anything, unless you do something with the data. So, technically, you have been using big data for years, you might just not have known that. Alright, you have all of this data, what’s next? That’s the easy part, at least, in my opinion. Once all of your data is properly categorized, which it should be while you are collecting it, it really is a matter of sorting it in a spreadsheet in order to visualize the pieces you want to focus on.
For example, you have collected all of your exhibiting data for the last five years. Included in this spreadsheet is the exhibitor’s name, years exhibited, square footage for each year, revenue, and product category. This is where it gets a little tricky. Many companies will have multiple product categories. You, being the expert of your event and industry, should be able to almost accurately choose which is the exhibitor’s main product category. This is important but know you do not have to be one hundred percent accurate. No data is completely accurate, there will always be a variance.
When all of this data is collected, you’re set for what’s next. Sort the spreadsheet by product category and calculate the percentage by revenue, and by the square footage that each product category is for your event. Wondering why this is important? If you calculate it by year, you can see which product categories have been decreasing and increasing for your event. This gives you an idea of which markets to have targeted campaigns for in your marketing plan. See, big data isn’t all that scary. It can truly be used to help grow your event and help you grow as a salesperson. Remember, sales and marketing working together cohesively produces the best salespeople, and it ultimately helps the company hit its goals.
With this in mind, you now have the knowledge and information needed to create your own marketing/sales plan.
Nugget #5: Big data is not scary. You are already using it and not knowing it.
Social Funtastical Bloopers…or not
Check! Now, you have the data to create targeted campaigns and make them fun, personal, and clever. What’s next and how do we use this data? Next thing is to create those targeted campaigns but let us not forget about one aspect of marketing, social media. So much debate around the credibility of social media. It’s a mind boggling, real time blooper waiting to happen. It doesn’t have to be. Some scary questions like, is it just brand awareness? How do I calculate ROI from social media?
What constitutes as good utilization of social media? What in the world do I even post and where? Let’s tackle these questions respectively.
Social media, in my opinion, is not just brand awareness. Yes, a majority of social media is based on brand awareness, but it serves more of a purpose than that. Nowadays, individuals are constantly on some form of social media and, many a time, this is where they will get their first impression about your organization. This is true for many other organizations, however, in the event industry where associations have been around for decades, the members and attendees already had their first impression. That’s ok. Personally, I’m awful at first impressions, ask my wife. How does an association utilize social media beyond brand awareness? Before we answer that, can you tell me what marketing is? Its purpose? You guessed it, brand awareness. It’s a hated phrase, but we all need to face the fact, that’s what marketing is.
First step is acknowledging your denial err… now, we can move on and we can as well use social media to help define our brand or redefine it if needed. Take for example, you are a medical equipment association. That’s pretty much the most glamorous industry ever. Anyways, the dreaded millennials are most likely beginning to take over and they clearly are not like their predecessors. If they are anything like me, they will “like” and “follow” the industry and categories they are working in. Best way to get ahead is to…not going to spill the beans on that one yet. I’m thinking there will be a book on a numbered step program on how to get ahead in the event industry.
Back to social media. Even if you aren’t in the most glamorous of industries, the upcoming professionals are looking up to social media for expert advice, and to share their own thoughts. This generation has been raised to not be afraid to post your thoughts on social media. Therefore, you now have your answer on ‘is social media just brand awareness’. It’s not. You got the answer, right? If you haven’t, that’s ok. Social media can be used to educate your members. Can’t quite figure out how? Go ahead, you know you want to.
Education is a key to the success of social media. Remember, make it fun and enticing. Your members are going to be on social media already, so, make sure they are reading your educational material. If you can, give them materials that are quick and easy to take-in and comprehend.
