For the majority of outdoor industry companies, creating digital sales strategies for the outdoor industry still includes trades shows. After accounting for their sales costs, the costs of trade shows are one of their most significant line items in their annual marketing budgets. As the costs of trade shows continue to rise, to many managers, trade shows are, at best, a necessary evil, to be endured rather than exploited. When was the last time you accurately measured the success of an event, let alone proven positive ROI? Enter atEvent, “the most comprehensive Event Lead Automation Platform. (atEvent) connects pre-event, at event, and post-event prospect engagement to accelerate sales velocity.”
I would venture to guess it’s been a challenge at your organization, and yet you continue to invest in events, year after year. If attending trade shows is still a "must do" in your marketing program then you need a tool like atEvent. For example, this app allows you to plan, integrate data directly into your CRM, execute on site, deliver immediate personalized follow-up through segmented workflows, and calculate a "cost of lead acquisition" in real time. Regardless of how optimistic about the results you will achieve from participating in trade shows, if you are not collecting and tracking your lead data accurately, and if this data is not the determining factor for which events you attend as an exhibitor, you are not only missing the boat but possibly sinking it. It's the data and its use that determines whether your optimism was warranted or foolish.
It's natural to experience an increase in cost over time, however, according to a case study cited by the Advocacy Committee of the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA), between 1996 and 2013 installation and dismantle labor costs increased by 21 percent and material handling (drayage) increased by 257 percent. Enterprises typically spend 20-30% of their marketing budgets on events, and yet are often saddled with hard-to-use and inefficient lead-capture devices that do little to maximize the return on their event investment.
While marketing automation remains a major priority for marketers, less than 20% indicated that they are fully integrating marketing automation into their current sales and marketing initiatives, including trade show events.
In this age of digital marketing for outdoor brands where e-commerce and dealer sales still co-exist, when a potentially attractive marketing tool offers face-to-face dealer contact coupled with the allure of increased sales, trade show staff should embrace sales enablement solutions like this automating app, even if not eagerly.
Challenges of trade show programs
The majority of the outdoor industry still participates in trades shows like Outdoor Retailer/Snow Show, Shot Show, Outdoor Retailer Summer Show, Interbike, and Paddlesports Show. However the bulk of the sales work comes at the various regional trade shows across the country, shows for buyer groups and national shows such as the Grassroots Alliance Show. In today's changing retail landscape, outdoor industry exhibitors face overcoming numerous challenges to make them pay off. These challenges include:
- Making sure you and your sales/marketing team actually get all the collected business cards into your CRM in a timely manner.
- Follow-up is not only timely, it is personalized to interests, requests and nurturing efforts already prepared prior to the trade show
- Information historically controlled by outside sales representatives you use is migrated directly to your own dealer contact file through the use of on-site information capture when they visit your booth.
- Unknown effectiveness—the marketing return per dollar spent.
- Difficulty of measuring efficiency—the effectiveness of these events compared with other marketing communications tools, such as inbound marketing, direct-to-consumer sales or advertising.
- High and rising costs of participation.
- You have prepared lead questions prior to the show, but some new developments in the industry dictate making some changes in the few weeks prior and you want to make sure those you are targeting know you are on top of industry intelligence chain? How do you communicate this to them?
- A growing feeling that shows are less about taking orders than image and saying "hello."
To overcome these challenges, it is critical to measure your trade show effectiveness in terms of these types of objectives:
- The number of leads generated from a show
- The quantity of actual sales from these leads
- The cost per lead generated
- The feedback about the show subsequently given to you from the sales force
“Measurement is 100% dependent on your ability to plan and to execute,” — Erin Bohlin, Sirius Decisions Research Director
The reason ROI is often hard to prove can be narrowed down to three common pitfalls.
Not Linking Event Goals to Outcomes
At the root of the problem are a failure to tie event planning, management, and execution strategies directly to the success criteria. If your goal is to accelerate existing leads through the pipeline, what systems have you set up to enable this? Tying the goals of your event to your measurement criteria is critical to successful sales enablement for outdoor companies.
Outdated Lead Capture Techniques
Even if an organization has keyed in on its event goals, they often use outdated methods of capturing lead information. Sales teams spend hours taking notes and manually inputting information into their marketing automation systems. This leads to lack of appropriate follow-up and lead leakage, taking a toll on ROI. Automating the lead capture process allows the sales team to do what they do best: focus on their relationships.
Lack of Event Insight and Intelligence
How do you know what went well at an event, and what could go better next time? The best tools allow you to review trending topics and follow-up actions, cost per lead, covered account activity, and company user productivity—so you can make better decisions at the next event to optimize your ROI.
atEvent was built on the idea that events should bring a wealth of qualified leads, not a load of technology headaches. They believe your event lead automation solution should be easy to use, easy to train, and flexible enough to cater to enterprise needs. It is all based on the alignment of using cutting- edge digital technology to easily capture trade show sales intelligence that allows you to execute a contact follow-up strategy to provide sales-ready leads.
