I Went to a B2B Trade Show, Was Underwhelmed by Your Presence and Kept Walking

b2b-social-media-trade-showB2B companies make products to solve problems and make their customers’ lives better or easier. B2B service organizations help customers run their businesses more efficiently or more cost effectively. These are noble causes. Sure, if we are successful at it, we make money, but a business product that doesn’t add value to the business is not worth considering.

And social media doesn’t help this problem.

If you have a bad product or service, social media provides both an outlet for frustrated customers and the means to amplify the message further.

So let’s assume that you have an awesome product that solves problems, a great team to provide services, and even a great sales staff to explain the value proposition and close deals. With all that awesomeness in mind, take a look at your trade show presence.

Really take a look at it.

Are you telling a compelling story? Are you enticing prospects to stop by and chat about your great products and services?

Or are you giving away pens and hard candy? Maybe you have progressed to give away squeeze balls in the shape of the world. Maybe you made enough of them that it is in the shape of your logo. These are perfect for the conference attendees who need a gift for their children. I know it has always worked for me. Even as a teenager my daughter still loves kitschy trade show giveaways.

And don’t even get me started on collecting business cards, scanning badges and any other means of gathering leads. “I just need a business card to give you one of those squeeze balls.” What’s the follow-up plan for those leads? Gathering dust on the sales manager’s desk?

Are you building awareness at the top of the funnel? Are you qualifying prospects or are you just trying to hit a metric that someone else imposed on the marketing team?

How about sending them an email newsletter or your latest ebook? It’s better than many of the emails I get. “Thanks for stopping by our booth. Did we tell you how awesome we are while you were there? Can we schedule a phone call with our junior level inside sales person to remind you how awesome we are?” This is not a follow-up plan. This is spam. And nobody will respond.

This is what happens when your only trade show metric is gathering leads rather that acquiring qualified prospects. And it is obvious to everyone who walks by your booth.

Here are 5 tips to change the outcome of your next trade show:

1. Adapt your personas for the trade show audience to make sure you present the correct message to the onsite audience.

2. Focus on qualified prospects as a metric of success, not raw lead numbers.

3. Don’t bother giving away something with no connection to your business that provides no value.

4. Create a true follow-up plan with a timeline, prepared emails and phone scripts and areas of responsibility.

5. Enhance your trade show presence with social media by posting and sharing content resources before, during and after the event to provide value to all attendees, but especially your targeted prospects.

Photo credit: Flickr

B2B Social Media Should Amplify Traditional Marketing, Not Replace It

Some B2B marketers approach social media with shiny object syndrome and think it will solve all their company problems if they can only replace all their traditional marketing with social media marketing. That is a terrible idea. While I don’t subscribe to the marketing school of thought that encourages you to keep doing the things that you have always done because they have always worked in the past, I also don’t believe that you should throw out everything you are doing for the sake of change.

Evaluate Existing Marketing

Change is good, but it need to be approached in a systematic and data-supported way. Start by reviewing all your current marketing tactics and evaluating their effectiveness. If you are unable to determine how a particular marketing tactic supports your business goals, you have two choices. Do the best you can to estimate its effectiveness, or jettison it from the mix. I don’t want to short change a discussion about larger business goals, but before you can add social media to the mix, you must know what you are trying to accomplish, from a marketing perspective and a larger business perspective. This is key to evaluating your tactics.

Adding Social Media to the Mix

Once you have an understanding of what works in your traditional marketing, you can begin to evaluate social media’s effectiveness at meeting those business objectives. This is where a lot of B2B marketers go wrong. How many times have you (or I) heard the phrase “dipping your toe in the water” of social media? This toe-dipping is not going to yield any measurable results unless you have a measurable goal of what you are trying to do. Since many social media efforts require a long term commitment to get any real traction, interim goals and milestones are required. If you are trying to drive leads and sales, review those early efforts in that light. If you are seeking to improve customer support or reduce call volume, put some numbers to these efforts to understand if the time required offsets the reduction in call volume.