Previously, we mentioned the question, what makes social media good? Let’s tackle that by continuing along the lines of educational materials. You might be thinking, how is that good social media? I mean, people go on social media to read crazy articles and see what their friends and business associates are up to. They couldn’t possibly want to read an educational article, could they? See, that is where I think you are off. Many go getters have their feeds set up with news media, business magazines, etc. Not all your members are go getters, but I am still willing to bet they would follow your organization if you post interesting facts. Try it out, let’s see the worst that could happen.
Videos. I am a huge proponent of videos. They can create excitement, get your point across, and sell your booth space, sponsorships, or solutions all under a minute. Yup, under a minute. Anything more than that and you lose interest from most individuals. Now, your videos do not have to sell. They can be educational and fun. They can be about your organization or the people within it. Remember, creating that personal connection will get clients/prospects to trust you more and from there, they can do more business with you. Don’t have time or the budget for videos? That’s fine! Try out Gifs or memes. Trust me, you and your audience will thank me later. It doesn’t matter whether your audience is mostly baby boomers or toddlers just out of diapers, fun and educational pieces resonate with everyone.
How do I calculate ROI from Social media? That’s a really tough cookie to crack. In fact, there are rare instances that an organization makes a profit from social media. Of course, you could purchase social media ads and from there, receive business and make a profit. However, what about the free posting? Can you make a profit from them? I think you can. You must change your mindset a bit when thinking about profit and social media. Here is how I look at it. If you are creating a content that your audience loves and they are engaged continually with, they are more likely to stay with you as clients or do business with you if they are prospects. The ROI might not be immediately present, but in the long run, keeping and retaining your clients is a huge ROI. Additionally, if your clients begin to share your posts, they are referring your business and marketing for you. That right there, is the best type of marketing there is.
What makes social media good? Who knows! Just kidding. Good social media is what your audience wants to read, see and listen to. Remember, it is not what you think they want. You must do some research into your audience and truly figure out what it is that engages them. Hint: In the event industry, posts about wine and health are a pretty good start, but make sure to go further and tie it into something meaningful. It’s tough to know what really works with your audience. You must perform a lot of A/B testing, and also post a bunch of content at first, in order to see what engages them. Good luck! If you find the secret sauce, let us all know.
Where and when do I post? This comes along with the testing you are doing on the content. Test different times of the day on all of the social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger (Facebook), heck even tik tok now). Once you start testing it all, you will figure out what is working, when it is working, and where it is working. Make sure to start a YouTube page in order to host all your videos. You want to make sure all of them are in a centralized location for your audience to access. Make it stupidly easy for your audience. That is the best practice. If your audience does not have to think in the slightest way to view all of your content, in this case, your videos, it will make it super simple for them to click on multiple videos and watch more and more of your content. Your relationship builds even stronger with them and from there poof, like magic, your organization begins to grow. Facebook Live is another great option to utilize. Here, you can showcase the hardworking team you have behind the scenes for your members or the volunteer work your team and organization is doing. So many opportunities to create fun, clever, and unique content.
Each of them has their own unique characteristics and demographic. Perhaps, you could use them all and also create different content for each platform…time consuming, YES, but completely worth it. No one ever said selling and marketing was going to be easy and relaxing. Many of this is at first going to seem like an additional 3-person job, but that is where technology comes into play. There are platforms out there to help you schedule and automate social media. Worth taking a look into!
Have you ever heard of an animated GIF or a Meme? If you haven’t, you should look into them. I have yet to see the event industry utilize them effectively, minus a few clever organizations out there, and I have a strange inkling that they will be a bigger force in sales and marketing in the coming years(written two years ago and now, they are used in sales quite effectively). Very easy to make and can go viral in an instant. Check them out, you will not be disappointed and states above, you will thank me later for them!
Nugget #6: Social media is a tough cookie to crack but be consistent and create engaging content for your audience.
Social media is all about engaging content but remember to continually test other content on your audience. You never know what works until you try it, so, don’t be fearful. Push through, keep trying your weird and crazy ideas. One of them is bound to make a drastic impact for good.
