06 January 2013

Part 1: Technology trade event participation - selection

Today, everybody talks about online marketing, inbound marketing and digital marketing channels. Is there any space for trade event (conference, trade fair) participation in the marketing mix of offshore IT service providers?

Should I consider trade event participation?

In order to make a preliminary decision to participate in a trade event, make sure that answers to the following questions justify any further  actions.

  • What would be your specific objectives to participate at an event? This question sounds like an MBA textbook. However, think about: why do you want to go to a specific event? The most obvious answer is that you want to sell your IT services (again here we are not talking about selling your products). Unfortunately selling your services might or might not happen (rather not) during the trade event. On the other hand trade fairs, exhibitions, conferences are great places to meet and talk with people, see your competitors, assess market opportunities, seek representatives or matchmakers, conduct market research, learn about event participation and observe market trends. So, beside direct sales (or rather instead of) there are many other reasons why you could consider trade event participation.
  • Are there (which are?) the relevant trade events covering your services, domain expertise, vertical market focus, technology, geography and target audience?
  • Is visiting the event fits well into your overall marketing plan?
  • Do you have enough time, staff and resources to prepare for the event (and be there at the event)?
  • Do you have suitable budget?

We are living a digital life. Still, there are advantages trade events offer;

  • Networking: meet people, competitors, buyers, prospects in person
  • There is a very high concentration of (focused) supply and demand
  • Easy access to market information
  • Immediate response from people you meet (2-way, real time, face-to-face communication)
  • Neutral territory for buyers and sellers

Choices, choices ... the case of HubSpot.

Visitor or exhibitor?

If you have made a preliminary decision about a specific event you need to decide if you want to be there as a regular visitor or an exhibitor.

Being an exhibitor is obviously more expensive than attending a trade event as a visitor. You also need to know that trade event participation requires proper preparation. It is absolutely true for trade events, that;

Proper preparation prevents poor performance

However, if you are an exhibitor at a technology trade event you (can) radiate a professional image, you have access to additional networking and promotion opportunities, you have a place where you can invite people, in your stand you can showcase the strongest part of your company, you will meet not only other exhibitors but also a lot of visitors, you can invite and attend your existing contacts and finally if you are an exhibitor you can conduct better preparation.

Nevertheless, may be it is a good idea to visit the event first before you decide to exhibit.

Selecting the appropriate trade event

By now you some ideas why you want to participate at an event and which are those events to be considered. In order to make an educated decision, you must collect some information;

  • First of all study very carefully the event's website
  • Check the event organiser
  • Look up the exhibitor list of previous year(s), or ask the event organisers about it. 
  • Also ask the organisers about exhibitor and visitor profiles and statistics of previous years
  • Study very carefully the exhibitor manual (which you can get from the event organiser) and the various policies, rules and regulations applicable for the event.
  • Ask about additional promotion opportunities
  • Make a preliminary budget. Major budget items are: space, booth design and building,  utilities, travel, accommodation, marketing material, promotion, publicity, staff. In any case a detailed, itemized budget is needed at this stage.