PHOTOS: LIVE MARKETING INC.; JILL NORTON PHOTOGRAPHY; AWAY LUGGAGE PHOTO: JRSK INC.
Company: Live Marketing Inc.
Show: EXHIBITORLIVE 2018
Size: 10-by-10 feet
Problem: Live Marketing needed a clever traffic-building strategy and exhibit design to offset the challenge of a miniscule booth in a remote part of the show floor.
Solution: To lure attendees to its booth at the perimeter of the exhibit hall, the agency created an integrated campaign in which pre-show emails, staff uniforms, the exhibit design itself, in-booth hospitality, and giveaways all tied into an air-travel theme.
• Collect 100 new leads.
• Schedule 10 post-show meetings.
• Gathered 248 leads.
• Secured 45 post-show appointments with prospects.
"Bigger is better" is practically a truism on the trade show floor. Massive headers draw attention, huge video walls attract more eyeballs, and gigantic booths are almost impossible for attendees to ignore. As such, it's often assumed that having a small booth is always a disadvantage – especially when that booth is stuck in the back corner of the show floor rather than up near the entrance alongside more expansive stands able to throw their weight around like the Goliaths of the exhibit hall. Then again, David found that size wasn't a critical factor to success, at least once the humble shepherd came up with a savvy strategy that hit the nail – or giant – on the head.
Evanston, IL- based creative agency Live Marketing Inc. found itself in a similar David-versus-Goliath situation at EXHIBITORLIVE 2018, an educational conference and exhibition for trade show and event professionals. But instead of a mere stone and slingshot to fight its opponents, Live Marketing's ammunition came in the form of a 10-by-10-foot booth, a little creativity, and a commitment to making a big impact despite its small space.
Looking to prove its engagement strategies could work in any sized booth, Live Marketing decided to downsize to a 10-by-10 for the first time at EXHIBITORLIVE, where it had previously deployed 20-by-20-foot exhibits. However, the company had more to contend with than a 75-percent reduction in its footprint. Its new booth space was tucked away along the back edge of the show floor's perimeter. Despite that, Live Marketing expected supersized results out of its undersized space.
Wanting to drum up new business, the agency set two lofty goals: capture 100 new leads and secure 10 post-show meetings. But to reach these objectives, the company had to find some way of enticing showgoers to bypass competitors with larger booths and prime locations, something that would challenge even the most inventive marketing minds. "Because EXHIBITORLIVE attendees develop and manage their own trade show marketing programs, they are sophisticated and savvy, with a high bar for creative approaches that get their attention," says Anne Trompeter, principal and executive creative strategist for Live Marketing. "This can make it difficult to develop and activate a fresh idea that will stick and resonate with them."
To overcome these obstacles, Live Marketing developed a two-part approach. First, rather than firing a lone salvo – or slinging a single stone – the company planned to hit attendees with a barrage of pre- and at-show touchpoints in order to reach as many potential prospects as often as possible. Second, it sought to establish a theme capable of tying what might otherwise appear as disparate tactics into one cohesive, integrated program that would hopefully compel attendees to pay the diminutive booth a visit.
Preparing for Departure
The Live Marketing team then got to work crafting a fresh theme that would resonate with its target audience and punch far above its weight class. After bandying about a number of initial concepts, Trompeter and her crew settled on a theme that just about every exhibit and event manager can relate to: air travel. The company knew its target audience would be all too familiar with baggage fees, the wails of infants in flight, and sprints through airports to make tight connections. What many budget-strapped marketers might be less familiar with – and completely envious of – is a swanky VIP airport lounge where they could relax and escape the chaos. So the team decided to offer them that luxe opportunity in its booth, and with that, the "Take Flight with Live Marketing" theme was cleared for takeoff.
However, a VIP lounge alone likely wouldn't be enough to convince attendees to stampede the booth, so Live Marketing added three alluring incentives. First, it decided to host a complimentary cocktail bar in the lounge, as anyone who's spent time on a trade show floor knows that free booze attracts attendees like an empty TSA line attracts fliers, no matter how far they must walk to get it. Second, the agency would give visitors the opportunity to enter a premium raffle for a pair of Away-brand suitcases worth about $500. Those who've recently looked at replacing their battered bags know that Away suitcases have developed a cult following among frequent fliers, making this top-of-the line luggage a covetable giveaway prize. Finally, the company would thank attendees who booked post-show meetings with a free company service: a crowd gatherer for a day (with an option to pay for extended usage of the gatherer), a booth staff training workshop (excluding travel), or a booth engagement strategy audit.
