For B2B manufacturers, distributors, and service providers, live events, predominantly trade shows, are second only to email for lead generation. Long established as a marketing staple for industry verticals, trade shows will continue to be vital for B2B lead generation for many years to come. Consider the benefits that trade shows offer:
- They create lasting impressions
- They offer direct sales opportunities
- They provide cost-effective advertising and marketing
- They create great lead generation opportunities
This last potential — lead generation — is worth discussing further. It is often the most neglected ingredient of trade show success. Companies give a lot of forethought to preparing for a trade show, and likewise a lot of hard effort is expended during a trade show, but many times attention is not as focused once everyone returns homes with a stack of business cards that needs to be pursued.
Lead follow-up can take many forms: phone calls; direct mail; maybe even personal visits, if time and distance and budget allow. The most cost-effective and under-looked method is email, especially when email is used as part of a properly constructed marketing automation campaign.
Marketing automation (MA) is especially helpful for nurturing leads that aren’t white-hot and might otherwise die on the vine.
What is Marketing Automation?
The Internet has changed how buyers shop for and evaluate products and services. Buyers now own the buying process, even for large-ticket B2B items costing millions of dollars. Everyone goes online now to conduct research, compare companies and evaluate options.
All the while, they are sending up digital smoke signals indicating where they are in the buying process. The question for you is: how do you identify these signals and how do you respond to them?
That’s where marketing automation comes into play. Marketing automation is a combination of digital marketing technologies that help you know who is coming to your website, why they are coming, and what they are seeking.
Most importantly, marketing automation lets you respond to these people in the best way possible. Not with a mass-blast, one-size-fits-all email, but with an email tailored and personalized to their needs.
With marketing automation, you are able to communicate with prospects according to what they are seeking as you nurture them through the sales funnel.
Why is marketing automation so effective? Think of your own experiences. You get dozens of emails daily. The ones that ring true do so because they speak to your specific pain points. Those emails likely come from marketing automation.
Does marketing automation work? One study shows that 63 percent of companies that are outgrowing their competitors use marketing automation.
The downside? Almost 60 percent of companies that have adopted marketing tech do not fully utilize the tools they’ve implemented.
There’s a lot of room for improvement, for sure.
Marketing Automation and Trade Show Nurturing
To make the most of your trade show lead generation efforts, you need a game plan. Here’s an approach that we recommend. Steps 1, 2, and 3 are things you probably do already for any trade show. Step 4 is how you can “kick it up a notch” with marketing automation.
- Pre Show: Review Attendee List
These days, nearly all show sponsors provide lists of attendees. You should review the attendees list and identify the people and companies you are most interested in. Segment the list according to criteria that would make sense for marketing – for example, segment by industry; segment by geography; segment by existing vs. non-existing clients; segment by role; etc. Begin to anticipate the type of messaging you could use for these segments.
- During Show: Acquire Names and Segment Them
During the show, obtain names, contact information, areas of interest, etc. Log these into the attendees list. If you’ve done your preparation, you could even import these people into your marketing technology platform and send them a short, sweet “nice to meet you today, visit us again during the show” type of message at the end of each day. We had a client who did this at a show in Chicago and had overwhelmingly favorable response rates and awareness as attendees came back to see them later in the week. Did that close deals? No. But it definitely raised awareness.
- Post Show #1: Scrub List
After the show, scrub your attendee list. Remove the non-prospects. Identify the hot/warm/cold prospects. Also identify those who had registered for the show, but did not attend.
- Post Show #2: Nurture with Marketing Automation
Using a marketing automation platform, compose email messaging and campaigns that speak to the segmenting you did in steps 1-3. Marketing automation allows you to easily create and send tailored messages to those segments. For example, you can send C-level executives a different message than mid-level managers; to suppliers vs. resellers; etc. Marketing automation lets you insert the recipient’s name, the company name, the industry, or other information into your messaging in a way that personalizes your communication, but without the overhead of traditional one-at-a-time email systems. The additional advantage of marketing automation is that you can track how recipient’s respond and you can use that to inform future sales efforts. Easily.
Marketing automation is a proven, effective method for trade show lead nurturing. It automates processes that you may currently be doing manually, or not at all, resulting in increased sales and increased productivity. What we’ve suggested here is just a sampling of what it possible.
Pump Up Your Trade Show Marketing One Step at a Time
We’re your complete digital marketing partners. Reach out to us and discover how we can help your organization leverage marketing automation to better optimize your trade show investment.