How to prepare for a B2B expo

Expos and trade shows can be very lucrative for B2B businesses, delivering a better ROI than the majority of marketing activities.

Our Tech Heads 2019 research showed that 54% of tech buyers rely on events to find out about new tech, making them the most popular source of information – above supplier websites and Google. They rate highly for both usage and trust.

How can you make the most of this valuable tool? We’ve identified some of the steps B2B exhibitors can take to prepare for an expo or trade show.

Agree upon an objective or goal
You’ve decided to make what is often a significant investment to exhibit at a tradeshow, so it’s likely you’ll want to walk away with solid leads, however you define those. Set a clear target of, for example, the number of contacts you’d like to get from the event and discuss what you want those people to look like in terms of their job role, as well as how you will verify or control that.

There are other advantages to exhibiting at an expo of course, such as brand exposure. Awareness is harder to measure, but you can still discuss how you’d like to come across and you should definitely pin down your key messaging.

Choose a theme or topic
Whatever your goal, you’ll probably need to create a content offering of some description. Do you have a speaking slot? The subject you decide to speak on may help to shape the rest of your presence at the expo. Try to provide a unique, consistent experience across speaking slots, your stand, and any other content you provide, such as printed books and flyers. Brief your employee representatives so that they can speak to passers-by with confidence on that same subject or message, answering any questions they might have.  

Prepare assets
Once you have your goals and messaging in place, you’ll need to create assets. The event organiser will be able to provide you with a standard list of recommended branded items and their dimensions.

You’ll probably need to design up a banner as a minimum, and – if you’re speaking – a PowerPoint presentation, but depending on the size of your stand there may be a whole suite of designed assets required. Enlist the help of your creative team to help you come up with something consistent and appealing to help you stand out from your exhibiting peers.

This is also your chance to inject some creativity into your stand. Think beyond a bowl of sweets – how can you encourage attendees to interact with your stand so your employees can start those all-important conversations? Maybe a competition or a shiny, new piece of tech? Some of the best we’ve seen include a graffiti artist creating personalised water bottles and even a live owl! Make it memorable and linked to your brand.    

Market your presence
Now you know what you’re bringing to the event, it’s time to shout about it. Market your presence via whatever channels make sense. Social media is usually your best bet since you can target people planning to attend the event by including the expo’s handle or hashtag. Ask senior team members to post on LinkedIn; engaging with the online conversation that surrounds the event. 

You can even put some money behind your promotional efforts by sponsoring posts targeted at event attendees, running the campaign for the duration of the event only. Word of mouth is a valuable channel, speak to people in your network who are likely to attend and let them know you’ll be there. An email among prospects may even be appropriate.  

Scan and make notes
Once at the event, the most important thing your employees can do is scan badges and make notes. Collecting high-quality information is crucial for the follow-up process where ROI is made. Besides making connections, it’s important for employees to present the agreed upon messaging and represent your brand with energy and enthusiasm. A trade show is a first touchpoint for prospects and a great opportunity to make a strong first impression.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to learn from both potential customers and peers. It’s not always easy to get a birds-eye view of your market, and a large-scale event such as an expo is a great way to do that. It can even be useful from an HR perspective – don’t try to scare students away from your stand, they could be your next round of recruits!     

All being well, you should have a good list of names, some information about them, and the strength of the lead, post-event. Arm your sales team with this information or, if you can, get the person who collected the lead data to follow up for greater consistency.

Your social media accounts and interactions with your brand online may provide you with further leads.

Many of the contacts you make won’t be ready to buy your services or products, but they’ll make valuable additions to your marketing funnel. Add them to your newsletter distribution list, or nurture them with other relevant, high-quality content. The important takeaway is that you’ll need to use the information you have about your contacts to market to them in as personalised a way as possible. Events give you a unique opportunity to do this since you’ve likely already met with the person face-to-face.  

Expos and trade shows can be an incredibly useful tool for B2B marketers. These are just some of the ways you can make the most of them. Through trial and error, identify the events that are attended by the most relevant people, see which deliver the best ROI, and hone your strategy year-on-year.

Giles Shorthouse, Head of Business Development & Marketing at Octopus Group, says: ‘Trade shows are a unique opportunity to meet prospects face-to-face – a rare occurrence nowadays. Be sure to send your best people, reserve a good stand position and, above all, think outside the box.’

Don’t forget your business cards!