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Big opportunities at today’s trade shows

  Whether taking a stand at an internationally renowned trade exhibition or a small niche show, businesses ultimately exhibit for one reason: to generate new business sales. Companies are increasingly allocating a greater portion of their marketing budgets to trade shows, recognising their value as a key source for leads. Yet few truly capitalise on the enormous potential for media exposure and outreach that these shows present. Social media, search, video, fast turnaround on trade publications and the realisation that thought leadership and industry insight is often a better way to engage potential business leads than pushy sales collateral, has empowered businesses to move trade show engagement beyond a meagre stand, banner and flyer hand-outs. However, it also means that these exhibitions have started to resemble multichannel “who can shout the loudest” contests, with companies competing to share and shove as much “content” into the hands, feeds, inboxes, eyes and ears of trade journalists and attendees as possible. They are fighting two battles- one against competitors to rise above the noise and one against the journalists’ time pressures. It is therefore more crucial than ever that companies are well prepared and strategic in their approach to trade shows in order to be genuinely engaging, attention grabbing and get the maximum return of investment. Advanced liaison with journalists is essential in order to guarantee their time and attention at these events. Trade journalist schedules at exhibitions are incredibly busy and the demands on them are great. Many are now expected to turnaround “live publications”, filling some 60 page magazines with accounts of the day ready to be published and handed out the following morning. This was the case for gambling title Intergame’s “ICE Daily” which was compiled and distributed at break-neck speed each day of this year’s three day global gaming trade show held in London, ICE, where Lansons supported a number of clients. Others are increasingly using video content, recording live interviews and broadcasting these on large screens in exhibition centres and then placing them on publication websites. Again, we saw this happening at ICE this year used as an exciting way to capture the action of the show and the conversations that were happening, as well as at the A+A European Health and Safety trade show in Dusseldorf where we supported a client launching new products in November last year. By liaising with attending media well in advance of an event, businesses can gauge what will be of interest and secure a place in journalists’ schedules and have a share of voice in the “live publications” and video recordings, as well as the magazine and online issues that precede, coincide and review and reflect on the events. Businesses also need to produce their own content to engage and excite the media and business prospects, and too many still rely on a standard press pack with information on a new product or service that is being launched, which is unlikely to secure them an interview or page space. Amongst the hustle and bustle of hundreds or even thousands of new products and services being launched at these events, business collateral needs to have cut through by adding value. Market insight that emphasises the need for the new product- such as a piece of industry research- or tying the launch to a major recent news angle might just make the difference. Exhibitions are also the perfect arena for creating company content as well as distributing it. Filming the event from the business’s perspective and blogging on the panel discussions is a way of increasing impact and presence at an event. And of course, social media is the king of content distribution and provides the ultimate opportunity to join and lead conversations and gain new followers. All networks and tools- blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube etc. – should be used to raise awareness of a business’s attendance in advance of an exhibition, but the most exciting opportunity comes at the event itself. Almost every exhibition now promotes its own hashtag allowing Twitter users to instantly find all tweets related to that exhibition- for example the already well used #IFB2014 for the Liverpool hosted International Festival of Business which is taking place this summer. The fact is, if companies and individuals don’t engage in these Twitter conversations they will happen without them and their opinions will go unheard. Multichannel communications have revolutionised trade shows and the impact a company can make by attending. By preparing a strong strategy that considers journalist engagement, content creation, content dissemination and social conversations, businesses can truly take advantage of the huge opportunity that today’s B2B exhibitions represent for them.