Once the theme and incentives were established, the company simply had to spread the word to attendees, which it began doing about seven weeks before the show through targeted emails, social-media posts, press releases, and print ads. As the show approached, the frequency ratcheted up, with each touchpoint carefully tailored to fit the VIP lounge concept. For example, the company switched all of its social-media headers to airport-related images, and posts included on-target phrases such as "Take flight with us at EXHIBITORLIVE." Posts and emails featured calls to action and links that led viewers to a show-specific microsite where they could learn about the company's offerings, grab a free exhibit hall pass, and print a clever "boarding pass" that they could redeem at the booth to enter the raffle. The plane tickets, like all aspects of the campaign, contained on-theme references, e.g., the flight on "Engagement Air" departed from EXBLV (EXHIBITORLIVE) and arrived at LM (Live Marketing). And in case showgoers didn't remember to bring their tickets, Live Marketing included the passes in the show bags attendees received at registration.
With boarding passes firmly in hand, attendees practically flew to the Live Marketing VIP Lounge at the back of the exhibit hall, which approaching showgoers found remarkably easy to locate thanks to an ancillary benefit of having a perimeter booth. Being located on the outer edge allowed Live Marketing to erect a 15-foot-tall back wall, almost double what's allowed for standard in-line exhibits on interior aisles – an advantage the majority of perimeter booths didn't utilize.
Branded with graphics depicting large windows looking out over runways and text promoting the company's promises of "elite engagement," "premier programs," and "sky high results," the back wall stood out like an air-traffic control tower along the back aisle of the show floor.
Upon arrival, attendees encountered the bustling 10-by-10 lounge with vinyl flooring printed to look like high-end hardwood. The majority of the booth was taken up by an angled, V-shaped bar around which showgoers could engage with Live Marketing staffers who were clad in airline-themed attire. Some reps wore white blazers, white Live Marketing T-shirts, and iconic flight attendant scarves printed with the company's color-burst logo. Others donned navy blazers accented with branded pocket squares. To round everything out, staffers complemented their outfits with airplane wing pins and either gray or white slip-on Vans shoes. "The overall wardrobe was reminiscent of airline uniforms, but updated for a fresh and modern feel," Trompeter says.
Staffers broke the ice by inviting attendees to play Air Roulette on a touchscreen tablet for a chance to win travel-related giveaways. Interested visitors had their badges scanned and answered a few quick qualifying questions via a digital survey. Once the information was collected, staffers presented visitors with the tablet, which had an on-screen, branded spinner in the shape of an airplane. Participants simply touched the screen to send the aircraft spinning, and depending on which "boarding gate" the spinner stopped, players won branded prizes such as phone chargers, headphones, Pop Sockets, eye masks, and neck pillows.
Throughout the fun and casual interactions, staffers probed visitors with questions to better understand their needs, offered the company's solutions when appropriate, and scheduled follow-up appointments, with those who already arranged for post-show meetings earning free use of one of the company's services. Using the tablets, staffers could also email relevant literature directly to interested prospects.
Next, reps invited attendees to visit the bar where they grabbed some airport-style snacks and ordered a complimentary cocktail or mocktail, which provided another chance for Live Marketing to demonstrate its keen attention to detail. The beverages featured signature travel and industry monikers such as The Layover, The Upgrade, Engagement Booster, The Marketing Mule, Spritz of Results, and The All-Nighter. "Every detail contributes to a successful exhibit," Trompeter says.
"Keeping all elements cohesive creates a 'sticky' experience that cements the message in attendees' minds and makes the experience memorable." Those small but significant details even extended to the bar's plastic cups, napkins, and stir sticks, all of which were branded with the company's name and logo.
Needless to say, there was a lot going on inside the miniature VIP lounge, but Live Marketing managed to spread its wings beyond the 10-by-10 footprint by offering branded flashing LED pins to booth visitors who had their badges scanned and participated in the in-booth survey. To incentivize attendees to wear the pins, which essentially served as runway lights directing others to the back-row booth, staffers explained that a company spotter would be patrolling the show floor twice a day and presenting random pin wearers with Tile Mates – Bluetooth gadgets that allow users to find their misplaced keys, purses, or luggage via their cellphones.
A Soaring Success
By the time the final VIPs flew home after the show, likely making use of their travel-related swag en route, Live Marketing knew its integrated-marketing program and attention to detail had caused it to overshoot its landing zone in the best way possible. Instead of garnering 100 new leads, the program collected a veritable planeload of 248, almost 150 percent above its pre-show goal. But the agency wasn't done. In a post-show follow-up email, Live Marketing thanked attendees for visiting its exhibit and extended its at-show offering of a free service to any recipient that booked a capabilities presentation within four weeks of EXHIBITORLIVE. By the time the deadline passed, the company had scheduled 45 meetings, 350 percent more than its initial objective. The results were so verwhelming that Live Marketing redeployed the same campaign the following year and generated an additional 389 leads.
"We showed that a solid, proactive engagement strategy with a splash of creativity and supported by an integrated marketing promotional campaign can build buzz and draw attention to any sized exhibit," Trompeter says. Despite its diminutive size and disadvantageous location, Live Marketing was able to exceed expectations on all fronts. It goes to show that bigger booths aren't always better, but rather, better marketing is always the best approach. E