Trade Shows & Strategic Growth Opportunities

EPISODE 22: Trade Shows & Strategic Growth Opportunities | PODCAST

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Show Notes:

On this episode, Cramer’s Tripp Underwood and Angel Micarelli are joined by Jeff Loeb, Partner and CMO of Chief Outsiders. Jeff’s an expert in helping CEOs build brands with strong strategic initiatives. Today he shares the value of attending trade shows and their rare opportunity to interact directly with your audience.

How do you determine success after a trade show? Are there opportunities for content creation while there? What are best practices for encouraging people to stop by your booth? When should you consider sponsorship? Jeff breaks it all down for us here on Pivot Points.

Transcript:

Elise Orlowski:

I’m Elise Orlowski, a Senior Video Director here at Cramer.

Tripp Underwood:

And I’m Tripp Underwood, a Creative Director at Cramer.

Elise Orlowski:

And at Cramer, we work with so many incredibly fascinating people from all over multiple industries.

Tripp Underwood:

We have so many great conversations, many that are just too good to keep to ourselves, so now we’re sharing ’em with the world.

Elise Orlowski:

Right here from Cramer studios.

Tripp Underwood:

This is Pivot Points.

Elise Orlowski:

Cut.

Tripp Underwood:

Welcome to another episode of Pivot Points, I’m your host Tripp Underwood, and today I’m joined by my co-host, my boss, and my personal mentor, Angel Micarelli, who’s Cramer’s Senior Vice President of Strategy & Content. Angel has taught me so much about how to infuse marketing with the right balance of creativity, information, and insight, to kind of making you the perfect co-host for today’s conversation, which will feature Jeff Loeb. Jeff is a partner and a CMO at Chief Outsiders, which is the largest fractional CMO consultancy business in the world, and really what that means is he’s just an expert in his field in helping CEOs build their brands and develop strong strategic initiatives. And I really can’t wait just to see what these two great minds come up with, so welcome, Jeff, welcome, Angel.

Jeff Loeb:

Thank you.

Angel Micarelli:

Thank you so much. Jeff. We are so happy to have you. One of the things I think is fascinating about what you do is that you do work with many different kinds of companies, many B2B companies, and I know we’ve been chatting lately about growth opportunities in trade shows, which is a topic that-

Jeff Loeb:

Mm-hmm.

Angel Micarelli:

… we just don’t actually talk enough about in this industry. What’s your perspective on what’s happening these days and how is it a growth engine for companies?

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, I think that… Well, first of all, thank you for, uh, for having me. It’s great to be here. I think that, B2B marketing is complex, and there are multiple channels, multiple strategies for going to market and reaching your audience. And I think trade shows are a really important part of that marketing mix. It’s one element amongst many elements. But there are a lot of really attractive features around trade shows specifically, and the biggest one perhaps is that it’s, a rare opportunity to really get in front of a large number of your ideal customer profile-

Angel Micarelli:

Hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… all at one time.

Tripp Underwood:

Yep, a single-

Jeff Loeb:

Right, yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

A single time.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, exactly. You choose the shows that you wanna attend, based on who’s gonna be there, right? So it’s a great opportunity to hit your particular ICP, or ideal customer profile. So that’s a big factor.

And the second piece of, and we all know that in B2B, there’s a complex buyer’s journey, right, from beginning to end. In some industries, a sales cycle might be really quick, it might be weeks, you know, or a month. In others, it might be long, it might be over a year, for instance.

So at trade shows, you find yourself, having access to people at every stage of the funnel, every stage of the buyer’s journey, all the way from, awareness, people just learning about what options are out there, people that are interested in diving deep, into finding out about solutions, people are at, that are at the decision stage, uh, et cetera. So for those two reasons, I think that, trade shows are a really important part of the- of the B2B marketing mix.

Tripp Underwood:

What… Given the fact that those audiences are so broad in terms of customer profiles and where they are in the buying decision, what makes for a good metric? How can you tell if you’re being successful for all these? Because you’re hitting people at different points, and if you’re not using the sale as a success metric, what are some things in trade shows people can look to kind of judge the- the KPI on it?

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, I think that, a traditional measure, of course, has been leads, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Okay.

Jeff Loeb:

So generating leads, so that’s of course important.

Tripp Underwood:

Absolutely.

Jeff Loeb:

And what’s interesting, again, in marketing we’re responsible for bringing people in top of the funnel, and a quality lead, by a sales definition, is when, they’re able to schedule a meeting-

Tripp Underwood:

Okay.