Tradeshows & Conferences…the Money Makers
Imagine this: Eighty percent of your key buyers viewing, experiencing, and asking questions about your products or solutions…face-to-face…all in a few days. Sounds like the best opportunity ever, am I right? These types of opportunities are all around you, year after year, and yet, many companies do not take advantage of them. The smart ones do! I’m talking about trade shows, events, conferences, these are the places to be in order to meet your key buyers in one central location.
Now, I get and fully understand that budget may play a role in attending/exhibiting at these events. Why do I get this? I have been on both sides of the coin, the table, or whatever figurative piece you would like to call it. Selling exhibit space, I heard the budget excuse way too often and quite honestly, it is downright the wrong excuse to use. If you do not have the budget to attend the top event in your industry to be face-to-face with your key, and I mean top notch check on your britches buyers, then you probably did not do your budget correctly. At least, one event a year should be in your budget.
If you are an association or organization that holds the top-notch events, do not let the budget excuse slide. Always, always, and always have a good response lined up for this particular excuse. In the examples section at the end of this book, I will even provide some verbiage you can use, because that is how emphatic I am about this excuse.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. You surpassed the budget objection, they arrived at your event, it was an ok event for them, but they didn’t see any ROI/ROO from the event. They will not be returning next year. Excuse me?
For those of you that know me, know that I am a fan of saying ‘repeat business is the best business and the only true way to grow’. This is especially true for events. If a dollar goes much further on retained attendees/exhibitors, then it does for recruiting new ones. Ask anyone and they will tell you the same.
In the case of this exhibitor, who had the so-so event and couldn’t justify the ROI, I dare you to ask them if they had any goal set in place beforehand? Any pre-event marketing? Any onsite draws?
Tackle all of these objections head on. Develop a pre-event checklist in order to help new exhibitors understand the best route to take to have a successful event. Don’t leave it to fate either. Having it on your website for them to randomly stumble upon is like hoping to find the sock that randomly disappears in the wash. We all know it can’t be found…except half a year later when it randomly pops up. No, don’t be that sock, be proactive. Reach out to your new exhibitors and show them that you care about their success. Shh…they don’t know you have a template ready to go waiting for them once they sign the agreement. Remember, 20% personal.
Nugget #7: Retention is king. Keep your exhibitors returning year after year by being proactive.
We Don’t Need No Edumacation…
Ah yes. Remember when all of those exhibitors on the survey responded about wanting more education? Don’t worry, it’s a common ask at every event. In fact, your exhibitors attend multiple events and most likely, probably if not always, say the exact same thing at every event they attend. “We want more best practices, tips, education on how to be better exhibitors and attract more leads.” What happens when you provide education for them? Do they show up? Some do, but for the most part, most do not.
Don’t worry. We learned the best practice is to be proactive. With that, it’s a must to provide the exhibitors with education. It does not mean we have to provide them with the education they think they want. Sometimes, as well as you should, your organization knows what’s best for its members. When it comes to exhibitors, you are the expert, not them. They may exhibit at multiple events throughout the year, but that doesn’t mean they are exhibiting correctly. We all know and understand that bad habits can easily form, even to the best of the best.
If you want to educate exhibitors, take them on their journey. Start from the beginning, the signing of the booth agreement, and take them all the way up to and even after the event. Here… we…go…
Leaving the success of the event in someone else’s control is one of the many things that need to change within the industry. A wise mentor once told me, “control your own success.” That is applicable both personally and also in business practices.
If we leave the success of the event in the experiences of the exhibitors, we leave ourselves open to a slew of complaints and experiences that do not drive the value and ROI needed for a success. What is it, you say, that we should change?
Look outside the industry. Many SaaS organizations are now requiring onboarding and training to be completed before you receive the full feature set, they paid for. It gives them the opportunity to showcase the true deeper value for the client, and also ensures the solution is well configured and not customized to the client’s business processes. Their business processes are not always the best practice which gives the onboarding team a leg up to help guide and fine tune the processes for them.
