Trade shows are an important way to showcase your organization’s products, connect with customers, monitor what the competition’s up to and stay abreast of emerging industry trends. They’re also expensive, time consuming and all-encompassing distractions.
Our team recently participated in the National Restaurant Association’s annual convention, NRA Show 2017, a four-day extravaganza that wrapped up May 23rd, followed immediately by the National Confectioners Association Sweets and Snacks Expo, which is attended by thousands of small, medium and large candy brands and snack companies.
What’s we’ve learned in 25+ years in business is that it’s sometimes not obvious to trade show exhibitors (most of whom come from sales and marketing) that in addition to customers and potential customers, media are also an important stakeholder to engage with at a show. In most cases, reporters who cover your sector are walking the floor to uncover emerging trends, build a pipeline of story ideas, and meet emerging leaders at the cutting edge of best practices. The fact is that even without major news to announce, there is still relationship building to be done. If your trade show team in the booth is solely focused on passing out sales and marketing collateral or product giveaways, you may be missing an important brand-building opportunity.
Instead of simply scheduling sales appointments and responding to visitors who happen to stop by, the most effective marketers are also on the lookout for passersby sporting media credentials. Or, better yet, schedule meetings in advance. Having the gumption to approach a reporter can pay off in a story or interview opportunity for your leadership. It’s the difference between passively sitting in one spot along a river bank to catch a single fish versus casting a broad net that can land a whole school.
As an agency that’s worked with clients over many years to help maximize their trade show ROI, we have a few words of advice about ways to engage:
Media: An Invaluable Lever to Help Pry Open Doors with Other Key Stakeholders
A well-placed story in a publication, blog or other outlet can be a great way to spark interest from customers, distributors. If your product gets plugged in Mashable, for example, that’s going to come to the attention of distributors who will ask, “With ABC Chocolates listed in the Top 10 of Emerging Summer Sweets, why are we not distributing these?”
So, factored into your distributor outreach should be a strategy to secure earned media coverage that bolsters your company’s visibility and credibility with prospective distributors. And, when you do get media attention, make sure to amplify it by displaying it at your booth and sharing it via social channels.
Assign Someone to Arrange Media Encounters in Advance of the Show, Just Like Setting up Sales Meetings
When reporters register for a trade show, their information is catalogued into a master list that the show organizers usually share in advance with exhibitors. The best way to secure coverage and maximize your investment is begin media outreach as far ahead of the show as possible. We’re often surprised at the number of exhibiting companies that fail to prepare and leave compelling press materials in the show’s media room.
Repetition is the mother of all learning—and the surest way for any company to get – and stay — on a busy reporter’s radar screen, is to stay in contact. One way to cement your media interactions is to flex your company’s social-media muscle with mentions (and even photos) of those in attendance. After all, they’re also in the business of drawing attention to their organization’s brand; so be an ally and plant a seed for future consideration.
In the End, Sometimes the Most Powerful Opportunities are Those That are Unplanned.
Most savvy trade show exhibitors seek to arrange media interviews well in advance of the show. However, sometimes the greatest opportunities can be serendipitous. If your team is so feverishly focused on the sales front that they fail to engage with a high-profile reporter loitering around your booth area, you’ve likely missed what could have been a great opportunity to build your brand and tell your story.
If you’re interested in discussing ways to get the most out of your trade show investment, we’d be happy to share best practices developed over more than 25 years. Our team can help you achieve your business objectives through a broad spectrum of integrated marketing activities to amplify your trade show impact.