Top 5 Tips to Maximize Your Tradeshow Spend at the Offshore Technology Conference

In the deepwater energy sector, industry tradeshows provide prime opportunities to gain face time with your company’s customers, showcase new technologies, generate new business and capture market share. Despite these advantages, justifying a tradeshow spend can be a challenge in a down economy.

The optimal way to make the case for this expense is to demonstrate a return on the investment and fully utilize the available resources. Virtually any company can attend the upcoming Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and staff a booth, but to make the most out of your experience, you must proactively work to engage current and potential customers, media and other influencers. As a result, you can extend the impact of your company’s message and visibility beyond the four walls of your exhibit.

As the state’s premier integrated communications firm, Pierpont has helped numerous clients throughout the energy value chain make the most of their tradeshow appearances. This includes orchestrating a press conference at OTC to launch three game-changing offshore technologies for Cameron that drew more than 40 journalists from around the world. Based on our experience, here are some tips to maximize your investment in OTC 2009:

Develop targeted pre- and post-show direct outreach campaigns to incentivize your prospects and customers to visit your booth. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your company’s OTC marketing activity happens only at the show. Alerting your customers, prospects and attending media of your conference agenda via a highly targeted e-mail or a direct mail piece can increase the number of visitors who seek out your booth on the tradeshow floor. You can also take this one step further and encourage more visits by advertising a prize drawing or demonstration of a new technology in your pre-show outreach.

On the flip side, don’t let your interaction with prospects end when they leave the venue. Obtaining contact information by requiring booth visitors to submit a business card as part of a contest, for example, gives you the tools to follow up after the show to arrange a meeting. Lastly, ensure your people have been adequately trained to work a booth. Your team must be able to articulate your company’s elevator speech and have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them in terms of networking, sales/business development and customer engagement.

Set up a real-time news feed at your booth to maintain contact with those who can’t attend the show. There is no reason to limit yourself to reaching a finite number of OTC attendees. Social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter or a custom-made blog on your company’s Web site, allow you to provide real-time updates to the customers, prospects, analysts and media who follow your company but aren’t able to be there in person. You can even post photos or videos on your company’s real-time OTC news feeds to share information with employees, customers, prospects and partners.

Host an event for key customers or prospects to show appreciation or introduce new technologies and offerings. Show your VIP customers and top tier prospects that you appreciate their business and their time by inviting them to an exclusive event. This gives your company an opportunity to:

  • establish a more personal relationship
  • introduce VIPs to key executives
  • solicit feedback on your technologies or services
  • seek out advice for improving your company’s participation in next year’s OTC event
  • provide them a sneak peek at a new technology offering

And don’t worry, this kind of event can be tailored to virtually any budget ranging from a small cocktail event held in your booth to an exclusive dinner at an area restaurant.

Take advantage of the attending media channel. One benefit of attending a show the size of OTC is the large attendance from industry and business media. Trade media outlets often publish live updates and breaking news from the show on their Web sites, blogs and in e-newsletters. Some also print daily newspapers at the show. Research and get to know key reporters, their beats and their style of coverage in advance of OTC. This allows you to reach out to a targeted group before, during and after the show to secure coverage and take your news beyond the eyes and ears of OTC attendees.

Once you have identified the reporters you want to target, scheduling briefings between them and your company’s executives creates an opportunity to tell a more detailed story about your company and its offerings. This is also a great way to initiate what can become a very productive, mutually beneficial relationship with select journalists. And, by repurposing the resulting media coverage online and distributing it to customers and sales teams, you can factor this benefit into your overall tradeshow ROI calculations.

Hold a press event to launch a new technology or solution. A tried and true method of attracting attention to your company is to schedule a significant (I must stress significant) news announcement, such as the launch of a new technology or introduction of a new executive to coincide with the show. Creating a strategic media event to unveil your company’s product or solution will draw media and show attendees, ensuring your company greater visibility through coverage in trade press and the opportunity to leverage the media’s third-party credibility to influence customers, prospects and future employees.

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for OTC or any tradeshow. Maximizing your spend means rising above your peers and separating your company from the competitive set. In a climate where many businesses are tightening marketing budgets and eliminating tradeshow appearances altogether, take advantage of this opportunity to quickly increase your company’s visibility and message penetration at top-tier shows like OTC. Remember, if you don’t take these proactive steps, you can be certain your competitors will.