Take your trade show booth from bland to bold

While some might enjoy trade shows, chances are you dread them and may even avoid them altogether. They can be exhausting, ineffective and often lack the personal touch, leaving you to wonder if anyone truly understands your business.

The old-school way of tables, branded pens and paper handouts are so passé. Instead, leaders are applying the core principles of event and experiential marketing to trade shows just as they are to business-to-consumer targeted events.

Smart Business spoke with Maggie Ellison, director of creative experiences at Event Marketing Strategies, about how experiential marketing can improve a company’s effectiveness at B2B trade shows.

What are the critical components of a trade show B2B experiential marketing campaign?

It’s important to remember that even though you are targeting a business as the end user of your product or service, the person you need to win over is also a consumer. An open floor plan is the best way to achieve this: Get rid of the tables. Booths are designed and built to target people, not businesses.

The era of digital demands less paper, so consider a touch screen or a game that allows people to engage with your company in a unique and memorable way. Examples of a few great ideas that draw lines to a booth: free relevant t-shirts, perhaps promoting the city of the conference; free food, alcohol or drink tickets; seating areas; charging stations; and interactive, well-known games such as PLINKO or cornhole. Think colorful and think active.

Another key component is staffing. They should be just as energetic and engaging as the display. Sometimes that means utilizing trained brand ambassadors, possibly in place of or in tandem with your sales team.

What are the unique marketing opportunities businesses have at trade shows that aren’t often found elsewhere?

Trade shows are the perfect space to promote your business to a very focused, typically unique and targeted audience. Vendors are often already aware of the companies and sometimes even the specific people who will be attending the conference, which allows displays to be tailored accordingly.

Similarly, you can bet that trade show attendees are there to learn and are seeking solutions that many of the vendors can provide. These engaging conversations garner instant feedback and allow companies the opportunity to bring a product or service to life through face-to-face, experiential marketing.

What are the outcomes businesses should look for when executing a B2B experiential marketing campaign at trade shows? How can they best track the results?

Outcomes could be as simple as brand awareness and/or providing a memorable experience for guests. Businesses looking for a more concrete outcome should aim for lead generation and any opportunity to capture data.

There are several easy-to-integrate technologies, such as tablet surveys or even register-to-win programs to capture contact information or other important data. Businesses that provide an engaging and memorable trade show experience can expect to make real connections with attendees and obtain quality leads.

Also consider sponsoring the conference or trade show to tap into the RFID technologies available for potential push notifications through text message when guests are in close proximity to the booth.

What are some of the better examples of trade shows with well-executed experiential marketing campaigns?

Conferences and events that target consumers and businesses simultaneously have some of the most incredible, interactive and effective trade show floors. Events such as South by Southwest (SXSW), Adobe Max, CES, Event Marketer’s Experiential Marketing Summit and Oracle OpenWorld are a few that are ahead of the curve. Vendors at these events have open floor plans, cutting-edge technology, grand giveaways and the right people working displays to engage with consumers.

The outcome? The businesses that invest in creating a quality consumer experience as a strategy to attract attendees to their space will effectively connect to the right consumers who will ultimately purchase their products or services.

Insights Event Marketing is brought to you by Event Marketing Strategies