At Channel Digital our raison d'ê·tre is all about helping our clients to maximise the effectiveness of their online investment, making their web site attract the right people, and develop sales and enquiries for a business. (Different goals may apply to charity or community web sites, but the process by making them happen, is remarkably similar).
However it is usually the case that a business also exists and functions in the offline world – the real world, and that some of the most valuable online interactions are the ones that tie in best with your real world activities.
So after some discussions with some friends on the subject, we wanted to look here at the interaction between online and offline marketing, and the tools and methods that can be used to tie the two together.
For example looking at attending a show or trade exhibition, what are the type of things that you can do online to assist your presence at the physical event? And what can you do at the event to make maximum use of your web abilities?
Clearly there is a significant cost associated with putting together an event or attending an exhibition, but at the same time there is nothing as good as looking potential customers in the face, shaking hands, and beginning to establish a rapport. Then after this initial meeting , you need to give your potential client a reason to come back to you and to always keep you at the front of their mind. How can you use your web site to help achieve this?
I think we’ll also cover a bit about signage as well, and linking in your web site with your regular branding display, as some of that will be similar to what you do at an exhibition or event.
The Planning process
In the early stages of your planning for the event it will pay to put together an appropriate activity plan, both in terms of getting the physical materials that you will require to be there, but also any web work and marketing activities that should be carried out to maximise the benefits of being there.
Once you have an overall strategy in place it should help you to have a time-line of actions as you run up to the event, and prevent those unwanted last minute surprises. Remember of course this will need to take account of your overall online marketing strategy, brand, and tone of voice as would all your marketing activities.
There could also be some extra planning time required, if for example there are promotional web pages to show on your banners, or emails to be sent before a show, you need enough time for both your web designer and banner people to share information in advance of their work, so think ahead!
So what sort of tools can you use?
With modern smart phones a QR code on your signage will allow potential customers directly to your website. You could also create a unique page and include a special offer for any event visitors who use this QR code. This would allow you to start assessing your ROI of the event. Pages which a QR code might access, could include:
• A welcome message which displays directly on the smart-phone of the person scanning the code.
• A competition form which allows them to enter straight from their phone, at the event.
• An opt-in to your email list, which can be tied up to any of the other activities listed here.
• An opt-in to an SMS list or marketing offer.
• A Social media opt-in or “Like”.
• You can deliver to the holder of the phone an answer, number or code, which is part of their participation in your promotion or competition.
Of course the QR code would also need to be pre-printed on your event signage or paperwork, so you’d need to create the code and send it to your printer early. You can create QR codes for free on a number of websites, you need to put in a web page or email address, and it gives you back the image file, which you can send to your printer.
Here’s one web site which makes it quite easy: http://www.qrstuff.com/
Encourage people to follow you on your social media channels by clearly displaying them on any of your print material. Use these channels to promote to your user base before and after the show. Create a Facebook event and invite your followers. Again, special offers can be promoted through social media channel. But ensure you stick to the rule of 80 – 20. 80% of the time engage, chat, support others. 20% of the time you can self-promote. There is nothing worse than following a business on social media to find the only thing they share is their own advertising. This can be a quick way to alienate your audience.
Is there something newsworthy about the event and your participation you can share with your audience? Maybe one of your team can present a topic at the show, often shows have a program of events that you could contribute too. Or you can create an informal talk at your own stand at different times of the day and encourage people to attend. Give them an incentive such as a draw to win an attractive prize. This will allow you to capture their email address and give you a reason to communicate with them after the show.
Pre-promoting an event to your client base can work nicely, let them know you will be there, make it clear that visitors are welcome, and coffee will be available. Spending time chatting with existing clients is often as productive as meeting new ones, possibly even more so.
Is there anything newsworthy about your attendance at this event, or what you are offering there? If so why not try to generate some PR to bring this to the attention of a wider audience. If you achieve any column inches with an on-line publication, then remember to link To them from your website or blog, and your Social Media channels, to draw your followers attention both to the coverage, and your attendance at the event.
Where a publication picks up your press release and uses it, it is always good to link to their news page about you, and thank them on the main Social media channels. Not only does it draw attention to the piece, but building a stronger relationship may just help them to place more content about you in the future.
There may be a case to use paid advertising to pre-promote your attendance at an event. Your trade press is an obvious place to consider. Additional advertisements in the exhibition brochure may give you a place both to ensure best attendance at your stand, but also to highlight whatever promotion or product you most want to lead on for the event.
Once the event brochure is published is there an on-line version? If so find the page which relates to you, share that with your Social followers, and talk about your plans for the event. It is great to involve your customer base with these types of informal discussions, a relationship usually develops much better if you’re not just selling to them all the time.
While advertising may not relate specifically to your on-line activity, you may choose to include a web link to your promotional or opt-in page in your Advert.
