Elevate your tradeshow efforts by building trust with customers

Establish relationships, rather than focusing solely on closing deals

With healthcare technology’s biggest conference of the year approaching, many healthcare companies have made significant investments to create a visually appealing and engaging booth experience. In fact, one recent survey by Forrester Research shows that tradeshows consume 20 percent of B2B companies’ budgets, the largest single portion.

Equally important is investing in relationships, whether they may be with potential or current customers. While booth eye candy has the power to draw in visitors, marketers can make the experience memorable by taking time and attention getting to know attendees. Reaching out, asking good questions, active listening and providing something of value to the conversation are simple yet powerful ways to build trust and credibility. They are also effective and proven relationship building techniques that generate positive returns.

Perform due diligence
To begin building that trust, you need a plan. That starts with learning about why potential customers are at HIMSS18 or any tradeshow. A survey from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) offers broad insight into these motivations:

  • 92 percent of tradeshow attendees come to see and learn about “what’s new” in products and services.
  • 46 percent of executive decision makers made purchase decisions while attending a show.
  • 77 percent of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended.

Your potential customers will have their own unique pain points and goals in mind when speaking with you. Learning a bit more about the attendees visiting your booth beforehand can move the trust-building process forward faster.

Plant the seeds before the show
CEIR has also found that three out of four attendees decide which booths to visit before attending the show. If you want to make the list, you need to begin by building trust before they leave for the show. Nothing does that better than teaching an attendee something of value without asking for anything in return.

For example, why not create some educational content focused on addressing pain points or frequently asked questions? Differentiate yourself with a multi-touch campaign that shares valuable content with a unique theme and call-to-action. Such trust-building outreach to drive booth traffic might include email blasts with actionable tips and a link to whitepapers, case studies or landing pages with deeper, higher-value content.

At the tradeshow
The relationship building and knowledge sharing should continue at the event. Retain customers and build loyalty by taking time to meet and check in with them. At your booth, create a learning environment that delivers valuable information and supports thought leadership. You might offer a high-level presentation or a first-look at product advances, which also helps build trust between the sales rep and potential and existing customers. Support your efforts by leveraging social media channels to ensure attendees stop by your booth.

Post-show follow through
Once the show is over, make a bigger impact on sales and, most importantly, trust, by personally following up with the attendee. With marketing automation technology, for example, you can send an immediate, personalized email thanking them for stopping by and include a special offer or incentive. Once you’re back in the office, add your potential customers to lead nurturing campaigns that center on the trends and information from the tradeshow.

Measuring performance
While there are qualitative measures to gauge ROI from this outreach, such as satisfaction among your C-suite, more significant quantifiable metrics include the contact information collected and the percentage of potential customers that transform into clients. Another metric might be your success at leveraging the presence of media to generate new relationships and coverage.

Potential customers are great but you’re in this for the long game. Focusing on being open, honest, genuine and just plain trustworthy is a great way to improve all of these metrics, and far more memorable than a scripted sales pitch. 

Ready to learn more? Download our whitepaper on strategies and best practices for making the most of tradeshows.

Engage attendees with an inviting booth atmosphere

Rising industry competition and tradeshow attendees’ steadily declining attention spans have made booth design more important than ever. A visually appealing, original design is crucial to grab attention, but the sales team working the booth is the most important element because they keep potential customers engaged and begin the essential trust-building process.

An authentic and relatable company presence can be enhanced by booth design. Too often, companies’ booths are visually stuck in a 1990’s aesthetic featuring too much irrelevant info, too many stock photos and too much salesy noise. Booth design starts with telling your brand story with a few simple words told by actual humans, preferably through photo testimonials or video.

Update your look. Modernization also includes building some interactivity into the design. That can include a chance for attendees to play with some new technology or take an interactive industry quiz on an iPad, which offers lead generation opportunities and can spark discussions with your sales team. That said, it is important to always test new marketing strategies, especially if they are a bit outside-the-box, before a big show that consumes a large portion of your marketing budget.

After all, 81 percent of show attendees have buying authority, which means more than four out of five people walking the aisles are potential customers. Grabbing their attention using the most effective techniques, engaging them and establishing trust are essential.

Here are few tips for designing an attractive, trust-enabling booth:

Simplify the message. Shorter attention spans and numerous distractions on the exhibit floor means that your message needs to be simple with powerful visual elements. At the same time, that message needs to convey how your company can meet the customer’s needs, which helps begin the trust building process—if it hasn’t already begun with a pre-show, multi-touch campaign.

Be clean, professional and minimal. The booth should also be free from decorative clutter that can detract from the simple, powerful message. Think vertical banners and designs that draw the eye up and make a space feel larger than it is. Along with eliminating clutter, any worn or damaged signs or design elements need to be repaired or replaced. Inattention to detail can detract from the attendees’ first impressions.

Create a welcoming atmosphere. While sending a concise, clear message with minimum sales noise is essential, the booth shouldn’t feel sterile either. Create a comfortable sitting area with warm natural accents to make people feel comfortable so that they want to stay and watch a video or chat a while. Comfortable seating areas or private spaces can also encourage honest conversations. Offering small, but attractive incentives, such as a T-shirt, coffee, tea, chocolate or even wine, is enticing. If it ties back to your bigger brand story, even better.

