“Tell me what you want me to do” was the plea of professionals from the American Marketing Association as they met with show organizers on October 17 at the International Association of Exhibitions and Events Central Texas Chapter sponsored by The Expo Group.
Too many event and trade show websites lack strong calls to action with too much description and not enough urgency, explained Darlene Kirk, CEO of Kirk’s Global Compass.
“Busy execs need info immediately,” Kirk says. Provide enough information on the website for attendees, exhibitors and sponsors to make decisions.
“You should not have to hard sell,” Kirk told the group. “They should already understand the value” if they have visited the website.
Specifically for exhibition space sales, Kirk implored the IAEE members in attendance to create more interaction points on their websites along with stories that marketing professionals can share with their bosses as they make the decision to exhibit or not.
Fellow panelist Robert Butler, who owns PR and marketing firm Round Rockit Media, echoed this idea, suggesting show organizers use two-page image- and statistic-heavy PDF documents that will make it easy for corporate event marketers to being advocates for the shows and be able to share the value of exhibiting in their organization. This may be similar to the attendee marketing trend of offering web visitors a “letter to the boss” to justify the expenditure. Tell potential exhibitors if they can only exhibit at one show this year why it should be this one.
Panel moderator Jeffrey James, Chairman of Signet Interactive, did caution the group about locking up content in a PDF, however. Create the downloadable document for easy sharing but also use all the content throughout the website as the show’s story is told.
More stories, video clips and strong imagery are needed on trade show websites, he said as panelists nodded in agreement. Butler specifically suggested capturing quick video testimonials on the show floor to share online to market to exhibitors and attendees. In fact, James shared a statistic from Forbes magazine that 59% of CEOs would rather watch a 60-second video than read.
The panel warned that poor imagery lowers credibility, so while movie-style production is not necessary, a polished piece is. Strong visuals and solid information raises legitimacy.
Dismay was apparent when these marketers talked about how sponsor logos were presented on show websites.
“Be careful about how you present your sponsor brands,” James said. “It must be sophisticated or they will question your participation.”
Regarding social media, this panel of marketing professionals said the icons representing different channels deserve even more attention and thus should be placed in a place of prominence at the top left of the website. Social media channels are where communication takes place, and shows must capitalize on this ability, Kirk said.
“You might have to send faxes AND be on social media,” she said in response to an attendee questioning that their older members would get the message . “Show your members you’re moving into the future.”
Social media allows shows to expand their community to the point that fans and followers should be counted when putting forth statistics about a show’s influence base. It’s also a good way to reward sponsors and exhibitors but the greatest value is that shows can talk to their community all year long once connected via social media.
Mobile websites were another topic raised, as the panel made it clear show management organizations must be paying attention to how their sites are viewed on smaller devices.
“Sixty percent of web traffic is coming from mobile,” Kirk said.
Mobile-friendly does not mean having a mobile application, according to this panel of marketing pros. Instead, make your websites responsive, avoid pieces of software that cannot be viewed on all phones and tablets, like Flash, and create a mobile app only to add a layer of interaction.
Always consider what’s in it for the client when taking action and creating ideas for attendee and exhibit marketing, the panel concluded. Cohesive messaging, strong stories, bright visual elements and interactive components are the best practices in web design that more shows should be using.
When’s the last time you looked at your website from a potential client’s perspective? Do you like what you see?