Amplification of Traditional Marketing

Another way to start with social media for your B2B company is connect these efforts to your traditional marketing. What can you do in social media to support existing offline efforts? According to recent survey by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), nearly 40% of B2B marketers’ budgets in 2011 were spent on trade shows. This is a huge portion of a budget, and in many cases the largest single category of spend. Use social media to support these types of activities. Create a social media campaign that kicks off several months before the trade show and focus your efforts on supporting the show. What kind of events are planned around your booth, or afterwards? Are any of your executives speaking? Can you tease product introductions? Is there something that customers and prospects will learn at the show that will help them run their business? Build a community around the ideas that you can pay off at the event, and set some measurable goals to determine your success.

What are your thoughts about how social media can enhance or amplify your marketing efforts for your B2B company?

10 Ways to Make Your B2B Trade Show Social

B2B marketers focus on social media as a way to connect online with prospects and customers, but social media offers a huge opportunity to enhance offline events like tradeshows and conferences. Trade shows still make up a large percentage of B2B companies’ marketing budgets, so the following ideas can help leverage those events and make them more successful. And more social.social-tradeshow

1. Use Full URLs for Social Media Profiles
Every booth sign, business card and flyer includes logos for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Don’t make your prospects and customer search to find you on these platforms. Provide the full URL for your page. If you still have a long and unwieldy Facebook URL, go to facebook.com/username to select a custom URL.

2. Encourage Facebook Likes Via Text Message
Even though smartphones continue to grow, many customers and prospects who come to your booth may still use feature phones. Show them how they can set up their phones to use Facebook via text messages and how they can easily subscribe to your Facebook Page that way. Just text “like” and the Page’s username to 32665 or your specific country code. This way, booth visitors can like your page while they are standing in front of you and continue to get updates on whatever device they use for Facebook, including their computer.

3. Provide Latest Topics from Relevant Industry Groups
Prior to the trade show, review topics and industry issues that are being discussed in LinkedIn Groups, or other online industry gathering places. Provide these topics, along with talking points, to your sales reps and other booth personnel as conversation starters. Yes, prospects come to your booth to learn about your products and services, but relevant, industry conversations can help build a relationship.

4. Post Content on Slideshare
Slideshare is not just for public presentations, although you should definitely upload any slide decks that are associated with talks you or other company representatives give. Create a short, highly visual deck about new product launches, booth highlights or even an industry news update. Share this deck on your social media profiles for those attending the show, and even for those who can’t make it. A keyword-rich description will also help this information get found on Slideshare.

5. Live Blog Keynote Presentations or Education Sessions
Most shows have some keynote address or educational content, even if there is not a full-blown conference track. Pick the most interesting, relevant or controversial sessions and live blog them. You can live blog the event in real-time, where you continue to update a blog post and re-publish with each new piece of information, or you can write the summary throughout the presentation and publish at the end of the session. The key to live blogging is that you publish before you walk out of the room. If you write about the session in note form, and hope to get back to it, it is unlikely you will.

6. Run an In-Person Twitter Chat
Twitter chats continue to be popular for many industries and ideas. Conduct a live Twitter chat, either at your booth or in a separate space during the show. The moderator can ask questions both in person and on the chat, so people can follow along both online and off.

7. Build a Keyword-Based Trade Show Page on Your Website
Create a page on your website that features your presence at the upcoming show. Use your regular keywords on the page in conjunction with words that relate to the show you will be attending. This way, when prospects look for information about the show, your show page also comes up in search. And since social search plays a role, encourage attendees from your company to share the page on their social networks.

8. Connect with Show Organizers
Most tradeshows these days have their own social media profiles, and sometimes the organizers struggle with content or connections on those profiles. Connect with the organizers and offer to provide content they can share with other show attendees. Promote their content on your profiles as well. Talk with them about social media sponsorships, hashtags and informal events during the show. These may be new ideas in some industries and you can become a valuable resource.

