Learning to pivot – leveraging events to drive more print

Were you at drupa this year? I wasn’t. Well, I wasn’t there physically. But I have to say…on many days I felt like I was truly there. Between pictures, tweets, posts, videos, newsletters, email blasts and everything in between, I almost felt like I was there…minus all the walking!

“70% of event programmers said the viral nature of an event is extremely or very important.” source: capterra

As someone who plans events, whether it’s as a vendor at an industry tradeshow, Avanti’s own user group, or a workshop, one of the greatest challenges all marketers face is the dreaded “bums in seats”.

Tradeshows are changing. Aside from the educational component of most events, many attendees have done their research long before stepping onto the show floor or walking into your session. They are ready and armed with the questions they want answered; regardless of what stage they’re at in the buying process.

But consider this: according to Global Experience Specialists, 75% of tradeshow brochures and product pamphlets end up in the garbage. In order to provide attendees with the content they’re actually interested in, brands are using electronic collateral/literature, allowing attendees to select what they want and have it sent instantaneously to their inboxes.

I know that the amount of traditional print that I produce for tradeshows has declined, however the demand for information is as pervasive as ever. Faced with an onslaught of social sharing capabilities; how can printers pivot and regain their foothold in the event arena?

Did you know that the average event uses five promotional methods to publicize the event?

Over 75% of marketers use email to promote their event, while 47% still mail invites. (source: HubSpot).

Direct Mail is making a comeback. “Direct mail continues to serve as a key driver in most omnichannel marketing plans. It’s complemented well by online efforts, and fills a much-needed niche.” Source: thedma.org.

I know of one organization that offers photobooks to their conference attendees who share pictures taken during the event. Another company I know doesn’t wait for their customers to reach out. They are proactive based on insights they’ve gathered from past events, regardless the industry.

Do you have customers who exhibit annually at events (ie: Graph Expo?). What can you offer them beyond collateral printing? Consider a proactive approach (this is where your CRM comes in handy). Do a bit of homework and work with the person managing their event calendar. As a printer, how can you help make this person’s life easier? One printer I worked with took the time to shrink-wrap my collateral in small bundles of 50. This helped keep the booth organized, as well as reduced spoilage because only small quantities were available at any given time.

The important thing is for the campaign to be integrated. Messaging across all channels must be consistent, and that includes the Call-to-Action (CTA). To that point, if you (or your client) is running a print ad campaign, have they remembered to include their booth number? Is the CTA relevant? I mean, have you ever tried to click on a hyperlink in a print ad? I know you’re chuckling, but too often I see ads that would work great as a clickable .pdf, or an email blast, but not print. And with Pokemon GO all the rage, many companies are becoming interested in AR-inspired print campaigns. Don’t be afraid to ask your customer questions and offer assistance and ideas to supplement their efforts.

Here are some other creative print ideas that I’ve seen on tradeshow floors:

  • Postcards with QR codes that link to live video testimonials, product demos, etc.
  • Scratch off cards (make them work for their swag!)
  • Stickers (when someone visits a booth, their badge gets stickered with the company logo and become walking brand ambassadors
  • Branded bags (they have to put all their stuff somewhere, after all!)
  • From giveaways to signage to highly targeted direct mail; there are a number of ways that printers can add value to their prospects and customers…if you’re willing to do a bit of homework and think creatively.

While nothing can take the place of live, face-to-face interactions, there is something to be said of the ability to extend the experience to those who just may choose to attend the future live event, perhaps as exhibitors themselves! Making that experience memorable, regardless the channel, is the first step towards getting that extra bum in a seat…and extra $$ into your revenue stream.


Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: joanne@joannegorecommunications.com Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121