How advocate marketing can explode your event marketing ROI

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Engage your happy customers to squeeze more value from your trade show investments

The challenge
In the post-crisis economy, day-to-day work pressures and continuing travel bans mean that attendance rates at many industry trade shows remain low. Couple this with rising event costs and tight event marketing budgets and what you have is a perfect storm. The job of bringing home a stack of quality leads is tougher than ever before, but the expectation is always to “do better than last year”. So, in an environment where you have to do more with less, and in the face of increasing competition for the attention of attendees, how can you deliver the goods? How do you get attention, drive prospects to your stand and turn them into sales-ready leads?

Lead with customer presentations
At many trade events, organizers prioritize customer presentations over vendor presentations, as authentic customer talking about real-world challenges – and how they have solved them – are a strong draw for attendees. Customer presentations are a great way to get your brand and your solutions in front of a large audience. When your customers speak, people listen: their content is gold because it’s real and it’s trusted. If they’re facing the same challenge, they’ll want to talk to the vendor who have helped them achieve success – driving traffic to your stand for conversations and demos. A brand advocacy solution will help you to engage customers to tell their stories at trade events. In return for promoting your brand, they get the chance to speak at industry event: a valuable career-enhancing opportunity.

Get customers on your stand
When it comes to sales power, your customers can sell better than your best sales person. Where having a customer present in a track session will get your brand in front of a large group of people, getting a customer on your stand allows for more intimate group presentations and two-way conversation with prospects. With a bit of coordination leading up to the event, there may also be opportunities to push a few deals over the line: if you can arrange face-to-face meetings between known prospects and customers on your stand, or in a nearby cafe.

Engage customers (and employees) to promote the event
If you want to spread the word about your stand or your customer presentations, engaging customers and employees to share information via social media can help you increase your reach and get the message in front of a wider audience. Even if some of your customers won’t be at the event, they’ll have people within their social networks who will be.

Capture video testimonials
Trade events are a great opportunity for face-time with your customers and having a video camera ready means you get the chance to take home a set of fresh customer testimonial videos for your website and YouTube. A good tactic is to contact customers in advance, offering them VIP event swag (not available to others) and a couple of beers if they visit your stand at the end of the day (beer works wonders for customers who may be nervous about talking on-camera). They’ll usually be buzzing with enthusiasm from the event and eager to carry on the conversation.

Encourage post-event referrals
At the event, your customers will have been busy networking with their peers – having conversations about the challenges they share and how they’ve approached them. Brand advocacy solutions let you tap into these newly forged relationships and conversations (e.g. where a customer has met a prospect who faces the same challenge you’ve already helped them solve). Follow up with customers who were at the event to surface these opportunities and ask them to make a recommendation on your behalf to break the ice.

Plan in advance
Whichever tactics you plan on using it pays to plan ahead. Finding out which of your customers will be attending a trade show is step number one, allowing you to see who you might be able to work with. If there is a customer you really want to work with at an event, but they can’t get there because of budget restrictions, offering a pre-paid event ticket can remove a barrier to getting them there.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you want. You have to consider what motivates your customers and what value you can offer them in exchange. Preferences will vary: some of your customers will jump at the chance to speak in front of an audience. Others will shy away from the idea. Matching customers to event-oriented challenges relies on knowing your customers. Engage early. Build relationships with customers who will be attending the event. And tailor your challenges and rewards to ensure mutual value in all instances.