Meet the Experts – Customer Engagement with Carol Bjorn
Hello Carol, welcome to The Exhibitor! Tell us a little about you and your professional journey.
My career began working in Marketing and Product Management in high tech and telecommunications fields. This experience has given me a strong sense of what it takes to bring a product to market, how challenging it can be to introduce a new product or service – the pressure of tight timelines, budgets, internal challenges and ultimately customer buy-in.
Now I am on the agency/exhibit-design-build side of the equation my prior background provides important client insight. I enjoy working with a diverse portfolio of clients, helping them to bring their brands to life.
Customer engagement is built through three stages: before, during and after the show. What are the major milestones of these stages?
This is a very important point.
Too often, I see that it is not viewed as three stages. Often, the trade show or event is taken as a standalone experience. Sort of, “build it and they will come”. Using an old term, you need to prime-the-pump, on a practical level; this means to start communicating with your target audience 6-8 weeks prior to the event. Your post show program must be in place before you leave for the show; you will be tired when you return, make sure your post show contact program is done and ready to execute the week you return.
What should an exhibitor do BEFORE a show to optimize customer engagement at the show?
The concept is to accelerate the buyer’s journey and to connect your audience to your brand. 70% of attendees have a plan of who they intend to visit at the trade show prior to leaving.
You need to make sure you are on that list. The three stages need to be a continuous journey and a build-up of expectations. Develop a theme and content messaging and keep this consistent through all client experiences.
Additionally, the theme and experience need to be consistent with your overall brand and market message. The prospect will have a deeper engagement with your company if your message is consistent.
On a practical level, the message needs to be sent through multiple channels, social media, e-mail and, in some cases, dimensional mailers. Make sure that you start approximately 8 weeks prior to the event. Have an implementation schedule and all the messaging laid out, don’t invent as you go, your messaging will appear disjointed if you do this.
What are your recommendation for exhibitors to engage with visitors in their trade show booth?
Bring your product or service to life, make sure that you connect the client on an emotional level to your product or service.
To do this effectively, you must clearly understand what problem you solve for your client. Identify your top three client concerns and make sure that your engagement makes it clear how you solve those problems.
Your engagement needs to take into account your company’s goals for the show. If your goal is to attract new clients, versus meeting with existing clients, this can impact what your engagement looks like.
What can an exhibitor do to stand out from the competition at a show?
Make sure that you are properly funded for your engagement. Although VR or touch screen interactive is exceptional, if you are not properly funded, a message that is not well delivered is not good. Look to activities that are consistent with your budget.
Make sure that your staff is well trained. You have spent a lot of money to participate in the trade show, don’t cut back on properly training the staff (read more about trade show team training).
Post-event follow-up is known to be a major element of trade show success – what are the key aspects of a good follow-up?
Don’t just leave this to the sales/account team: have a program that supports them.
Your post-show activity should include a call-to-action, a customer that follows through is an engaged customer. You know you have a real prospect that is ready to move to the next level of the buying journey if they are willing to follow through on an activity.
If you had to pick THE most important thing an exhibitor can do to insure success, what would it be?
Clearly communicate what problem you solve for the show attendee.
myfairtool provides solutions to build a company page to promote your booth and a solution to follow-up instantly with visitors – what is your professional opinion about these solutions?
myfairtool is an awesome tool for exhibitors. It provides a single source for developing a comprehensive program.
Remember my advice is to be professional, have a comprehensive program, keep it on schedule and budget properly. myfairtool provides a one stop application for the tradeshow manager.
The Exhibitor published a very successful series called “The Trade Show Chronicles” where the reader is in the shoes of an exhibitor. Is it close to your experience of trade shows?
One of the things I tell my clients when brainstorming ideas for a customer engagement is to go to the trade show web site and register as if they were their ideal client. Think about how and why they answer the registration forms and how the client justifies the expense to participate. With this knowledge, you can develop a target program.
Any additional tips for our readers?
Make sure you have buy-in from all relevant parties within your organization. Management, Sales & Marketing are all on the same page for the program.