Next week I’ll descend on the Javits Center in New York City for 4 packed days of learning at SMX East. Aside from the fact that I’ve been looking forward to this event for several months (I even signed up for a pre-conference session, #marketinggeek), I know this event is coming up especially now because my email inbox is feeling very full and very tired.
Apparently somewhere in the registration process, I clicked (or didn’t click the opposite box) the box that said “I’d like to learn more about the vendors”. I cannot remember when this happened–I assume the question was asked with little fanfare–and I’m sure I did leave it checked because in fact I do like information. Information is a good thing–and in marketing, you can only gain from hearing about other vendors, products and tools available. So sign me up, please. However, after the barrage of calls and emails this week, I think something needs to be said for “doing it right.”
Events In The Marketing Cycle
Before I begin my list, I think it is worth explaining where events really fall in the marketing cycle. Events are often considered outside the “Inbound Marketing Spectrum” though I think they exist on the border, straddling outbound and inbound in their own world. The right placement for a vendor, something that is really and truly appropriately targeted at the event’s audience, could potentially fit into the attendee’s search for information. That would be an “inbound-like” experience. However, when done wrong, the interruptive “look at me, look at me” that surrounds everything communicated by an event exhibitor is nothing like inbound marketing. And mostly just leaves a bad feeling in the attendee’s experience. When coupled with pre-event communications, this can really change the tone of the event experience the attendees receive–before they even show up. Which I’m guessing is not what the event coordinators intended when they shared attendee information with their vendors.
So here is what I wish event exhibitors would learn about marketing to event attendees:
Event Marketing Tips
- Do Not Call Me Without History
One vendor called me out of the blue, told me I had requested information about his company and proceeded to try to set up an appointment to meet at the event. I was so confused that it actually took me a full minute or so to start to question what he was saying. I requested he call? I don’t know who you are! At least if you must call (why you must, I have no idea), start from the point of introducing yourself instead of confusing (and then annoying) your prospect.However, if I’m in your directory from previous engagements, demos, trials, etc. then by all means call me and let me know you will be at the event. After all, we have history.
- Edit Your Text–Big Time!
Nearly every email I received had at least 3 paragraphs of text. Does this one really need explaining? Eyes glazed over without reading. I didn’t get your message.
- Leave Your Booth Number Out Of It
We are not event coordinators or people who truly understand behind the scenes event logistics. Your booth number means nothing. Even if it is in the program, I’m still going to look for your logo, not a number. It’s just weird, sorry. Plus, it is now competing with your brand for “things you’re asking me to look for”. Not helping you at all. Meanwhile, nearly every vendor mentioned their booth number. Like my brain is going to remember two dozen three digit numbers to visit next week.
- Put Effort Into Visual Appeal
I received two dozen emails from vendors in a matter of 3 days. The closest thing that resembled a picture was a logo in a few of the emails and that was it. Other emails had odd font problems and lacked formatting all together. It is 2015 and we are marketers (again, know your audience)–please do something, anything, to make your message even just a little appealing to look at. I might have actually read it.
- Make An Effort To Connect On A Personal Level
The only winner from the email contest was a late entry that I received today. It started with “Hey Andrea, We’re all getting emails from companies attending the show next week, so I will make this short and sweet.” Guess what? I read that whole email. I connected with the message immediately (clearly, as I was already dreaming of a blog post to discuss the onslaught of emails) and read the entire thing. I checked back to make sure I got the name of the company (shout out Page One Power, while not a perfect email, I still read it!) and even laughed a little.
- Your Giveaway Isn’t A Selling Point
It’s great you’re giving away “fill-in-the-blank” and I will most likely drop my business card in all the bowls (who doesn’t love free stuff?). However, leading with that in your email does nothing. It doesn’t tell me who you are or why I care about your product. And wasting your message on your giveaways is a wasted opportunity–I’m going to find out what your giveaway is when I peruse the show floor and decide then.
- Stop Saying You Want To Show Me Something
I know you want to show me your product. I know you want to meet and tell me all about it. That is the whole reason you’re there! What I don’t understand is why I want to know about it. Not a single vendor used a headline or showcased a result that might have caused me to stop and think “I need that”. Hey, did your product help a company increase link building efficiency by 50%? Does your call tracking software help businesses improve their PPC insights and help them better allocate campaign dollars to reduce CPA costs by 20%? Those are stats that would get my attention. Actually, any value to me would get my attention. Instead I got 20 offers to “grab coffee and hear about your product”. Thanks but no thanks. I may be an oddball New Yorker, but I don’t even like coffee. Plus, I bet the event is giving it out for free anyway.
- Know Who You Are Speaking To
One of the communications that really drove me nuts went something like “If you or someone you work with is attending SMX East, we want to show you our product”. Seriously? That’s right up there with “please forward to the person in your organization who might find this relevant.” Answer: No one.
- Identify Yourself
It is crazy that this even needs to be mentioned but more than half the emails I received neglected to include their company name in the regular body text. I had to check email domains and signatures to even know which company they were from. Keep it simple and short, but don’t forget your company name!
In short, if you can’t check off these event marketing must haves, it is time to go back to the drawing board:
Event Email Checklist
- Visual Appeal
- Short and simple text
- An appealing image
- Modern layout
- Value Proposition
- One or two sentences on why I want to know about your company. And it should not be because you are giving away an Apple Watch.
- Results-based examples (and a good layout will help me figure out where these sentences are without parsing a lot of text)
- Your Company Information
- Contact Information
- Short & Sweet Closing
- This is where you can mention “stop by our booth” or “enter to win”