Jeff Loeb:

… and have a quality conversation with someone-

Tripp Underwood:

Makes sense.

Jeff Loeb:

… that’s in their ICP. And it’s another kind of value of trade shows, because it brings, it allows you, it accelerates that point where you have a real conversation-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… with a prospect, you know, versus kind of- kind of top of the funnel. But more broadly, in terms of, success metrics, so certainly- certainly leads, awareness I think is a is another, component.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

Especially for people that are early stage.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

Meetings, right, are important, because you can have meetings kind of at the conference-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… so you really kind of accelerate that process, creating opportunities. There’s also opportunities around social engagement, so great opportunity-

Tripp Underwood:

Okay, yeah,

Jeff Loeb:

… to get your message out and to have it amplified, by folks, and a lot of techniques, for doing that. And then, another, success metric or area… I really like to, embrace and fully try to exploit, all of the possible benefits of-

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… of a trade show. If you make the investment, right?

Angel Micarelli:

Yep.

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

Um-

Tripp Underwood:

You’re paying for the flight, you’re paying for the booth space, you’re paying for the hotel, so yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah. Yeah, it’s an investment, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

So it’s, to me, you can go that extra 10%-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… and get a lot more out of it. And, what another element of that, something near and dear to you guys, is the content-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… side of it. So, one of the areas, that in B2B marketing, is super valuable and super important, are, testimonials, customer testimonials. You know, it’s very valuable, much more valuable what our customers say than what we say-

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… about ourselves.

Tripp Underwood:

Third-party validation is-

Jeff Loeb:

You’ve- you’ve got it.

Tripp Underwood:

… one of the biggest-

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, exactly. So, it’s an opportunity where your customers come to you, so oftentimes you have a lot of customers, so you can take advantage of that and you can actually, film and, customer testimonials, which is another success metric in my book.

Tripp Underwood:

Which are difficult to get after the fact, so we’ve been part of campaigns where we recommend it, and then they say, “Okay, how do we get those?” Well, it’s like, “Well, no, you have to reach out to your customers,” and it becomes a long, arduous journey sometimes to find people that are willing to talk. But like you said, in this more social environment where you’re talking face-to-face, I think people will be much more open to the idea of offering that, as opposed to getting an email and setting up a time to speak with a stranger and stuff. So that’s great thinking.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, exactly, and just elaborating a little bit, more about it, it’s… A lot of it, as you guys know, is a- around the logistics, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

You know, how do you set up the logistics? But, if you put the thought in, and if you have, you know, your video crew there, and it can, by the way, it can be simple, you know, with an iPhone-

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… or it can be, you know, higher production quality. But if you think it through, and plan for it, you know, you can get 10 to 20, testimonial videos in, little 60-second snippets, easily.

Tripp Underwood:

Great.

Angel Micarelli:

You know, it’s so interesting what you just said about higher quality, if you integrated that into the booth, it’s a draw to the booth.

Tripp Underwood:

Hmm.

Angel Micarelli:

Because who doesn’t like to watch someone be, you know, interviewed or on film? And you’re also capturing that valuable testimonial.

Tripp Underwood:

Yes, that fish tank effect-

Angel Micarelli:

(laughs).

Tripp Underwood:

… like, “What’s happening over there?” And then, you go and watch, and you wanna be a part of it.

Angel Micarelli:

Exactly. I have a question for Jeff.

Jeff Loeb:

Yes.

Angel Micarelli:

(laughs).

Jeff Loeb:

(laughs).

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah. So there are a lot of different kinds of industries obviously that you work with, and, you know, when we look at best practices, I’m sure it’s hard to come up with ones that are good for every industry. But, you know, when you don’t have a demo to have in the booth, you know, what… And which lends itself to people coming and watching. What kinds of things have you seen work at trade shows to bring people in?

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, so great question, and the way that I would start to think about that and answer that question is kinda going back to the idea, that you should think about a trade show as an end-to-end sales funnel across the buyer’s journey. So you have people, that are seeing you for the first time, being exposed to your brand, you wanna generate leads, you want to move people onto conversations, and you may have customers there as well that you wanna have different types of conversations. So if you set it up with that mindset, right, that there are multiple different things that we’re trying to accomplish, and when you ask this question about best practices, it gives you a little bit bigger of a landscape to think about.

So a staring point, which is so basic but, often people get so wrong, is messaging. So, you have your booth, you have your- your surfaces, um, available for messaging, and oftentimes people wanna cram so much in.

Angel Micarelli:

Yes.

