Events, conferences and trade shows are immensely popular in the science, chemical and healthcare sectors. They provide an opportunity for professionals across organisations to meet with others who share common interests.
An opportunity as such is also extremely attractive to the science marketing professional as it gives the marketer a pool of potential customers to connect with, as well as a pool of competitors to collect intelligence. But they do not happen often – usually annually. So, it’s essential that science marketers get the most out of these events.
11 marketing strategies and tactics for event marketing success
In a 2017 study, C&EN Magazine found that 40% of scientific buyers said networking and word of mouth were important when evaluating potential suppliers, with 32% citing science conferences and events as a way of learning about new products and technologies. Therefore, it’s essential that marketing, as well as other business development professionals, make the most of this unique opportunity to research the market, build relationships and generate leads.
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Whether you’re visiting the event as a delegate or showcasing your products as an exhibitor, here are 11 tactics to consider:
1. The build-up will determine the success of the event presence
The pre-show preparation is a hugely important element for an exhibitor or delegate. Of course, the exhibitor will partake in management and administration tasks in the first instance. But also, the promotional build-up is a critical element, which can take various forms and will include various elements of the marketing mix.
Coordination with the sales teams is required here, as the event will be an opportunity to build relationships with current prospects and customers alike. An event as such will also be another opportunity to re-connect with disengaged prospects. This business development push should start months in advance of the show to ensure a busy meeting calendar. Busy exhibitor stands also attract other delegates.
2. Create an event within an event
Nine times of ten, during a large conference, small events and gatherings will happen throughout. Creating your own event within the conference or trade show is a great way to excite delegates, clients and partners to get them coming back to you and your organisation. People are always happy to experience new things in these environments and are likely to accept invitations as such.
Breakfast briefings, show and tells, contests, VIP parties and drinks receptions happen all the time in locations on and off-site and are often where relationships are strengthened. This is great for both exhibitors and delegates as it provides an intimate setting for one-to-one conversations and should always be considered.
3. Consider speaking opportunities
Speaking opportunities provide an opportunity to get out there in front of target audiences, positioning yourself as a thought leader that in turn creates opportunities for discussions with those target audiences. Speaking slots at events are usually accompanied by other event-based exposure from the organisers which is also worth considering.
If speaking opportunities aren't for you, perhaps because of budget or suitability, then assess the agenda and speaker line-ups to identify if a suitable prospect/client is speaking and listen to the keynote. Striking up a conversation with the speaker after the keynote is a great way to connect with someone on a professional and personal level.
4. Embrace social media
Social media will play an important role before, during and after the show. It will help drive the promotion of the exhibitor’s presence, it will signpost all that’s going on from the organisation’s perspective and it will also provide a one-to-one channel to connect with attendees.
Marketers, as well as sales professionals, should use social media at all times for engagement with target audiences. Designate a social media person for the event, but also encourage other team members to become active (even if it is for the duration of the event). Monitor keywords, hashtags (maybe even create your own), exhibitors and organisers and start sharing your own content and engaging with others’.
Using a link shortener like Rebrandly to create branded links for your event will help to create consistency across your social media platforms - you can also use the dashboard's analytics function to track engagement on the links to see which of your posts are performing best.
5. Focus on lead generation (in a variety of ways)
By exhibiting at a worldwide conference or show, your organisation will naturally build brand awareness via the supporting communications the event organisers will conduct. Of course, further sponsorship and promotional opportunities will arise to increase brand awareness, but they will not result in generating more leads. And leads, qualified enquiries, business cards and email addresses, are what exhibitors will use to measure the effectiveness of an event.
This is the focus of the event manager or the marketing professional. An exhibitor should have a number of activities and tactics in place to be able to generate the maximum amount of leads (warm and cold). Lead scanners and competitions help here, and offering drinks, snacks and on-stand activities help bring prospects to the stand. Always be wary of GPDR compliance when handling data.
6. Incorporate one flagship element for the stand
Every conference and trade show exhibitor should formulate a “flagship” element for their stand. A unique and well-crafted stand piece has the ability to generate tremendous word of mouth, that gets the event organisers talking about (and promoting) your stand, that also catches the attention of passers-by who just cannot help coming to the stand.