Why can’t we force exhibitors to take training? What? They paid thousands of dollars to exhibit at your event and you fully believe they know what they are doing? It’s time to face reality and stop letting exhibitors exhibit poorly. By poorly, I mean the no-good terrible sitting at your booth, staring at your phone and not engaging the audience walking the floor.
Ok, ok. So, maybe we can’t force them (still think we can and should), and we know that adds another difficult layer to selling the space. Let’s put it in a way that will make them want to take the education you provide.
Example 1: Your booth agreement will spell out variable pricing. Pricing becomes lower or the exhibitor is incentivized to take part in the education, in order to pay the lower price point. This is pretty easy to keep track.
Example 2: Any exhibitor who becomes educated will receive 5 matched leads and appointments at the event. Event tech these days can easily support this. With this method, you can easily put a value behind the leads, so that they’ll understand the monetary value as well as the dedicated and guaranteed appointments. They need to remember that leads in general are not guaranteed by exhibiting, and it is what and how you exhibit that drives that value.
Two great booth agreement ideas to help push your exhibitor education to the next level and also begin to take control of the success of your event.
Nugget #8: Force or no force, educate we must.
As you embark on the storytelling journey of your exhibitors, make sure to provide them with the best and worst journeys that provide those outcomes. It is very important they understand the various paths they can take, and what those potential outcomes will look like. Take the omni-channel approach for this journey. Use video as well as a series of posts, all of which are shared within your email newsletters and social media channels. Remember, make social media fun. You can easily add your flair to these educational posts.
For Exhibitor Eyes Only
Cheeky title, but this is to grab the attention of any non-show organizers perusing this amazing knowledge share.
In this section, I’ll walk you through a few items to help exhibiting organizations gain further value from an event.
Perfectly Imperfect Booth Staff
It’s often thought that sales personnel are the best individuals for events. Honestly, it really depends on the event. I firmly believe that you should never have only one individual staffing the booth. Yes, yes. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, but the few extra dollars you spend on sending that extra person will reap benefits. Ideally, a mix of sales and product experts or specialists are the way to go. Your clients and future clients need to understand the team and the service behind them. When sales sell a product, it’s up to the specialists to field any incoming service requests, and to help with any training. Ensuring that your clients understand their journey with you is a key to exhibiting and thus, it really does require more than one individual.
Here, we start with the obvious don’ts. It’s really awesome sitting at your booth and falling asleep, said no one ever. You might be an Instagram star by the end of the event. Who knows! Maybe that was your strategy all along, to go viral. This is a bad way to go viral and it paints a very no good awful picture of how your organization operates. There have been numerous times I’ve heard friends within the industry have exhibitor organizations complain that they had no leads from the event, only to show them that they’re viral on social media for sleeping. Yea…we are going to go with a big fat no for this booth staffing technique.
It’s ok to be assertive but remember where that line is drawn. Overly aggressive sales individuals can turn away shy attendees, and they may be the super buyers you were looking for. Let the design of your booth do its job and entice those attendees to enter or come close to your area. Ask them for help or ask to help them. It’s not often that people will reject helping you for a small favour, even at events.
Anyone who has ever attended an event understands you, the exhibitor, are there to sell and also gain new business. However, the most successful exhibitors know when to have inquisitive conversations in order to help with market research and when to go for the sell. Often times, it truly is not all about the sell. A majority of attendees want to see new products and also learn as much as they can about the products they are interested in or have a need for. Let your products do the selling and have your sales team be the backups to your awesome products.
We mentioned previously that you should allow your engaging booth design do the dirty work. Get creative. Do something that will leave a lasting impression and cause a huge line of attendees who want to see your awesome idea come to life. Gone are the days of the traditional booth designs. In order to cater to the imagination of those catered to by the digital world, we must expand our minds and also bring the experience to life.
