As an exhibit design and build firm, it’s crucial for us to present strongly and with a thoughtful strategy when we exhibit at a trade show. After all, we’re essentially using ourselves as an example of what we can do; how creative and innovative we can be in utilizing floor space, materials and media to create an impactful environment that attracts and sticks with you as a complete branded experience. This was more important than ever for ExhibitorLIVE 2021, the first trade show we participated in post-COVID.
Our aim was to create a memorable experience that summarized what we learned during the pandemic and shutdown of events while emphasizing our new approach for event strategies.
It was obvious that in-person interactions are unmatched in the impact they have on business to business sales, and that people are looking to understand a brand through storytelling and interactives; they want to be a part of the experience, and not a bystander or just a viewer. Our message was simple yet powerful: experiences are the new exhibits.
Utilizing a double deck structure with a singular staircase and a full-height tower built into the deck, as well as open floor space in front of the double deck and underneath it, we created a nature-themed environment as a space for people to journey with us from the past to the future of event strategy. They could climb the proverbial mountain, trek through wilderness and reflect at the foot of a waterfall.
The staff, who were dressed like nature guides and hikers, met the attendees in the space with an iPad as a navigation map showing how BlueHive was forging a new path for event strategies and experiential exhibit design. They also provided each attendee who was gauged a warm lead with an oversized coin to toss into the wishing well at the base of the waterfall. Attendees were encouraged to wish away the event challenges of the past or wish for a better events journey for the future and were asked to write their name and phone number on the coin to be entered into our random prize drawing for Lowa hiking boots.
The success of our booth was measured with intangibles such as the quality of conversations our booth staff had with attendees and the engagement rate of our experiential component; although there were fewer attendees, our staff reported better quality conversations than pre-COVID years with people who were interested buyers. And because our wishing well experience was not a simple branded giveaway item, people were seeking us out to be a part of the experience instead of grabbing their gift and moving on. (We did have a few attendees ask if they could keep the coin as a keepsake, though!)
We also kept track of the number of coins we started and ended with; over the two-day show, we used all 200 coins we brought, meaning we had conversations with 200 people gauged to be warm leads by the booth staff. Several of these leads were aware of our messaging and interested to learn more about us from our pre-show marketing efforts including email, social media and broadcast efforts.
These results in turn proved our approach and theory for the future of event marketing: that creating an experience around your brand story and purpose drives customer leads and retention because it resonates with them more than just a passive information-led experience. What’s more, it demonstrated the importance of synergy in marketing and messaging, and how a trade show program and the experiences developed for it should be consistent with the rest of a company’s marketing mix.