With B2B companies spending roughly one-fifth of their marketing budgets on trade shows (Forrester) and the arrival of attractive online channels, the value of these investments is sometimes called into questioned: “Do we really need to attend at ALL of these venues?” “Are we getting good ROI?” All valid questions. Yet many brands still find them an invaluable way to build relationships, increase brand exposure, collect qualified leads, secure deals and deliver a memorable brand experience. They also worry that if they don't attend a key event, their worst competitors will be there.
“Few things can replace the physical meeting,” says Henrik Sund, Account Director at Open. “If customers can physically interact with your booth, talk to your experts and have an unforgettable sensory brand experience, you can reach them on a whole new level.”
Strategic first, then tactical
The starting point, according to Sund, is taking a unified strategic approach in which the entire booth theme, design, speaker program, messaging hierarchy and tonality are all carefully mapped out to support the company’s customer-centric strategy. “Once these elements are in place, we look for ways to mix physical, digital and social tools with targeted messaging to build engagement – before, during and after the event.".
Using a hot topic to boosting traffic
As an example, he cites the case of high-tech engineering group Sandvik, which wanted to increase traffic, buzz and brand engagement at a big trade show. The agreed theme of “avoiding sigma phase” was highly technical, but a hot topic in the stainless materials business. This intermetallic compound, which exists in stainless steel under elevated temperatures, is something to be avoided at all costs since it deteriorates material properties (thus the need for Sandvik premium grades).
Three days, 600 customers
To dramatize Sandvik's deep materials expertise in this area and the benefits of their materials, Open developed a touch-screen game called The Sigma Phase Challenge. Using two screens, visitors were challenged to compete with each other to “press out” sigma phase crystals that popped up, with winners’ scores listed. In just three days, more than 600 customers played the game, generating a lot of buzz and many qualified sales leads. But more than just leads (not always the main focus in larger B2B deals), it left attendees with a strong mental brand impression for months to come.