Knowing that our most important industry trade show was barely a month away, I wanted to do my part to make sure we were adequately prepared and that our products were positioned to show well at the event.
Trade shows can be ideal opportunities for Product teams. If your company registers as a vendor, you can take advantage of your booth space and deploy an engaging team to help introduce new products and announce exciting new features to people cruising through the exhibition hall maze.
You may also gather lightweight customer data from the dozens of rapid conversations your booth team will have with passers-by. If you have already nailed your target market and are promoting the right product messages ahead of time, some may actually seek you out as they wander the aisles.
Even when you don’t have a booth and are just registered as an attendee, you can still take advantage of the fact that for a few days at least, a highly concentrated population of your potential customer base will be under one roof. With enough planning, you could still set up meetings with key prospects, industry analysts and partners. You should also carve out some cycles in your schedule to gather information to update your intel on the competition.
I wouldn’t exactly call us trade show veterans but over the years, we had steadily improved our collective efforts. This year, I wanted to raise the bar even higher, especially for my team.
What drove this decision
This annual industry event precipitated our biggest marketing campaign of the year and we intended to pull out all the stops. We started setting up meeting schedules with customers and prospects weeks in advance and of course, were busy making preparations to lure in new contacts and leads. That meant crisp product demos that hit all the right notes. We needed to highlight the latest improvements to our story in a concise but captivating way to increase our chances of engagement.
Most of our close partners would also be in attendance and the show would provide us with an opportunity to reconnect with them as well, exchanging updates and looking for new integration or implementation options to serve our joint customers.
This was going to take some coordination - none of it was going to just happen magically.
The decision: Kick off early planning for the show to synchronize all the product-related activities across departments.
We needed to highlight the latest improvements to our story in a concise but captivating way to increase our chances of engagement.
I don’t think it’s wise to pin all your product/sales hopes on a single event but I have seen first hand how a large industry event like this can become a natural rallying point for the Product, Marketing, and Sales teams.
I had already coordinated our next major product release to line up with the event dates so that we would have exciting new announcements to share at the show. That was a good start.
To make sure we would get the most out of the show, I would need to circle back with other departments to work on making all the other pieces fall into place.
Plan of attack
With good preparation, we would likely have hundreds of opportunities to tell and sell our story to a mostly captive audience. I wanted to support our company's collective efforts and put our products directly in the spotlight. That meant having persuasive product demos, queuing up notable product announcements, promoting influential partnerships, and more.
I also had to make sure my own team would be taking full advantage of all the available resources at the show.
Review product demos with the Sales Team
I started by spending some time with our Sales Engineering team to review the product features that I thought should be highlighted to create compelling demos for the traffic we would see in both the booth and in our private meeting rooms.
We rely on Sales Engineers to help execute the technical part of the B2B sales process. Together with the Sales Reps, they will tailor and deliver product demonstrations based on a joint understanding of the customer's needs. At a busy trade show we don't often have the time to fully qualify leads and so we have to tweak our methods.
In recognizing that most attendees would not be able to spend more than a few minutes with us, we optimized the familiar customer story to have even more impact in a shortened discussion.
Confirm launch plans for a new product
Our big theme for this year's show was around the launch of our new mobile application. My partner over in Product Marketing had started orchestrating a full communication plan which would culminate in a product unveiling at the upcoming event. Aside from being able to show off the product itself (see Demos above), I wanted to make sure all our messaging was on target.
We had also been seeking out opportunities to further promote the new product outside of our own booth. For example, we applied for and were awarded a special "innovator" designation in the vendor listings. We also secured a coveted time slot to present at one of the show's more prominent venues where I would have much more time and resources to advertise our newest offering.
Finalize partnership integration announcements
Through discussions with a few of our strategic partners, we had determined that the trade show would also be a great time to create some joint buzz. One integration partner, for example, was going to use the show to significantly step up their own presence and our company had a part to play in that upcoming marketing blitz.
With another partner, we focused on a more tactical story. Rather than each of us independently promoting our own products, we agreed to highlight product integrations and the success our customers had realized by using our respective public APIs. Of course, it always helps to have these customers come forward and attest to our claims.
Synchronize agendas with the Product team
And finally, I sat down with my own team to review our strategy for consuming as much information as possible during the show. We walked through the complete list of formal sessions, scheduled workshops, and other informal gatherings to build agendas that would provide maximum coverage. It was tempting to completely fill up everyone's calendar but we also wanted to be able to accommodate spontaneous and unplanned events as well.
At the time of this writing, the trade show is still more than three weeks away. There will likely be many more details to work through before we all hop on airplanes and head out. I feel good about our preparation to date and will continue to push all the teams to band together to deliver a positive outcome for our company.