Jeff Loeb:

There’s so much to say, right? And we all know that you can be much more successful by saying less, right? Because all we’re trying to do is get people into the booth-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… to have a conversation. And I like to, you know, think about it, as you’re walking down, you know, the aisle of a trade show, you have like three seconds to make an impression on the person walking by who’s trying to avoid contact with the person in the booth because then they’re gonna, you know, grab them for a conversation.

Tripp Underwood:

(laughs).

Jeff Loeb:

So you’re looking at your peripheral vision, and you want to be able to have a top-level message that within two or three seconds, you know what they do, right? So it starts off-

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… with having kind of really good messaging. I think another, kind of aspect is a lot of… It’s easy to get trapped in vanity metrics.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

So how do you justify the cost of going, attending a trade show or participating in a trade show? Well, it’s leads. You know, we need to- to get-

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… to get leads. And sometimes, that can create this mania of the people that are staffing the booth, around scanning everybody that walks by.

You know, just, “Let’s- let’s scan them, let’s capture their name, you know, let’s- call them a lead.” And that’s a good example I think of vanity metrics.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

If you just think about-

Tripp Underwood:

Stuffing the ballot box there (laughing).

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, exactly. So the question is, well, how do you then kind of turn that into more of a quality lead? How do you kind of identify, the folks that are more, more interested? And I like to think about, setting up an experience which is really a little mini nurture campaign.

Tripp Underwood:

Okay.

Jeff Loeb:

Where we draw people into the booth, that maybe they’re interested, maybe they’re not, but how do we separate out those that are more interested and take them to the next-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… the next step? So I like to set up kind of, some kind of two-stage experience. And it depends a little bit about how big of a booth you-

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… you have, right? So if you have a little, you know, 10 x 5 booth or something, you know, something relatively small, it’s a little bit more difficult, but if you have a larger booth, it’s an important show-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… you’ve made the investment, and what I like to do is to have a presenter, that maybe every 15 minutes is doing a little five to seven-

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… minute presentation. Because that really draws people in, right? It’s, similar to what we were talking about, before about, the video and-

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… you know, and it draws a crowd.

Tripp Underwood:

The optics of having people paying attention to your booth is so important.

Jeff Loeb:

Exactly.

Tripp Underwood:

Because it attracts others.

Jeff Loeb:

Exactly, and it shows, and it’s, and you get the herd mentality, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

So if you get a few people, then people will wonder what’s happening and you get- you get more people, right? So that’s a great way to get people in, and you can kind of think about it top of the funnel, so it’s almost like an MQI, a …

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… hand raiser, a marketing qualified inquiry, and you can do your presentation, and at the end of the presentation, you can say, “If you wanna learn more, if you’re interested, we’ll give you a one-to-one demo.”

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

And you can send people off to a sales person to do a demo. And I think of that as an MQL, marketing qualified lead.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

You’ve nurtured them and you’ve moved them, to the next area. So-

Tripp Underwood:

Not-

Jeff Loeb:

So those are some thoughts.

Tripp Underwood:

Not only have you separated your two audiences, potential leads versus just lookey-lous, but the lookey-lous have still brought value because they’ve helped attract more people to your booth, so it’s not even… Nothing there is wasted, it’s just a matter of using-

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

… being more efficient with the people.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

I love that.

Jeff Loeb:

And remember also that it is the funnel, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

So some sales cycles are six months, a year, two years, so those people that are lookey-lous this year are gonna be the buyers-

Tripp Underwood:

Right.

Jeff Loeb:

… next year. So having them as an MQI, having them in your database, being able to nurture them, is awesome, but it’s not what sales wants then.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

You know, sales, will consider it a failure if that’s all you have, but if you have those plus these nurtured MQLs, people that have, are having better conversations, then the sales team is happy.

Tripp Underwood:

Speaking of justifying the cost, I always think it’s interesting when I go to these kind of things, is the ability for you to kind of do a quick snapshot or competitive landscape of what other people are doing. Very rarely do you ever get the opportunity to be completely surrounded, literally physically, by your competitor brands. And here it is where you can stroll down an aisle and look at all the signage. So,

Angel Micarelli:

(laughs). And have your iPhone.

Tripp Underwood:

And have your iPhone.

Jeff Loeb:

(laughs).

Tripp Underwood:

So I always recommend for people who do this is take some pictures. What do you like? What didn’t you like? Use the opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to overthink it, but make sure you’re taking note of what your competitors are doing and looking for ways to stand out. Along those lines, and if-

Jeff Loeb:

And just to… If I may?

Tripp Underwood:

Oh, please.

