I’m going to start with a controversial statement: I’m a firm believer in the power of event marketing. Trade shows, owned events, you name it, I love it.
The statement is controversial because you either wholly agree or disagree – especially in B2B environments. Events are a huge investment in time and money – but when done right, they help generate quality leads, develop existing relationships and do wonders for brand awareness. When done wrong, they leave a terrible taste in everyone’s mouths. That being said, doing an event “right” isn’t as easy as it seems, and to prove my point, here’s a quick/oversimplified list of things marketing teams need to do to ensure event ROI (note: we’re currently going through this list for MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2016).
- Pick the right event for your business
- Start strategizing/planning/coordinating, sometimes up to a year in advance
- Understand the event audience, and develop positioning that resonates
- Design the booth, digital signage, handouts and anything else you can think of
- Develop quick and engaging demo experiences
- Find new and interesting ways to attract people to your booth
- Promote the event on all channels
- Prepare/train internal team
- Set-up the booth and pump up the team
- Solve the weirdest unforeseen problems
- Give visitors a great customer experience
- Promote the event during the event
- Follow-up with contacts after the event
I bolded “give visitors a great customer experience” because it’s one of the defining factors in whether your event is successful. A bad customer experience can negatively influence a prospect’s decision to become a paying customer.
I learned this lesson very quickly during my time at Apple, because it never took much for someone to become a detractor, but it took a whole lot to make them a promoter. Working at Apple for 5 years (2½ of which were as a retail specialist in an Apple Store), has made me the product marketer I am today – and these 3 lessons, in particular, have helped me and my team provide great customer experiences at every show we attend.
What I Learned at Apple
Lesson 1: The Importance of Body Language
Have you ever walked into an Apple Store a couple weeks before the holidays? If you have, you know that customers outnumber employees by extreme margins. If you’ve worked a busy booth during a trade show, you can be faced with a similar challenge. Body language becomes extremely important in making sure the unattended-to wait around to talk to you.
When You’re Busy Remember to:
- Face the Entrance at all Times. It’s easy to get engaged in a good conversation, but always be aware of your surroundings. Make an effort to face the entrance and acknowledge new visitors when they walk in.
- Acknowledge New Visitors. Eye contact, a quick nod and/or smile goes a long way in making visitors feel welcomed. You never know if the person you just stopped from walking out is going to be your next big customer.
Lesson 2: The Power of One-to-Many
Same example as before: you’re extremely busy, and getting to everyone seems impossible. Not to worry. This is where the power of one-to-many comes into play.
How To Engage Multiple People at the Same Time: If you notice that a lot of people are looking at the same thing, talk to all of them at once. Ask them if they’d like to learn more and give them a group overview. This keeps visitors engaged, rather than waiting and potentially leaving.
Lesson 3: The Apple Steps of Service (modified for trade shows)
I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into a booth only to have the representative talk to me for 4-5 minutes about their company without asking me a single question. In fact, this has become common practice for every trade show I have ever attended. This goes against everything I learned at Apple, and every basic sales technique – but everyone does it. Here are some simple tips to help you create exceptional customer experiences.
- Create a connection. Ask visitors about themselves. This helps make the interaction feel less like a sales pitch and more like a conversation.
- Probe for information. Ask questions that will help you understand their situation, their problems and how your solution can provide value.
- Position value against customer needs. Position a solution that’s relevant to your customer’s needs. This way, they’ll remember your brand when they’re ready to make a purchase
- End with a fond farewell and a call-to-action. Let customers know what’s next after they get home from the trade show – for example: setting up a demo, or simply a quick follow-up call. You want them to expect to hear from you, rather than being caught by surprise.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs
Who knew that working at an Apple Store would prove to be so important for my career as a product marketer?
Can’t wait to see everyone at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2016! Stop by Visually booth 309 to say hello and don’t be afraid to give me some feedback on my Apple approach 🙂