Put your best people forward. Once your booth attracts potential customers, it will be up to your sales team to keep them there and deliver on the messaging presented in the design. Since no one wants to feel pressured at a tradeshow, choose team members who are the best listeners and conversationalists to build the trust and advance the relationship. Following up afterwards with personalized emails referencing topics discussed in the booth and sharing valuable content is also important and will ultimately help the potential customer understand why they should choose you as a partner. 

For more tips on this tradeshow season, read this blog post.

Push your brand’s reach beyond the exhibit hall

An attractive, strategically designed booth and a prepared sales team are crucial elements for tradeshow success. However, the dizzying array of other booths in the exhibit hall can make it challenging to stand out. Give your company an advantage on the floor through an integrated strategy that begins before the show to build familiarity and trust in potential customers. Utilizing a robust marketing automation tool before, during and after the show, along with other integrated efforts, will maximize tradeshow ROI.

Here are six essential tips for using marketing automation to its fullest potential throughout the process.

Get a head start. Let current clients and potential customers know you will be at an event by developing targeted email blasts that link to a dedicated tradeshow landing page. That page will encourage attendees to register for an event or sign up for a show appointment.

Nurture interest. Segment potential customers and current clients and provide relevant content to each group based on their industry, key pain points, where they are in the buying process, etc.

Develop a cohesive campaign. Integrate the campaign with other elements such as direct mail, social media and your company’s blog. Before you direct traffic there, ensure corporate collateral is up-to-date and ready for distribution at the show.

Capture data faster. Employ a landing page in kiosk mode on a tablet where attendees input their information directly to the marketing automation tool for post-show follow-up. There are also fun and engaging photo scanning tools that capture business card information and automatically convert the image into digital text for instant uploading.

Stay top of mind. Segment and decide which potential customers are most important. Assign sales-ready contacts to reps for personalized, individual follow-up emails to thank them for stopping by and provide them with valuable content to keep them interested. Place less-developed contacts in a thought leadership/educational campaign to keep your company top of mind.

Measure your efforts. After putting time into planning your presence at the event, marketing automation can make it easier for you to track, measure and report on your event’s performance.

At HIMSS18 or the next event you attend, make sure to utilize a marketing automation tool to promote your presence before, during and after the event and gain the most value from your experience.

Stay social to establish familiarity and trust at tradeshows

The exhibit hall is not the only place where you can connect with potential customers. Social media, especially when attendees participate in an “of-the-moment” event, is very effective at gaining attention and making a positive impression, says Jennifer Dennard, Digital Diva at HIStalk, founder of the #healthITchicks community on Twitter and LinkedIn, and social media expert, in a Q&A. Live posts, along with scheduled updates, can be used effectively before, during and after the tradeshow for maximum impact. Here’s what Dennard recommends:

Follow the hashtags. Hashtags on Twitter related to the event let you know what’s happening, big news and other things people are talking about online and off. That’s why Dennard recommends following and using hashtags in tweets—or even creating your own to generate your own following. Participating in these hashtags is especially effective if you can interact online in a genuine, unscripted way with a person involved in the news or major announcements. This not only links your company to the buzz at the show, but it also builds trust with a potential customer viewing this online exchange by demonstrating authenticity in the post.

Schedule selectively. Social media, especially Twitter, moves fast, so scheduling posts too far in advance can make a tweet seem stale, even if it was created the day before. “I tend to keep it loose when it comes to plans of attack,” Dennard says. Certainly, promoting scheduled booth presentations or other events are appropriate, but otherwise, try to stay in real time when tweeting during tradeshows. The fluid nature of real-time tweets lends a personal touch to social networking and builds trust.

Top of stream, top of mind. Depending on the scope of the tradeshow, you will want to start posting related tweets up to a month in advance, especially if you’re trying to encourage attendance at a presentation or a networking event. In some cases, the tweet stream will get so deep that it doesn’t hurt to start early in order to stand out. For smaller, regional events, Dennard recommends starting the week before to project thought leadership and capture attention.

Think visual. Text-based tweets and Facebook posts are faster to consume than video, but video or photos always win in terms of impact and retention. “I tend to gravitate towards tradeshow-related content that captures of-the-moment insight and/or pictures,” Dennard says. Videos, however, need to be short to ensure your audience will view them. In fact, video based social media platforms, such as Snapchat, limit video length to 10 seconds or less. Although most healthcare professionals are probably not using Snapchat yet, most of your audience will not want to watch something on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn on their smartphones for more than 30 seconds. Anything longer should link to your web page or your YouTube channel.

Ride the momentum. Tradeshow attendees follow hashtags and related content for several days—sometimes weeks—after the event has ended, so continuing to post related tweets and other content after the show is appropriate. A post-show strategy, such as developing a blog recap, a Storify of favorite tweets, an infographic related to major themes, a podcast and other content, is also important. “The great thing about social networking is that the possibilities are pretty infinite as long as you have strategy and metrics attached,” Dennard says.

Measure the impact. Speaking of metrics, companies should be tracking how many impressions your social media posts are making on your audience. There are numerous tools available, such as Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics, as well as third-party applications, to assist with this analysis. To demonstrate ROI to senior management, be sure to tag contacts through a social media platform when entered into a marketing database. If the potential customer is converted to a client, then that sale can be directly attributable to the social media outreach.

Whether you’re traveling to Orlando for HIMSS18 or holding down the fort at the office, social media is an indispensable tradeshow marketing tool to get in front of key potential customers, build trust and stay connected long after the show is over.