Create a Strong Path from Event Planning to Sales
This scenario may seem like a far-off dream, but much of it can be accomplished today. The key? Event planning, marketing, and sales need to focus on pre-event, at-event, and post-event efforts that drive sales-ready leads.
Here’s what this alignment around sales-ready leads should look like:
Event sales intelligence is the currency of these efforts. From event planning to follow up, it provides marketing and sales the insights they need to move prospects down the sales path faster.
Here is a quick look at a few key features of the tool.
What Is Event Sales Intelligence?
Like its cousin in the marketing automation arena—sales intelligence—event sales intelligence is data that gives sales reps the insight they need to move the sales conversation forward. The event part is that this information is gathered at events.
Event sales intelligence might include:
- Designating visitors by type (dealer, media, rep, supplier, etc.)
- Using the topics (questions) tool to indicate the interest you want to track by category, by specific products, etc.
- Using the follow-up action(s) tool to immediately link the above information to a specific follow-up you want to take place (send certain information, follow-up call, set-up a meeting, place them in a nurturing campaign, etc.)
- Using the additional notes tool to record specific information not covered by the topics about the interaction you team had with each visitor they want to track
atEvent integrates with platforms like HubSpot. As a HubSpot user, I have found it works amazingly well. Here are some key examples of how you can integrate the atEvent app into your marketing efforts in an automated marketing platform like HubSpot to take full advantage of the tool (and full advantage of the leads gathered from tradeshows):
Use-Case #1: Build smart lists that are automatically populated with leads synced over from a specific event.
How to do it in HubSpot: if you attended the “ABC Tradeshow”, you set up a HubSpot smart list ahead of time called “ABC Tradeshow Leads” that enrolls contacts based off of an atEvent property and then also use this list for a workflow to set a custom HubSpot “Tradeshow” or “Lead Source” contact property for segmentation and attribution based off of the information synced over from atEvent. Eventually, if one of the leads attributed to that tradeshow from that list or tagged with that contact property become an opportunity and then have a closed deal associated with them in the sales pipeline, you can track revenue generated versus the cost of the lead from the tradeshow to gauge ROI.
Use-Case #2: Build nurturing workflows based off of topics and follow-up actions entered in for the tradeshow lead through atEvent
How to do it in HubSpot (using topics): if a pre-loaded topic your sales team talked to the lead at the trade show about and documented in atEvent was “What category of products are you interested in?” "What are the specific products in X category you are interested in adding?" or “What is currently your biggest in moving our products?”, then you would take that information and automatically enroll them into nurturing workflow sequences that addressed the products (services) they were interested in or the challenges they were facing.
How to do it in HubSpot (using follow-up actions): if the sales person marked the lead as someone with a follow-up action “Ready to Book a Sales Meeting” instead of “Needs to be Enrolled in Nurturing Sequence”, a reminder task would automatically be set for the appropriate salesperson to follow up and book a meeting with that lead in the HubSpot CRM.
Use-Case #3: Help make the sales team’s job easier by automating the first couple of touches during and after the tradeshow
How to do it in HubSpot: after the lead was added into atEvent during the tradeshow, you could delay a workflow enrollment by 1 hour. At that time the contact would be sent a simple follow-up email letting the lead know that the salesperson really enjoyed speaking with them and hoped that they would enjoy the rest of their time at the tradeshow that week. That way, the lead would still remember who the person was and what they talked about and could stay top of mind since they were still at the tradeshow and had just spoken a mere hour ago. They would then get enrolled in whatever the next step would be based on of the follow-up action the salesperson indicated for timely and effective nurturing or follow-up after the tradeshow.
As marketers, business owners, sales professionals, and tradeshow attendees, we’re all trying to find ways to make our jobs easier, be more successful at what we do, and make more money. Integrating a tool like atEvent with your marketing platform and CRM will make your tradeshow efforts more worthwhile, which allows you to do all three.
The outdoor industry continues to spend significant dollars on participating in trade shows that have historically provided the primary avenue for moving products through retail dealers. Even though the landscape in which consumers are purchasing products is undergoing shifts away from buying through traditional retailers, they still hold an important place for many outdoor brands.
In this landscape, outdoor brands must be even more vigilant in making sure they are getting a return on their trade show investment. Utilizing new technology that integrates directly into the company's CRM and provides a means for automated marketing is a tool worth investigating. Although change is always challenging, getting your team to start leveraging event apps that are fully integrated with your preferred CRM and marketing automation tools is critical to improving trade show ROI. The atEvent app will allow your trade show team to capture critical prospect intelligence, and then quickly and easily close leads once the event is over.
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