Jeff Loeb:

Just to pick up on that, it is very important, right? So from a messaging perspective, positioning, we’re always, positioning is always about describing yourself vis-à-vis your competitor set.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

So it’s really important to understand what your competitors are talking about. And, of course, you can see that on their website, but seeing the messaging that they use, at trade shows is super valuable.

Tripp Underwood:

Seeing how it comes to life like that.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

How have you seen trade show evolve? Though I feel like the terminology is almost outdated.

Angel Micarelli:

Hmm.

Tripp Underwood:

I think we have kind of a… In my mind at least, when we say trade show, I think of something that’s probably a few years outdated in terms of the big room, and it’s huge ceilings and a lot of people yelling around. It, has the industry evolved a lot, or is it still very similar to that, we just have gotten more effective in use of our technology at the booths?

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, I think maybe a little bit of both. I think… And of course, this was all impacted by Covid because-

Tripp Underwood:

Yes.

Jeff Loeb:

… trade shows were cut, were, you know, shut down. So I think there was… but I think the notion of having a big event where people assemble, there’s something just kinda basically human about-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… about wanting to interact like that, so I don’t think that trade shows are- dead. I think that, there was a trend that started before Covid around doing more virtual and hybrid events, just because as great as an in-person event is, you’re limiting the audience.

Tripp Underwood:

Yes.

Jeff Loeb:

Because some people can’t get there for whatever reasons. So if you’re able to add a virtual or a hybrid component, so I think that has been a trend for five plus years. And, you know, there’s a bunch of drivers for it, but also within, in today’s SaaS world, the nature and price points of solutions are changing a bit.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

Where it used to be, you know, if you were buying an SAP solution, and you were paying, you know, $500,000, three million dollars for it, it wasn’t a big deal to send two or three or four people to-

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… a trade show, you know, to help around that relationship. But if you’re buying a SaaS solution which is costing you $1,000 a month or something-

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

… it’s not quite so strategic, so it’s harder to get authorization

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… to spend the budget. So I think for a variety of reasons, that there’s that hybrid component. Another element, I think that, just, you know, the, everyone’s just upping their game in general, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Jeff Loeb:

So, the, companies are savvier about what they need to do at trade shows, so some of the best practices we’ve been talking about, so in some ways there’s more competition, and people are realizing, that you really wanna do a 360-degree experience, so you want to perhaps, have an evening reception as well, or maybe, maybe a dinner. So there’s more competition, it’s hard sometimes to actually get people to come to your events because there are so many events going on. So I think, you know, people are definitely upping their game.

Angel Micarelli:

You know, in terms of upping your game, what do you think about sponsorships?

Jeff Loeb:

Hmm.

Angel Micarelli:

And how should companies think about sponsorships.

Jeff Loeb:

Yeah, so it’s a great question. So if you’re, exhibiting at a you know, major trade show, you know, it could cost you, you know, probably $10,000 is like the entry point, and, you know, for a decent size booth, you know, you might be spending $50,000 or more. Just, you know, that’s the price of admission, plus, the booth cost and those kinds of things. So it’s, it can be expensive, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

And then, you can take it to a whole other level, right, by having more premium sponsorships, being the emerald, the platinum, the gold sponsor. You know, those packages can be $250,000 or so. So when, to your question, you know, when does it make sense to do that? I think, first of all, it has to be dead-on with your ICP, right?

Tripp Underwood:

Okay.

Jeff Loeb:

So you want it to be your audience. If these are- if these are your people, right-

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm.

Jeff Loeb:

… you know, and you wanna make a big splash, that’s kind of one criteria. Another is if there’s a particular reason for you wanting to kind of raise your awareness at that point in time, so maybe there’s a new, major new product launch, maybe you launched a new division or something, so you’re trying to-

Tripp Underwood:

Okay, yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… shout out to the world, you know, something’s- something’s different, pay attention. If you are a challenger, new to an industry, trying to disrupt an industry, you know, and you wanna make noise-

Tripp Underwood:

Yep.

Jeff Loeb:

… you know, you wanna make a big splash, “Hey, there’s a new game in town.” Or the reverse of that, if you’re an incumbent and you’re facing a challenger, and you want to, you know, just establish your dominance (laughing), you know, and- and say, “We’re still the leader,” right, that could be another reason.

Angel Micarelli:

Fascinating.

Tripp Underwood:

Very, very helpful. Thank you so much for coming, Jeff.

Jeff Loeb:

My pleasure.

Tripp Underwood:

And that’s another episode of Pivot Points. Thanks so much for joining us, we’ll see you soon.

View Transcript

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