Call to arms…I mean, call to action! No no, not like light’s camera action. I mean a true call to action, the same as you all have in your digital marketing materials. What is the point of marketing or selling your product if you don’t end with an action to help get you to the next step? Even a simple, “I will follow up with you today, recapping our conversation and sending over further clarifications to your questions.” That’s a simple call to action at the end of the conversation. They say yes, that’s great and mic drop, then you are onto the next step. Now, make sure you have another next step action in your follow up email.
What are some other call to actions? Schedule a demo. Look at each other’s calendar right then and there, and schedule it. Send them a sample of the product or give it to them there if possible. Ask them to meet up for drinks or dinner later, so as to finish the conversation. Whatever the action is, ensure that it gets you to the next step.
For a moment, let’s discuss etiquette. I’ve been in this industry long enough to have my own pain points. One
of them is the time spent talking to attendees and vice versa. All too often, we see attendees or buyers linger and wanting to continue a long drawn out conversation, even though they know they received the answers to their questions. This is an extremely poor etiquette in my opinion and overall, just a poor taste. We will talk more on this within the attendee section.
Giveaway the Contestant
Oh, just kidding. Yes, we all want giveaways to take home for ourselves or children, but that honestly in this day and age is not a must. Gone are the days of stop by my booth to get $100 gift card or an awesome water bottle. I mentioned earlier, experience is the key. If you can put together a contest that is experience driven and the final giveaway is a token to remember that experience, then you have the winning formula. I am not talking about trivia or passport stamps. I am talking about a true experience. Think about what it is you offer to your customers. What is it they value from you the most? Which, of your product or service, can allow them to interact with you, your product, and their peers. You ever wonder why escape rooms or breakout rooms are so popular? It teaches them history, allows them to use their knowledge and skills, gets them to interact with the environment, and lastly, it allows them to interact and collaborate with their peers. Use your customers to your advantage.
I Can’t Even…Marketing, Stop Wasting Your Money!
All too often, I continue to hear that an exhibitors job is to show up and let the leads come to them. Cue eye roll. You have to be kidding! No, absolutely not. What a spoiled and no good rotten comment to say.
What happened to accountability? It’s as if that word is completely misunderstood these days. You have a job. Your company has a role in this industry. Your company wants to sell more and grow. Therefore, whose responsibility is it to ensure that the leads are coming to your booth? I can’t wait for the days of augmented reality in books, which you can say the answer to questions and the author or teacher can reach through the book and give a good whack on the side of the head. It’s time to wake up and get a huge dose of reality. You make your own success.
So, with that, let’s discuss marketing. We break this down to three moments in time. Pre-event, onsite, and post-event.
What’s the saying, “You have to spend money to make money?” Something along those lines or at least, that’s what’s been passed down for generations. This holds true for the most part, and there are great onsite sponsorships from your event organizer that you should absolutely participate in. If they don’t have what you are looking for, ask them to customize one.
The good news. Pre-event marketing can be done by your own email campaigns and your own social media campaigns, and these can cost you very little. The most expensive piece, your time. What can you do?
Put together an engagement campaign for your current customer list and your current prospect list. You can have multiple campaigns, with various content and ideas for each. One in particular that I enjoy is the referral campaign. Ask your customers to refer you. You have provided them the best product and service. They are happy with you (hopefully), so, it is perfectly ok to ask them to refer you and make an introduction. In fact, with today’s technology, it is so simple for you to have them click on a hyperlink in your email that has an email already written out for them. All they have to do is enter an email address, and also ensure to copy you and press send.
Ask your event organizer, if they have any tools to help with pre-event marketing. Some offer widgets to place
on your website which help with retargeting. Some offer referral programs and others offer email campaigns on your behalf. Of course, some of these will have a price tag to them. In the end, you have to decide what you are willing to spend. Keep in mind that you are spending a good amount of money to exhibit and showcase your booth. You need to ensure that it’s a success, so, spend the additional mula to make sure it is.