A guest post by Nehemiah "Nemo" Chu of Bloomfire.
Events marketing is fresh on my mind---having just returned from exhibiting at SXSW for a second straight year. Although different brands often have different objectives when exhibiting at conferences, I've noticed that timeless tactics always yield results. Whether you're exhibiting to win new customers, meet key influencers, or create brand awareness, here are five tactics that have worked for my company (and I think they'll work for yours, too).
As a believer of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), I think of events marketing this way: If you were to think of total conference marketing efforts as a pie graph, then what you see below is the 20% slice that yields 80% of your results.
During SXSW, one person who stopped at my company's booth told me she was surprised when I greeted her. She told me that most booth staff sit behind their tables, immersed in their laptop/iPhone/iPad, rarely looking up to engage passersby. I can understand that—I know I was definitely nervous to approach strangers at my first conference. But don't let shyness get in the way of your investment. Why wait on the prospect to make the first move?
I loved watching our neighbors work the expo at SXSW. The angel-backed startup, LifeKraze had a young team reaching out to passersby, dishing out swag, and inviting them to have a go at their High Striker carnival game. When traffic was thin, their team fanned out on the expo floor, respectfully approaching expo visitors and neighbors like me. When the expo closed, they headed for parties where key influencers were and introduced themselves. Their CEO admitted that on the final day, he had a hard time getting out of bed because he was so tired. That's hustle.
2. Be Smart With Your Messaging.
Although our company exhibits at several conferences each year, SXSW is one of the only conferences where I can walk the show floor and shop for marketing solutions. I was surprised that so many booths featured cryptic messaging. Their headlines didn't tell me what their product/service is for, and as a result, I kept walking.
When we designed our booth, we drew inspiration from book designs. Before Amazon and its digital bookshelf, smart book designers focused on making their books' spines pop. The designer knew that, at the bookstore, the book needed to sell itself and stick out when jammed into the shelf with countless other books. Often, the designer would use eye-catching colors and a bold, effective title.
Imagine that your company's booth is being jammed into the expo's floor plan with countless other booths. Stick out and feature a bold, effective headline. Experienced headline writers know that a surefire formula is to appeal to a reader's invisible HELP WANTED poster. What's a HELP WANTED poster?
In everyday life, we're almost always looking to hire something to do a job for us. For example, I hire Evernote to help me record my grocery list, in the same way that I hire an airplane to transport me from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Austin, Texas. I also hire Google to deliver helpful marketing tips, on-demand. Think about what your customers hire you for, and use that knowledge to create your booth's headline.
For example, let's say you deliver a web service that organizes every marketing article on the planet and makes them accessible via a search engine. You do it better than Google can. Your booth's headline might be: Read the World's Most Helpful Marketing Tips in One Click.
I can almost guarantee that every marketer will stop at your booth.
Smart book designers know that a spine's purpose is to convince you to read the cover. And the cover's purpose is to get you to read the back cover. And the back cover's purpose is to get you to read the flaps. If the designer succeeds, the prospect will begin flipping through the pages to read a sample.
When people stop at your booth, they're going to ask for the elevator pitch. Give it to them—think of it as a canned presentation that is the equivalent to the front and back covers and inside flap. Then pause and turn the conversation to them. Ask them where they work and what they do. Listen.
Here's an opportunity to learn about your guest's needs, and with this knowledge, you can tailor your presentation to her. She's moved from front cover to back cover to inside flaps, and just as she's about to flip through the pages, you guide her through the book and read out the perfect chapter that promises to make her life easier.
4. Tell a Story.
If I learn that my guest is in the same shoes as one of my customers, I'll ask her if she'd like to hear success story about someone just like her. Your guest will accept this offer 99% of the time. After telling the story, wipe the tears from your guest's eyes and ask to swap business cards. Promise to introduce your guest to your customer via email, write a reminder for yourself on her business card, and follow through on your promise within one week.
5. Offer Handouts.
At this point, your guest will search for some kind of handout to take home. What's really happening is that she wants to tie a piece of thread to her finger; in other words, she wants a mental bookmark to remind herself of her experience at your booth. Help her out—give her something that will evoke a reaction when she's sorting through piles of handouts after the conference. Sparking a reaction should be enough to cause her to leap out of her seat and sprint for the nearest Internet portal (or maybe she'll Google you on her iPhone).
I've witnessed countless efforts to design the ultimate handout. Unfortunately, Comic Sans, Papyrus, Museo, and tons of Photoshop filters have been killed in the process. For me, the simplest way to evoke a reaction is to print your handout on oddly shaped card-stock. Try a triangle. Or an octagon. Feeling wild? Tease them with a trapezoid.
What other advice would you offer for a positive events marketing experience for your booth's visitors?
Nehemiah "Nemo" Chu is an ambassador of Bloomfire.
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