Signeage and printed material
These are areas that will be essential to get right if you are attending an exhibition or event, however as you know these move out of Channel’s particular specialisation, so we’ve asked our friend Dave Dean at Print 2 Media to add a few words on how to plan and get these right – and of course make best use of your web marketing abilities at the same time.
Dave’s first point is interesting; he talks about Brand Quality and timings. Essentially it is unlikely that you will ever get anything that is all of these: good quality, fast, AND cheap. You can have two, but not three. So presuming that you want to have good quality materials at a sensible price, then you must plan and start early. Build this into your event plan.
If you leave everything until the last minute and still want good quality products, you will have to pay more.
Now there is one more factor that relates to this, and that is integrating the web work with the printing. For a promotional web page you will need to create the page and get its address, perhaps from your website designer, unless you are handy using a CMS system and can do it yourself. You will then have to feed this web address to your print designer to have it put on your signage or leaflets. So this will take more time than a simple one-step process.
Images for your Designs
Another couple of interesting points – web site images are usually low resolution, so that the page loads quickly. They do not need to be high resolution, because they are small and viewed on a screen, to additional picture quality is wasted.
Exhibition printing however it usually large, so you need very high quality images.
Note – don’t send the stand designer images straight off your website, they will look pixelated and unprofessional.
Somewhere in your records, or your designers records there should be the original, highest quality copy of the images that you started with. Much better to find and start with these, than images from the website.
It is only professional to ensure brand consistency across everything that you do. In all probability web work and printing will be undertaken by different suppliers, so it is down to you to distribute to each of them correct high quality images, logos, and branding guidelines on how to use them. Hopefully you already have these available and
Assessing your “Return on Investment” (ROI) onthe event
One nice way of doing this is to give out a particular coupon or discount code for the event. This would then be added to your website shopping cart, and you can monitor how well it is used after the event. If you have significant sales using it after the event you can count the event a success, and book for next year. If not then you have the opportunity to try something different next time.
The Stand and Printing
Clearly there are a variety of types of stand, but I’m going to refer you over to specialists for this sort of thing. Again Print-2-Media have kindly given us a list of some of the popular types so we can get thinking about that part of the picture – but please talk to them about that, they are the specialists.
Here are a few options:
One of the first things to consider as an exhibitor is whether you take a space-only stand or a shell-scheme stand. An equivalently sized space-only stand might be cheaper up-front, but you will be paying considerably more by the time you’ve built a structure to display your wares. On the other hand, you will stand out a mile from all your competitors using boring old shell-scheme!
If you are exhibiting via a shell-scheme (and most are) you want to make the greatest impact you can with the resources available to you. Shell-schemes are generally built with ugly grey walls. There’s nothing worse than seeing posters placed ad hoc on those grey walls. The simplest thing you can do to transform your stand is to clad the walls with a big bold image. This is easily done with 3mm thick foamex which we cut to fit the shell-scheme panels and which is attached with velcro.
A "Shell Stand" - this is what it looks like.....
What type of signage to use?
We have some nice examples of the different types of signage you could use to set up an event stand. Here is an overview, but we do recommend having a chat to your printer with your objectives in mind. They will help create the space you envisage.
1. Pop-up displays
Often used in lieu of cladding the shell-scheme or in situations where there is no shell-scheme but you still want a backdrop. Relatively portable and the carry case doubles as a counter. View examples here. http://www.print-2-media.com/shop/pop-up-display-stand-impact-bundle/
2. Roll-up banners
Very portable and good value for money. Using multiple roll-ups is a good way of “calling out” a bit more detail about your business when placed around a stand with a more generic backdrop. View examples here. http://www.print-2-media.com/shop/product-category/portable-exhibition-displays/roll-up-banners/
3. Literature racks
Most people like to give out literature at a show. Literature racks are an easy way to let visitors help themselves. View examples here. http://www.print-2-media.com/shop/product-category/portable-exhibition-displays/literature-racks/
4. PVC banners
Aaahh… the ubiquitous PVC banner! Very cheap, robust, easy to transport and can be made huge. Especially useful for outdoor exhibitions but is often used as the skirt on a table at indoor events. View examples here.
We hope these points have helped with your planning of upcoming events. One thing we cannot stress strongly enough is to get organised in plenty of time!
Remember, your printer and web designer may be inundated with other people exhibiting at the same show, all on the same deadline… don’t let your materials and website updates end up amongst the glut of last minute rush jobs - those are the ones that are most likely to go wrong and there isn’t any time to rectify problems.
And a Thank you.....
Thanks are due to the team at Print-2-Media for their input to this post. In fact they gave me a lot more information about stand design, the types of stand you might want to use, printing and so on. This would be very useful, but as we are an on-line company I didn’t use all of it, because I wanted to look at the interplay between on-line and off in this article.
But perhaps Dave at Print-2-Media will do a post on their blog talking about the exhibition stand preparation process itself, which would be very interesting, perhaps he already has.
If I find it I’ll post the link here as well.