Going to an expo, fair or specialised event with your startup can be a pretty big decision, both in terms of money and time investments. Therefore, once you decide that you need to be present at such an event, getting the best out of it is essential.
One of the greatest challenges is to go beyond the ‘getting exposure’ thing that is being sold by the majority of event organisers and get into a situation where your presence there can bring you some real, bottom line results for your startup. In order to get to such results, first of all you need to be aware and avoid some very common traps. Then, you need a coherent strategy coupled with a strong tactics plan, going from correct objective setting to implementing creative ways to be different and get engagement during the event.
In this essay, I list some of the things every startup should cover and talk about some tactics you can use, giving some cool examples that I saw a few weeks ago at Apps World in Berlin where I accompanied my colleagues from Tapptitude.
There are a few traps you need to get out of in order to create some meaningful results after the participation in an expo
> ‘Everybody trying to sell to everybody’ trap:
You must be aware of the fact that an expo usually gathers people who want to sell their solutions to the visitors and other exhibitors. They are there to get contacts, leads, interest, customers if possible. So, they’ll sell the shit out of you, wherever they see you. Be aware of this and prepare your own strategy taking into account the fact that you need to be different. When everybody is direct selling, you need to do things differently. Sell soft or find a way to not sell at all, but listen and open up relationships.
> ‘Same booth, same approach, same things’ trap:
We’ve seen it all, at every expo: same blues as brand colours, same one tall table, two bar stools, a few rollups, guys in oversized branded t-shirts – same same same boring, undifferentiating booth design. Of course, it’s difficult to predict how other participants will be present in such events, but the strategy should be to really focus on having a strong differentiating element, in order to stand out.
> ‘Too many people, too little time’ trap:
A few weeks ago, I attended Apps World Expo in Berlin and saw directly the struggle the exhibitors had in getting something useful out of such an event. The most striking experience you get when attending such an expo is the exhibitors over-selling to one another. At Apps World Berlin, you could see a huge competitive space on user generating solutions and analytics, with the immediate implications that all the other exhibitors were flooded with their sales proposals.
Before the event
Before the event starts, you should do a few important things that may give you better chances to have a successful presence in such a context.
Establish what the goal of being present there is and set the most important objective. If the goal can be a rather loose statement, like ‘getting leads’ (not exposure, not clients, not partners etc), the objective should be very clear and quantifiable, like: ‘get 20 qualified leads from customer segment C’. Once you establish these very important elements, you will have a clear direction and destination to reach. Based on these, you can now look at how to get there, using your available resources.
Run your conversion scenarios for reaching the objective. You objective should be your final point of destination, but to get there you need to have a pretty good idea about what the intermediary points are and what the conversion steps could be. Let me explain: if you need to get 20 qualified leads at the end of the event, you may want to clarify: what ‘a qualified lead’ means (what is the element that qualifies a lead?), how will the visitors be qualified into leads and non-leads, and what other intermediary steps there are between a non-qualified lead and a qualified one. Basically, to qualify a lead means to confirm the presence of a certain set of characteristics in the visitors, a set of characteristic that makes them fit for your solutions. And to do that, you need to clarify what those characteristics should be and them to find a method to confirm (or infirm) it. In our example, we suppose that only 2% of the visitors will be fit as leads, therefore, to get 20 qualified leads, we’ll need to get in contact with 1000 visitors. Now, that may seem a lot, but it’s good that we know it before, and we can prepare for it.
Prepare the materials and the approaches in communication. During the event, two things will be visible and important: the team and your materials, starting with the design of the stand and finishing with your business cards. Make sure that both stand apart, on one side, and tell your story correctly, on the other side.
During the event
+ be different
At Apps World, I noticed a few stands that were clearly differentiated and had a strong focus on engaging with the visitors. I chose as examples here two brands: Lovoo (a B2C business, discovery & dating app) and Perfecto Mobile (a B2B business, app testing platform). Each of them did at least one thing very well and that set them aside during the event.
How is Lovoo different here?
‘We choose to use very strong visuals that are associated with the brand. We give away cool branded materials that shows the brand around. We have a photo booth where people can take a photo of themselves and we print that for them.’ – Thomas Dittrich, Lovoo
Lovoo had some very cool stuff at their stand, like strong visuals, an interactive photo-taking booth with instant printing of an Instagram style image of yourself, screens, young and smiling people etc. Besides that, they gave away tons of branded freebies, from bags to sunglasses.
+ engage people
Some tactics you can use:
- cookies, soft balls, pens, drinks,
- live creations
At Apps World, there were just a few exhibitors which really had strong engaging tactics and some interesting overall strategies. On B2B Perfecto Mobile did an amazing job in getting people to interact with their offers and create a targeted database. They piggybacked a Star Wars theme and had some cool gifts based on different actions at the stand.
‘We choose to present ourselves here with all the actions around the 5 star wars – the ‘user strikes back’ story. We give away some cool t-shirts for mobile app developers and testers who take a survey. For other visitors, we have a contest that involves taking a selfie with our Star wars mascot and tweet it using our special hashtag’ – Heike Eren, Perfecto Mobile / EMEA Marketing
+ gather contacts
(and make a note about each on, so that you know what is that all about and how you need to follow up)
After the event
- add the contacts in your database, CRM or mailing lists
- follow up
- add to funnels
- nurture leads
Digital Marketing Consultant with companies in the UK, US, Italy and Romania. 8+ years of hands-on experience in Digital Strategy and Online Performance Optimisation.