I am a marketing person and a nerd. Shocking I know. I will hack all the things, including your bottom line.
A few nights ago my wife asked me, “When you go to tradeshows, what is the ROI?” Well in our case the results are mixed. But direct ROI is not the only reason you go. I would argue its a small part of it.
I would say the major reasons you go to a trade show are:
- Direct ROI
- Market Research
- To get your team in front of live people
While explaining all of this, I described the types of people you meet at these shows. I think this conversation nicely highlights the indirect return you get from trade shows.
Customers and Prospects
Most online businesses haven’t the slightest clue about who their customers are. After all we are limited to looking at database rows and analytics data. That does not really tell you a lot about who these people are and what drives them.
Sure you could commission a market research firm to tell you they are between the ages of X and Y, are M and F, have some amount of money, like some things, shop some places….. But does that really tell you how to talk to them? Does it reveal what might be stopping them from buying? Does it really tell you why they like you now? I would contend that meeting your customers face to face is the best way to understand them. Then when you go home you can run more effective ad campaigns, design better products and generally make more money.
You are also building a personal connection with these people. The rank and file trade show visitor may not buy after talking to you. But you have probably put yourself on the “evoked set”. And hopefully when they are talking with their friends they will say nice things about you. Furthermore, if they every have problems, hopefully they will be far willing to let you solve the problem before they up and move to your competition, not to mention blast you on twitter. You should think of everyone of these people as future brand champions.
Oh and finally, if you meet one of your customers and they came in via one of your advertising programs, celebrate with them. They like the attention and you learn. Remember ‘Your next customer looks a lot like your last customer’.
Most shows are swarming with media. Now if you read this and think, newspaper, tv, radio… well you probably are not reading my blog. It’s new and cretaceous period media. Bloggers and Podcasters are welcome. Spend time with the media. Build personal connections. Talk about the industry. Did I say build a personal connection?
A note on new media (blogs/podcasts): bloggers, in my experience, tend to cultivate a smaller, devoted, niche audience. These audience members are a lot more emotionally involved with the blogger. Hence when the blogger makes a recommendation, that audience internalizes it much deeper than say a favorable mention on local TV. Furthermore, these audiences can and will turn on you if you scorn them. Usually they are very vocal. So, embrace new media and dedicate yourself to satisfying the audience.
The goal is next time they have a story about your industry, they call you. Also having the warm fuzzies for your product would not hurt. Secondarily, this is an excellent opportunity to feel out sponsorship opportunities.
Meeting your competition is always an interesting experience. Sometimes it’s of limited value. Likely the people from your competition will not want to tell you a whole lot, outside of what they tell customers. But with careful questioning you can put their actions into context. Or if you are lucky they WILL just tell you what is going on.
GoDaddy for example, at OSCON, mentioned their major goal is to rebrand themselves as a tech company. This put their newest ads into context. Sure we would have correctly assumed this from watching their marketing, but having it explicitly stated removes a variable from the equation.
Go Forth and Schmooze