Trade show and public event participation is no different for any business, nor does it matter what type of customers you serve. At a popular conference, for instance, a comic or game development company may set up a different booth than a B2B or commerce brand would, but their goals are still essentially aligned. Businesses want to build engagement and positive interactions with attendees — and customers — to make a sale, make a great first impression, or learn a little more about them.
Public exhibitions and groupings allow customers to experience products, goods or services first-hand. For the most part, they can peruse stations belonging to any number of comparable brands, sometimes direct rivals. In this way, they get a more realistic and direct experience with goods, making it much easier to survey what’s available and what will work for their needs.
It is your job, at any event, to create an enjoyable experience for the attendees. Of course, it's also essential that you generate new leads and make a good impression on anyone who visits your booth — and there are several ways to do this. Play your cards right, and you’ll have no problems at all.
Here are six ways to be successful at your next SaaS trade show.
1. Understand Your Mission
You’re attending the event for some particular reason — why? What is it that you want to achieve?
Are you showing off a new or upcoming product to potential customers? Do you want to get to know the event attendees and gauge their interest in your services? Or, are you new in the circuit and want to get your name out there?
About 50 percent of marketers claim their primary reason for attending public events is to build leads or generate potential sales. Meanwhile, 64 percent say they use such events to identify new prospects and business opportunities.
So, what is it you want to achieve?
While there are many things you could accomplish, you should focus on one goal at each event. You can achieve more at future events and conferences, so set your sights on the now. Then, build your entire booth or experience around that mission. Make sure the engagements and interactions your customers have align with what you’d like to achieve.
For example, if you want to make some sales, demo your products and use modern marketing to promote your goods. If you want to build your contact or client list and garner some leads, be sure there’s an email registration process at your booth and direct your customers to it before they leave.
As a SaaS company, trade shows are the best time for you to expand your vertical. There are going to be hundreds of other businesses at whatever trade show you attend and while you need to definitely focus on companies who have a real need for your product, do some exploring and see how your product can help in industries you might not have considered before.
2. Design Your Booth and Customer Experience
Every business or vendor that attends a trade-show is given a table, station or booth to make their own. Showing up with a few brand-oriented banners and flyers is not going to be worthwhile. Neither is giving out simple, free goods like a flimsy handbag with your company name on it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing these things — especially handing out freebies — so long as they’re not the only way you’re engaging with attendees. To stand out, you’ll want to craft a unique customer experience that ensures everyone remembers your brand, your team and your values. It takes a lot of planning to get right.
Work alongside your marketing team to build something truly epic. How will you display and promote graphics and content?
Come up with some creative ideas for presenting your brand during the event. Why not use digital signage and take advantage of beacons to sync content with the mobile phones of attendees nearby? You could also install a demo center where people can test out your products and services. Or, assign them a temporary rep who can walk them through the features of your app.
Be sure to also consider the venue. Will there be Wi-Fi and ethernet connections available? Will you be near power outlets, or do you have to pay a fee to access those? How big of a space do you have to work with?
All of these elements should factor into your design, which you’ll want to nail down before the big event. You don’t want to be stuck on setup day trying to figure out how to redesign or revamp the experience.
3. Personalize the Experience
In the B2B space, you have varying customers based on their responsibility and role within a company. For example, VIPs and executives are usually treated differently than standard reps and spokespeople during a sales or engagement process — the world of SaaS and modern software is no different.
Learn to personalize the experience and engagements you deliver to customers based on who they are. Someone who will be using your software or services daily, for instance, is going to expect a different showing than a brand executive with decision-making chops.
You should also tailor the presentation based on who the customer or person is, as well as what they need out of your tools or services. How does your service or brand relate to them? Show them exactly how you can improve their processes or deliver a more convenient experience compared to your rivals.
4. Keep It Concise
In the business world, a quick presentation is called an “elevator pitch.” The idea is that it should take you no longer than an average elevator ride to pitch your idea to company execs or reps. The same is true in the opposite direction. You only have a short time — sometimes painstakingly so — to make your point to attendees and potential customers. Plus, you’ll be interacting with hundreds, if not thousands of different people throughout your day.
Make it quick. Keep your pitch or interactions succinct, and try to cut out as much noise as possible. The people visiting your booth only have so much time to be there, and you only have so much time to make your mark — get it done as fast as humanly possible.
While you want a fast pitch, software isn’t always the easiest product to condense into a short pitch. Make sure you have the most important talking points highlighted and emphasized so that they’re easily remembered. Your pitch should show how your product affects a larger audience. Use data points and industry trends to enhance your credibility and become part of a larger conversation.
5. You’re Always On
Public events are social affairs, not unlike business meetings, dinners or get-togethers. This means that you and your team are "always-on" when it comes to promoting your brand and services.
Be prepared to network with attendees and fellow booth participants, anywhere and anytime. You may meet someone relevant in the lunch line, or maybe you’ll run into a prospect on the outdoor walkway leading to the venue? Whatever the case, be ready to make your pitch and invite them to visit your booth.
Furthermore, if they don’t have the time to pay a direct visit, do your best to give them the pitch right then and there. You never know what kind of connections you’ll make at a populated social event.
6. Take Advantage of Panels
Panels are incredibly lucrative speaking opportunities that could provide a considerable amount of exposure for you and your brand. If you have the chance, be sure to participate in one or more — even if it takes you away from your booth.
This does several things, including:
- Establishes you as an authority and thought leader in your industry
- Puts you front and center, exposing you to potential audiences and customers
- Provides you with an outlet to share your thoughts, opinions and achievements with the world
Not to mention, since most panels are filmed or even live-streamed, you can reach a much broader audience than just the event attendees.
Make an Impression, Leave Your Mark
If you were to ask anyone who has participated in a trade-show or major public event, they would likely agree that they’re vast investments of time, money and additional resources. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that anything you do, say or pay for at an event will provide a return. However, that’s no different than managing a business — especially in the SaaS industry.
Be sure to follow the tips above and focus on standing out at an event. Only then will you leave an impression on attendees and potential customers, which will undoubtedly pay off.
Featured Image Source: London MAR 15: visitors walk past stands at the Ideal Home Show 2013 in London on March 15, 2013. It is the annual event that brings together the latest inventions and designs for the modern house by pcruciatti Shutterstock
About the Author
Nathan Sykes writes about the latest in business and technology with a focus on the B2B industry. To keep up with his articles, check out his blog.More Content by Nathan Sykes