9. Run a Booth Contest with Twitter Clues
Use Twitter to announce contests and giveaways at your booth that require winners to come to your booth. They might need to answer a question or share a photo. Make sure you check with your legal department before conducting any contests. You may need to post contest rules on your company website.

10. Conduct Video Interviews
The best thing about tradeshow video is that you can get physical access to lots of people in your industry that are not normally together. This is a great opportunity to interview multiple people about industry trends, or sit down with an industry influencer. You may want to use a camera that has a mic, or find a quiet spot to shoot your interviews. Tradeshow can be very noisy. And with these 10 ideas very social.

What are other ways that you have used social media to make your B2B tradshows social?

Photo: Flickr

4 Ways the New Apple iPhone Can Benefit B2B Marketers

Even though many B2B companies, especially corporate and enterprise level companies, prefer Blackberries as their smart phone of choice, if you are in the social media space, a new iPhone is still news and you wonder if this is the time to make the switch. Each generation of iPhone improves its corporate compatibility, and this one is no exception. The new iPhone 4 supports Exchange Server 2010. It also has improved data protection, device management, and VPN support, all things that could make a corporate IT manager more comfortable with the device. But the real question is why do you, a B2B marketer and the person responsible for implementing social media in your company need one. Here are four new features that might convince you:

Facetime Video Conferencing
This is the feature that everyone is talking about on the new iPhone4 and mobile video conferencing, called Facetime, even though it’s just over wifi, is a great feature. Also both parties need the iPhone 4 for this work. Video call your office from a client site and don’t just talk, but show your face. Switch to the back camera and show your product engineer how the client is using your product and the service issues they are experiencing. Share printed documents or photos in real time while you talk about them. And communicating with your office with your face, and not just your voice, is a stronger way to get your message across.

Mobile Video Editing
Another benefit of the iPhone 4 is the continued expansion of mobile video. Not only are the quality and features of video better than the previous generation of iPhone, but it includes a mobile version of iMovie, Apple’s easy to use video editing software. Now those short trade show videos and customer testimonials can be edited and uploaded before you even return to the office.

Better Organization
Rather than a random display of apps (or chronological or alphabetical), the new iPhone 4 allows you to organize apps in folders. These can be organized by topic, or can be customized. You can put your business or productivity apps together and keep your games or other leisure apps in another folder. You can also keep all your social media tools together for easy access.

This is one of those updates that is a long time coming in the operating system, but helpful for the marketer on the go. Switch between tasks easily and the apps remember your place, whether it’s viewing documents while writing emails, or checking your CRM system, while updating Twitter and listening to your favorite station on Pandora.

What are the features of the new iPhone 4 that would make you consider getting one?

5 Things to Do at Your Next B2B Conference

Whether you manage social media programs or a corporate blog, next time you attend an industry conference, approach it like a content creator and you will actually get more out of the conference or tradeshow. Many others will be networking, exchanging business cards, and looking for new business, but you will be more engaged in the industry event if you focus on content creation. This will also start to position yourself and your company as industry thought leaders.

Thinking like a content creator is changing your focus to gathering and distilling information. Here are 5 things you can do to think like a content creator. These ideas assume you have a simple video camera like a Flip Cam or Kodak Zi8, but you can always interact with people by taking notes. It just might not capture the flavor of the person’s words.

1. Meet the Keynote Speaker and do a short video interview
The easiest way to conduct a short video interview is to prepare three high level questions which you can ask and showcase the speaker. It is more important to share their words, rather than present your point of view. Remember that conferences are noisy, so try to find a quiet room to conduct this interview.

2. Pick One Competitor and ask them why their product or service is better than yours
Chances are that you already have contacts at your competitor, so it should not be hard to have this conversation. You can frame this question as a blog post that you are working on. It would be great to do this on video, or even on the record, but an informal conversation works as well.

