Exhibiting at Conferences and Trade Shows – Keys to Success Part 3
By: Sharon Berman,
Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators
In part 1 of this series, we discussed how law firms can capitalize on the opportunities afforded by exhibiting at conferences and trade shows and how to identify promising venues. Part 2 looked at how to create an attractive display that pulls visitors to your booth. In the last of this three-part series, we’ll focus on how you can leverage your marketing investment in conferences.
As in all of your marketing, maximizing the return on your investment requires the development of a strategic plan for each event, the proper execution during the event, and carefully-targeted post-show marketing. These are the crucial components of a successful exhibit marketing strategy:
Regardless of whether your clients, prospects or referral sources plan to attend the show, take advantage of the opportunity to let them know that you will have a presence there. At the same time, provide them with actionable information. While a simple note announcing your exhibitor status at a certain conference is an option, you will create a stronger impact with a letter or email related to the topic of the conference. For instance, if you plan to exhibit at a franchise show, you can send a list of “Top 10 things to evaluate when buying a franchise” with a P.S. that announces your exhibit at the upcoming franchise conference. Conclude your letter or email with an offer to set aside time to talk to them at the show or, if they are not attending, to provide further information in person or by phone.
Another pre-show marketing tactic is to post an announcement on your website. A blurb on the same page as your other news is adequate, but to give it more energy, consider posting it as a press release even if you don’t plan on sending it to the media. The press release format gives your announcement more prominence, and quotes from one of your attorneys reinforce their expertise. You can also announce your exhibit in a sidebar to your regular newsletter or email blast.
Your exhibitor’s fee may include access to contact information for pre-registered attendees. If so, send a short but informative letter/email to the most promising scheduled attendees. In the letter, provide informative material and an invitation to meet you in person or to visit your booth. If current clients, prospects and trusted referral sources are on the attendee list, consider setting up private appointments in advance to meet or dine with them during the show.
Marketing at the Show
One of the biggest mistakes professionals make at shows is to staff the booth as an afterthought with associates or support staff who do not have any idea of what mes¬sages they should be communicating, or any notion of what messages to listen for, which might indicate an opportunity. Work with the partners well in advance to deter¬mine who will represent the firm in the booth, and when they will do it. Ensure these people are aware of their time commitments, and provide the necessary training.
In advance of the show, meet with every person who will staff the booth. Clearly explain why the firm is exhibiting at the particular show, and what they should be saying. Create a talking points memo so that booth staffers can practice what to say in advance. Also provide a list of “triggers” to be aware of, i.e. what would trigger a need for your firm’s services.
Remind them to be open, to smile, and to be friendly, but not to accost visitors or passers-by. They should offer your brochures and other giveaways while engaging visitors in conversation. Booth staff should also ask visitors for business cards, record pertinent information on the back of the card, and flag cards that merit immediate follow-up. Ask your booth staff to keep their eyes and ears open for trends and new challenges people are discussing. This type of floor “buzz” is valuable in helping you spot developing trends and patterns.
Develop and post a written schedule of shifts so there is no confusion as to who is “on” at what times and the booth is never left unattended. Even one day can be exhausting and seem interminable for an individual left alone in a booth. Make sure everyone has key contact information, such as cell-phone numbers for each staffer, names of the hotel representatives you may need to get in contact with, etc.
When there is traffic flow by the booth, staffers should avoid talking with their colleagues or people in adjacent booths, talking on cell phones, reading the newspaper, or other actions which can deter people from approaching your booth.
Members of industry and trade media attend many shows and conferences. You can often obtain the names of media contacts from the show organizers. Let these journalists know that you and your firm’s lawyers will be exhibiting (or speaking) and would be glad to be a resource for background or on-the-record commentary on selected industry issues. Ideally, pitch the reporters several story ideas such as industry trends of which they may not yet be aware. Arrange for your attorneys to introduce themselves to these media contacts in order to position themselves as resources in the future.
The Show is Over!
Designate someone to be in charge of packing up, and getting your booth components and materials back to your firm. Ensure that the individual has the proper paperwork and knows who to coordinate with to facilitate check-out and transportation.
While memories are still fresh, debrief with everyone from your firm who attended or staffed the booth. This debrief time should be calendared before you leave for the show. Ideas and material gleaned from this exercise can make for an interesting post-show article, or at least spawn an idea about positioning your firm in the marketplace represented at the show.
Many exhibitors give away a significant portion of the value of exhibiting simply because they fail to follow-up with booth visitors after the show. Determine which leads warrant follow up and assign responsibility for it.
Even ff you elected not to send out a pre-conference letter, do not skip the opportunity to send out a post-conference mailing. A post-conference missive—a report from the show—is particularly effective if you gleaned important new information. If you posted an announcement or press release on your website before the show, you can extend its shelf life by changing it to past tense and leaving it up on your website for some period of time post-show. When you are ready to take down the post-show press release, do not discard it from your website; rather, move it to a section set aside for old press releases. Link to the old press releases page from your current press releases page so that the search engines will find the dated releases. Every opportunity to keep a document alive on the search engines is one more opportunity for a potential client to spot you and your firm.
Write You Are
If you identified a new trend, or heard some¬thing new or different at the show, pitch an article idea about it right away to an industry publication or website which accepts by-lined articles. If the media outlet does not accept articles and does its own reporting, there’s no better way to solidify or build a relationship with a journalist than to bring them a new story idea. Ideally they will quote you as the expert, or accept a piece from you as an op-ed item.
As in all marketing, long-term and consistent follow-up is key to success. Many of the contacts you make as an exhibitor require long-term nurturing before they turn into clients or referral sources. If you maintain top-of-mind awareness with promising prospects through patient, systematic follow-up, your investment will eventually pay off many times over.
Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.