Trade shows. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. On the one hand, you need to attend to be considered a viable player in the industry. On the other hand, you’re sharing space with hundreds of your biggest competitors—all vying for the attention of people who may not even be the decision-makers you’re trying to reach. On top of that, you’re juggling freight charges, booth fees, hotel charges, entertainment and travel expenses, and (of course) the costs associated with developing a whiz-bang, knock-out, show-stopping trade show promotion.
Whew! So the question is, with all that pain and suffering, how can marketers make it worthwhile? Let’s take a look at how we handled our most recent trade show experience, and the takeaways you might borrow for your own event marketing campaign.
Knowing the needs and challenges of retail industry professionals helped Gilson create a highly targeted pre-show marketing list that included both previous years’ contacts, as well as rented names from GlobalShop. In all, Gilson targeted approximately 300 existing prospects and 1,000 suspects (individuals who had not previously been contacted by Gilson).
Editor’s note: To capitalize on the time and energy already being put into the development of the pre-show campaign, Gilson expanded the target audience to include individuals from non-retail industries. Using versioning and variable data printing, Gilson was able to target three audiences at once. Learn more about the other half of the campaign here.
The Pre-Show Marketing Strategy
For the past four consecutive years, Gilson has attended GlobalShop – the world’s largest annual event for retail design and shopper marketing. In an attempt to ramp up efforts and begin achieving the sort of results that would justify a return trip in 2015, Gilson set a number of goals. As is typical of any event marketing strategy, one of the primary goals was to increase booth traffic and generate qualified sales leads before, during, and after the show.
The sales team also set specific, measurable objectives to achieve within 30 days of the show: schedule three on-site meetings with prospects after the show, and obtain one customer request for a quote from a company with whom Gilson had not previously done business. In addition, the marketing team’s objective was to increase new lead opportunities by a minimum of 25% over the previous year as a result of the pre-show campaign and promotions.
The key to any strong campaign strategy is knowing your audience. Gilson knew that many of the suspects in our list would not be receptive to a generic postcard mailing from an unfamiliar company. Additionally, we knew that the use of multiple touchpoints and incentives are a proven method of driving traffic to data collection sites (in our case, a microsite capturing contact information and the show itself). Gilson set forth with a campaign that would not only generate leads but also demonstrate our capabilities as a full-service integrated marketing provider.
Playing off the success of Gilson’s earlier Lunch and Learn event campaign materials, Gilson built upon the metaphor of a sandwich to illustrate its service capabilities. For this particular audience, Gilson knew it would be important to showcase its end-to-end communications capabilities, up to and including kit-packing, warehousing, and fulfillment.
The campaign consisted of three main components: pre-show, at-show, and follow-up. The pre-show campaign incorporated a die-cut, highly personalized sandwich-themed mailer inside a crystal-clear envelope. The piece included a personalized URL and individual security code that drove traffic to a microsite where the recipient could either request a follow-up marketing piece, or register to redeem an at-show promotion during GlobalShop later that month. Non-attendees would receive a kit packed with a Gilson “sandwich,” complete with all our marketing “ingredients” and a bag of snack chips. Since GlobalShop was hosted in Las Vegas, show attendees who responded would receive the same Gilson sandwich and a casino chip (in lieu of snack chips). Those attending the show could request a floor meeting with a Gilson representative to receive “double the chips.”
The show itself was a key component in gathering lead information. The 10’ x 20’ booth graphics mimicked the look and feel of the pre-show campaign, serving as a recall mechanism for those who received the mailer. Gilson’s booth staff engaged attendees by striking up a conversation about the massive cardboard hoagie and explaining the metaphor of Gilson’s many services using specially made acrylic props—also router-cut to look like sandwich pieces. Attendees who engaged with a Gilson representative were eligible to scan their badge and receive a casino chip, as well as a follow-up kit after the show of their very own Gilson sandwich swatch book and bag of snack chips.
To construct the booth, Gilson met with a local partner, Exhibit Design Consultants, to bring its larger-than-life, sandwich-themed booth concept to fruition. Together, the two groups constructed a custom aluminum extrusion booth frame to support the tri-layered booth graphics. LED lighting created visual interest between the layers and flooded the back wall with color to draw attention to the booth. Gilson printed and CNC router-cut all of the various substrates, which were then affixed to the extrusion using hook-and-loop fasteners. The booth was primarily constructed from Falconboard, Coroplast, Sintra, and Ultraboard, tangibly demonstrating Gilson’s ability to create signage and POP displays out of a variety of substrates—a key point of interest for many retailers.
As each person responded to the campaign, Gilson produced a follow-up kit using full-color variable data printed two-sided. Each customized box contained a bag of snack chips, variable messaging based on the recipient’s responses to the online pURL site, and a set of die-cut sandwich pieces, each describing one of Gilson’s nine marketing “ingredients.” In addition, Gilson’s kit-packing and fulfillment department managed weekly orders for the variable production and assembled the kits, fulfilling the final step of the end-to-end marketing circle.
Not only did the GlobalShop leads receive the follow-up marketing kit, but all show attendees who visited the Gilson booth received a thank you note from their new Gilson account executive. All campaign respondents also received a follow-up phone call, email, or LinkedIn message from the account executive thanking them for their interest, and continuing the dialog about Gilson’s many services. The ultimate goal was to gain an invitation to the prospect’s location for a site visit, to get onto a bid list, or to generate another new business opportunity.
As a result of this integrated marketing program, Gilson experienced a 64.7% increase in unique company leads at the GlobalShop show compared to the previous year—far exceeding the marketing team’s goal of a 25% increase—indicating a significant uptick in booth traffic. While the direct mail campaign only achieved an initial 1.6% response rate, when added to the at-show campaign responses, the entire campaign yielded an impressive 165 kit requests.
The three-person sales team exceeded its goals as well. Each salesperson successfully scheduled three or more on-site meetings with new clients following the event and surpassed the goal of obtaining one new quote opportunity apiece. Combined, the team had seven major quote opportunities within one week of returning from the show, with several more in the pipeline.
With these goals accomplished, Gilson decided not only to attend GlobalShop again in 2015, but also to double our booth size. Time will only tell if we can “top the sandwich”… Hmm… do we taste a potential theme for next year?
For more information on how you can create your own knock-out trade show or event campaign promotion, reach out to your Gilson account rep or click here to send us a note. Don’t forget to check out our feature post “No, we don’t sell sandwiches. It’s a metaphor. Let me explain…”.