The potential scope here is vast – however, the best stand elements that generate attention are visual. For CPhI last year in Madrid, Orientation Marketing client Schott showcased an impressive life-sized elephant on an LED display that spanned the stand and stood out as far as the eye could see. The elephant was there, walking across the screen and over 20,000 of Schott’s new glass vials to demonstrate their strength.
For delegates, if you have identified an exhibitor with a flagship piece, introduce yourself and ask questions regarding the visual element. You will quickly begin a conversation. “Nice elephant!”
7. Don’t be afraid to “stand drop”
Dropping by exhibitor stands (with the view of building relationships and/or promoting your organisation) can seem like a daunting task. Of course, they have invested the money in exhibiting and are looking to generate business themselves so could be likely to disregard your approach. However, there is a code to follow that can lead to successful introductions, and therefore, leads.
First, never look to conduct a cold stand drop in the morning of the event. Exhibitors will have a diary full of meetings to work through with the majority happening during mornings – they won’t have time for you during this stressful period. But in the afternoon, when stand traffic tends to slow down, drop by to say hello and introduce yourself. Ask questions about the exhibitor and find out who deals with purchasing and the supply chain. If they are absent, ask for a name or email.
8. Get your message on point
I have visited conferences as an exhibitor and a delegate in the past and have often found myself being sold to. One of the big mistakes I witness is that those selling to me haven’t really considered what they are trying to say to me, and whether I’m the right fit organisation for what they are pitching. Never have those pitches been a success. Doing your homework in this respect is hugely important.
An “elevator pitch” should be devised and memorised, with the specific messages and unique selling propositions communicated during that introductory pitch. If you are about to approach an exhibitor to pitch, spend a few minutes researching the organisation so there is common ground in the conversation. If you are exhibiting, develop that same elevator pitch with the view of inviting the delegate to learn more on the stand.
9. Keep one eye on your competitors
Not everyday organisations get an opportunity to come face-to-face with competitors, find out what they are doing, what their marketing strategies are and who the key client-facing people are. But events, conferences and trade shows provide this. Both event organisers and delegates should put some time aside, maybe during more quiet periods or towards the end of the shows, to do some competitor investigation.
The idea of stepping onto competitor territory is daunting, however, it can be done in a professional and inquisitive manner. In realistic terms, unless your identity is hidden, you might not gain access to information that could influence competitive advantage. But science professionals will still speak to you and you can still find out what products they have and what marketing materials and literature they produce.
10. Promotional items are still a win-win
Branded promotional items are probably the oldest trick in the marketer’s event handbook. There is a reason for this: A valuable and relevant item, which serves a real purpose, will be picked up from the stand and taken home. That item, featuring your organisation or brand name, will then be on display and will constantly remind the owner of your organisation. Branded items also attract delegates to the stand in the first place.
Delegates themselves could also incorporate branded items into their stand drop efforts. Following similar guidelines, as long the item is useful, creative and isn’t too big, a delegate can leave the item with a prospect after a successful introduction. The new owner of the item will more likely take notice of your follow-up message if you have already given them something of value.
11. Follow up And Reflect
After the event is wrapped up, and the hard work is completed, enters the next phase: the follow-up, which might well be more important than the event itself. Event marketers and delegates will have generated a list of prospects and contacts that require getting in touch with again, to further discuss elements of the original conversations and to progress those conversations across the traditional buyer’s journey/sales funnel. Strangely enough, this process is often completely overlooked.
Set aside a number of days to work through the leads generated, qualifying them in terms of suitability and importance, and working through a process of reaching out to the contact, be it via email, calls or social media, or all three, to schedule next-steps meetings. Also, don't forget to collect feedback for the event itself, in the form of a post-event survey.
A well-planned event strategy will ensure success, every time
The tips above will help you, the science marketer, get the most out of your next event, conference or trade show, regardless if you are exhibiting or visiting as a delegate. And having digested the above, you will avoid one of the most common pitfalls of attending events as such: Not having a pre-show, show and post-show plan.
Each of the above tactics can be combined to form a strategy that, if well prepared, the science marketer can rely on to always ensure a successful event or show presence and generating leads and prospects that are willing to hear from you again and do business with you. More importantly, you have potentially started the process of building relationships for life. That should never be forgotten in the B2B science industries where the supply chain is long and complex with cross-overs and strategic partnerships present.
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