3. Talk to an industry journalist about the top industry trends

Journalists, or even bloggers, who cover the space are frequently able to provide a broad view on your industry and can often easily encapsulate their thoughts in a short list of trends. They are usually willing to do a short interview where you can take notes. This is good content for both your company blog and for internal intelligence.

4. Interview one of the Conference Organizers

Conference organizers, especially if it is a smaller conference, are happy to talk about the process of planning the conference. They are probably completely swamped during the event, so you should make contact and plan to followup with an email interview after the dust clears. And by the way, conference organizers are frequently well-connected contacts that are good to have.

5. Go to the Demo or Presentation and Find a New Product or Service

Anyone with a new product or service is happy to talk to you about their new offerings. Again, great to do a video interview if you have a small camera and can find a quiet spot, but mobile photos and a brief write-up can serve the purpose as well.

Please let us know if you have any more suggestions for techniques to create content at your next conference or tradeshow?

5 Ways To Make Your B2B Trade Show Social

Almost every B2B company invests part of its marketing budget in trade shows. It is one tried and true method of lead generation. The problem with trade shows is that they aren’t cheap, and they are a big line item on the marketing budget. So if your company is making the investment, then it should do everything it can to squeeze out every last drop of value. This need for value, combined with cut travel budgets across all industries, means that the solution to this problem is social media.

This post is meant to be a straight forward how-to. The list below is five things you can start working on today and implement at your next trade show.


1. Pongr/QR codes – Trade shows are the perfect place to bring the offline and the online world together. I have been a big fan of QR codes for a while now and Jason Falls reviews another solution called Pongr. Regardless which platform you choose to use, both allow you to connect an image in a trade show booth to an online element that gives it more depth.

Example: A new product demo station at the booth has QR codes that link directly to mobile phone formatted spec sheets with order forms.

Facebook | North Carolina Wine TV

2. Facebook SMS – Facebook is a great platform especially if you company does not have a blog of its own. A new feature to Facebook fan pages makes them a great tool for trade show engagement. Once you have established a Facebook fan page for your company or product, you can have people text a command (see image above) to become and fan and subscribe to SMS updates. The SMS is the killer feature here, because if you are organizing a party or event at a trade show you can send one brief message to alert everyone of a time change or to encourage them to attend.

Example: Display the Facebook text command and encourage people to join by offering exclusive discounts or giveaways.

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3. Live Stream – For better or worse most B2B companies pick trade shows as the spot for major announcements. They are also normally one of the few times national teams are together. Leverage this opportunity as a way to connect with your customers. Use free platforms like Ustream.tv or LiveStream.com to stream live video of company announcements or to do a live Q and A with company leaders. Both streaming platforms provide chat capabilities that allow you to directly react to feedback from those watching.

Example: Stream a news conference and use the chat feature to take questions from reporters and bloggers that could not attend the trade show.

Flip mino

4. Customer Interviews – Trade shows are a great opportunity for listening. Purchase a small camcorder like a Flip cam or a Kodak Zi6, along with a tripod, and interview your customers or potential customers. Ask them questions about their business and their thoughts on the current state of the industry. Give people the opportunity to talk about themselves.

Example: Interview trade show attendees and upload the videos to YouTube or another video sharing service. Feature the videos on your company blog, Facebook page, etc. and follow up with the person in the video to let them know they have been featured. They will then share the video with their coworkers and peers, which will increase traffic and help to generate leads.


5. Live Tweeting – Budget cuts means less people can attend trade shows, but people still want to follow the action and know what’s happening. Live tweeting remarks from speakers and panel discussions is a great way to get the attention of potential customers that couldn’t attend the event.

Example: Using a computer or cell phone tweet the major quotes from a keynote speaker. Beforehand set up a widget on your company site to display your tweets using a service like Tweetgrid. Before the trade show promote that people wishing to follow the conference can visit your site and follow along with the Twitter widget.

Have you done any of these? Will you?