Editor’s note: This is part two of an article that examines how technology has been integrated into the show cycle.
Technology plays a major role in all aspects of today’s tradeshow landscape and meeting professionals are constantly dreaming up new ways to include it in their event.
Technology has the ability to enhance almost every piece of the show cycle if used correctly. If a process is too slow, technology can speed it up. If an event is too short, technology can extend it.
Once the doors at a show open and attendees scatter toward the exhibits, booth personnel are in lead generation mode. That is their main task; qualifying leads and getting them back to the sales force as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In the past, the fish-bowl method was used as attendees dropped their cards. This was later replaced by the scanner that captured the same information. Now, technology has taken the process and made a giant leap forward.
“The use of technology has really allowed exhibitors to change the dynamics of how they engage their customers,” said Dean Hills, digital strategist for PRMconnect. “They can now create a customized experience using technology. We now have the ability to have a personalization of experience with leads that we couldn’t do without that technology back end.”
PRMconnect has developed a web-based technology called Leadature that allows exhibitors to capture and distribute these personalized leads in real time.
“We now know the specific product an attendee is interested in as they select information and collateral from the system,” said Hills. “We ask them profile questions that are unique to the attendee and tailor product questions based on audience segmentation. Before they step off the carpet in the booth, they have the literature on their smart phone.”
Even when the attendee is off to the next booth, the technology behind Leadature continues behind the scenes.
At the same time the attendee is emailed the requested product information, the sales executive for the exhibiting company who handles that product in that particular region is notified that they have a local lead. The executive also gets a copy of the profile questions the attendee was asked.
“It allows the sales force to speak very specifically with the customer and also respond very specifically to their needs,” said Hills. “What that does is it accelerates the sales pipeline dramatically from what people were historically able to do from the show floor.”
But the technology behind attendee engagement still doesn’t stop there. The program also tracks links, clicks and opens for the emails it sends. So the sales executive is notified when his lead is reading the email, browsing the product literature or visiting the company website.
“It completely eliminates the lag time between the sales force and the lead from days or weeks to nothing,” said Hills. “It is all captured in real time.”
After the tradeshow has ended its run, post event follow-up is next up to the plate. Once again, the speed and the cost of post-event measurement and research are greatly affected by technology.
“Technology does not replace all critical elements involved in post-event follow-up, but it certainly is a tremendous help in timely follow-up and continuing the messaging post-event,” said Joe Federbush, VP of sales and marketing for Exhibit Surveys Inc. “It has drastically improved the quality of service we can provide to our clients in terms of timeliness and costs.”
Exhibit Surveys offers a number of post-show services, including sales conversion surveys, lead analysis and show selection studies. As validation for the tradeshow spend becomes more of an issue, helping exhibitors feel their time on the show floor was productive is very important to the industry. Once again, technology is there with the assist.
“We conduct post-event measurement for companies like HP and Intel across many of their events globally by automating the survey process from lead import, email deployment, survey creation, and most importantly, reporting,” said Federbush. “The cost and time savings allow for more time being spent on the analysis and recommendations, which is the most important part of planning, accountability and show selection decisions.”
Exhibit Surveys has also developed a free, online ROI Tool Kit in conjunction with the ROI Task Force of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). The project was funded by a grant from the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).
“This website includes a series of simple tools to assist exhibitors in planning for an exhibition and to measure performance in delivering a return-on-investment (ROI) from exhibiting,” said Federbush.
Another way technology is impacting the world of tradeshows is by extending the life cycle of an event. Nowadays, tradeshows are all about creating a community of people around the event, and nothing makes this possible more than technology.
“Digital media, social media and email tracking tools allow exhibitors to continue to promote their products throughout the entire buying cycle and communicate new product offerings, which is typically the main reason attendees go to events,” said Federbush. “Other technologies, like radio frequency identification at tradeshows, allow exhibitors to better understand their visitors, not only during the show, but also post-show to keep the sales process relevant, timely and targeted.”
Although technology has become an essential part of life on and off the show floor, Hills does have some advice for show managers and exhibitors who might use it just because they can.
“People are bombarded by it constantly,” said Hills. “So it is important to leverage technology in a thoughtful way to create something that is not only relative to the engagement of attendees, but also interesting. Technology is best used when it engages the customer personally and specifically rather than just preaching to them.”