Chartwell just returned from the 2018 Tri-State Healthcare Marketing and PR Conference (where we were also speakers) and we’re getting ready to head to the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) 2018 Conference in a couple weeks (come see us at booth #921!). While we’ve been very fortunate to have a robust network of thrilled customers driving new business referrals, we’ve taken a step onto the national stage with appearances at conferences like these which begs the question – are trade shows worth the trade off of time, budget and staff resources? Our answer? Yes, if you are willing to work for it.
Here are some of our rules to make the most of the trade show calendar.
Your work starts well before and ends well after the event.
Working a conference or trade show is more than being available during the exhibit hours. Exhibitor floors are noisy halls full of marketing bravado, limitless tchotchkes and row after row of the “latest and greatest.” To stand out and enjoy the opportunities to connect meaningfully with the individuals that would benefit most from your relationship, carefully review, qualify and begin courting your top prospects well before the show. Then after the show, timely, personal follow-ups with your top leads ensure you get the opportunity to more fully develop those meaningful relationships. Having a plan for pre-, during- and post-show activities will help realize a return on your investment.
Being authentic to your brand is a marketing mantra, but there is temptation to compete on your competition’s terms when face-to-face at a trade show. Don’t do meaningless giveaways because everyone else does them. Don’t deck out your booth with bells and whistles because others have gadgets. Do think about what’s important for attendees to know about you – and communicate that in a way that feels original, yet authentic to your organization.
Venture away from your booth.
Some of the best conversations we’ve had at industry events happen away from the booth. Depending on what the conference allows and what your staffing can cover, make it to the mixers, attend a few sessions and find opportunities to hang out casually with attendees. At the very least, you’ll have the opportunity to hear directly from attendees what their “real” problems are. At best, an informal conversation could lead to a working relationship.
You also can plan to connect with prospects and clients outside of official exhibit hours. Meet for coffee, take them out for drinks or host a reception. Maximize your time together while everyone is in the same city (or hotel)!
Think beyond the attendees.
Not all of the leads from a conference come from the attendee list. Trade shows are gatherings of influencers, leaders and potential partners in your industry. Think beyond the attendee list to drive value. Are there important media representatives that will be attending? If so, see if you can get some face time with that reporter who covers your beat. Are there companies exhibiting that would make strong strategic partners? Connect with them to learn more about how working together could be mutually beneficial.
Give back – no strings attached.
If your organization has valuable information and insight to share, submit an abstract and present a session at the conference. When delivering your content, remember that attendees are there to learn, not listen to a 60-minute sales pitch. You’ll certainly stand out more as the amazing speaker on a topic than another exhibitor jostling for attention. Keep your content relevant and valuable and attendees will seek you out.
Trade shows represent a significant investment of cost and staff time, yet they can be valuable tools to position your brand, enhance your reach, interact with clients and drive prospects to your business. If you would like some help making the most of your upcoming trade show calendar, Chartwell has helped clients plan conference events, develop pre- and post- show mailers, design booths, coordinate media meet-and-greets, decide on branded premiums and more.