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  • Writer's pictureAlex Cosham

How do we make event marketing more enjoyable (& successful)?

Your feet ache from potentially days of standing as an ambassador of your business, arms tired from shaking hands and gesticulating wildly, your ears ring from the ambient buzz. You definitely know you've been working an exhibition stand. But then you, your colleagues and crucially the c-suite, come to the conclusion, ‘well that was a waste of time’.

Unfortunately, this is a story we have heard countless times over, with clients coming to us sharing their own horror stories of how exhibiting is pointless and events are 'dead' in this digital age. Well we know we may seem biased here, but we think events are very much alive in the modern marketing mix. Yes exhibiting can be a challenge, but the rewards can be truly extraordinary for your brand and marketing. But if you're still feeling dissatisfied with your exhibitions and events, worry not, in this article we will explore the often overlook areas of events & how we might start making event marketing more enjoyable for you, your team and your visitors.

Event Exasperations Explained?

Exhibitor advocacy, or rather how likely someone exhibiting is to recommend an event, can be pretty low. In fact it can be so low, that a large proportion of exhibitors will actually recommend against the event they have just attended. That said, we have seen a little honeymoon period post-lockdowns, but this is unlikely to be a lasting factor in how favourably events are viewed.

So why can success and enjoyment be so hard to come by in exhibitions? Well some of the answers may not surprise you. Exhibiting comes with costs. If you do not perceive or often better plan what your return on investment will be, each invoice, form and deadline associated with exhibiting feels more painful. This effect has been seen more in B2B exhibitors, with B2C exhibitors reporting slightly better satisfaction.

But, B2C events still supply the same potentially painful stings, so why do they seem (slightly) more satisfied? Well it appears that within B2C exhibitions and events, there is a more visible relationship between the efforts of exhibiting and the rewards. A less complex and shorter sales process, perhaps even extending to selling on the stand, can lead to more easily measurable success and more realistic targets for what success means at these events. Equally B2C exhibitors can exhibit more often than B2B counter-parts, allowing time to develop strategy and deliver on goals. But, whether B2B or B2C, this brings us nicely to the first step to enjoying events, planning…

Better Planning = Better Events

Yes, planning. We’ve said it before and we will say it again, solid planning is the key to a smoother and more successful exhibition experience. If you’re thinking about when to start, we recommend at least 3-4 months prior to the event. Often the more time the better, with events a marketing tactic ideal to consider in your yearly marketing strategy at the point of setting budgets and objectives.

It’s not only important to plan the practical aspects, but also plan things like how you will measure your success. When doing this we suggest thinking ‘SMART’…that is in ‘SMART’ goals. When you’re setting objectives for the event consider if they are specific enough. Often a scatter-gun approach involving many aims sounds great, but can be overwhelming on the day. Instead consider your main aim, and build your exhibition stand and your tactics around that, we can even help you connect this with your wider marketing strategy too.

While you’re at it, make sure this focus is both measurable and achievable. It may be that setting your sights on a sales figure is not going to be as helpful especially in a B2B setting. Instead try aiming for 10-20 follow-up meetings or booking in 15 product demonstrations. If you favour more granular goals, consider how things might link up with lead capture or event-tech. Obviously this is also where relevance comes in, if you are launching a new range of products or striving for brand awareness, you may want to tailor your main objective accordingly. Finally, make sure it’s time-bound, this provides you and your colleagues a solid target to work to. By planning ahead in this way, you are educating yourself about the event, your audience and your potential rewards, as well as the challenges along the way. A good way to look at your exhibitions and events success whilst planning is in ‘ROO’ or ‘Return on Objectives’ rather than simply ROI.

'Newness' in Event Marketing

In UFI & Explori’s global exhibitor and visitor reports, the concept of ‘newness’ is important. ‘Newness’ refers to how an event or exhibition delivers on the discovery aspect many visitors value. This means providing visitors with something innovative that allows them to see a new product, emerging trend or even build a new relationship or association with your brand.

Many exhibitors will, quite rightly, place emphasis on quality content for marketing or networking, however it’s often the ‘newness’ that’s lacking. So if your tactics and stand have not kept pace and you are left thinking ‘that was a waste of time’, chances are visitors will be thinking the same thing too. This is especially true in emerging and developing markets, where visitors see finding innovation and new products as a major objective. Now this doesn’t mean you have to release a new product every year or shift into some sort of Chameleon-like rebranding exercise, but it does mean remaining relevant in your industry. If you do have a new product range or service you are offering, fantastic there’s your ‘newness’. Even if not, consider the trends in your industry, how is it changing, are you listening to what the market (your visitor) wants to hear? By keeping pace with the changes and even the challenges in your field, you can remain relevant and stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it’s not about reinventing the wheel…just reminding people, in a new way, how great the wheel is.

Connection across the life of an event

Audiences at events and exhibitions are becoming an ever more connected, globalised and discerning group. Making effective use of connecting, not only with your potential customers, but with the event, the organisers, colleagues and even competition, can bolster your success at events. Now you could think that the event itself is your chance to go all out. True exhibitions are a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful connections. However exhibitions are not a silver bullet, and rather than depending on the relatively short life of a live event alone, extending this life as part of a marketing mix will yield more meaningful results. This means getting connected.

Consider your planning, what you are aiming to achieve and how this can be incorporated before during and after the event? Equally ensure that all the ‘newness’ you are showcasing features along your journey too...after all, how can someone plan to see your 'new' feature if they have no idea it's there?

Consider advertising by connecting with trade journals and websites, you can extend this connection further by using the logos, banners, hashtags and links associated with the event. Connect with the organiser by using the tools they provide, complete your show profile and summary in good time. Don’t forget your existing connections too, make sure to invite your customers and clients along to the event...or your competition probably will. Target new connections by telling prospective customers what to expect, give them a taste of your ‘newness’ to peak interest. Basically connect, connect, connect…that’s not to say you spam the inboxes of clients or inundate the social media of the event with your witty posts. Use connections meaningfully. With the noise of modern communications, businesses are being far more responsible with decisions of who to let past the gatekeepers. This has the potential to breathe new life and new meaning into the importance of face-to-face events and curating genuine relationships with clients. By connecting responsibly and effectively you give yourself more time and scope to achieve your goal, more attention and a better chance to enjoy your events as a result.


So there you have it, a few often overlooked ares to add some enjoyment back into events.

Naturally we could talk about this all fact sometimes we do. If you're interested in some advice or support for your events and would like to learn more - give us a message or a call.

Discover more about our approach to event and exhibitions here, or have a look at our latest exhibition stand projects for some inspiration.

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