Every trade show exhibit manager 3D Exhibits works with faces the same challenge: the success of their program is dependent on the support of a variety of internal stakeholders—some of whom couldn’t care less about trade shows.
As we’ve watched our clients triumph over the past 20+ years, we’ve noticed that the most successful corporate event marketers employ a similar set of tactics to get their internal teams onboard.
We watched and listened and distilled it down for you. Here are seven best practices for gaining internal support for your trade show marketing program:
1. Befriend the opinion leader. Every company has at least one opinion leader—the person or people who everyone listens to. And follows. The person who, when they tell everyone that trade shows are really important and that you’re doing a great job, is believed. The person who, when they agree that it’s important, can convince upper management to increase the trade show budget.
Highly successful trade show managers connect with this person, make him/her into an ally and ask for his/her help and advice.
2. Recruit an executive sponsor. You hope that everyone will support your trade show marketing plan because they want to—and because they believe in what you are trying to accomplish. And while that is the ideal situation, it’s more likely that there will be a few team members who, for whatever reason, persist in refusing to cooperate (non-cooperation ranges from delivering booth content late to showing up hung over for booth duty).
The only way around this is to have an executive, who can impose consequences on those who don’t want to cooperate—and will support your efforts.
3. Share ownership. A rookie mistake is to try to do everything yourself. When you share ownership, the team members you’ve selected will want—and work for—success as badly as you do. And they’ll talk the project up with other people, too—doing some of the PR work for you.
This might mean letting someone make a choice you might not agree with, but if giving up control over an element or two of the program helps turn co-workers into advocates, it will be worth it in the long run.
4. Keep the team informed. The only way your internal team is going to understand the changes you are making to the program, and their benefits to your company, is if you educate them. Brief emails are great for this—as are presentations in the staff meeting.
Prior to the show, explain exactly what you are going to do differently and what your desired outcome is. Post-show, reiterate what you did and how it worked out. People need to hear things several times before they stick, so be prepared to tell your story two or three times and via as many methods as possible.
5. Deliver visual evidence of improvement. Have you increased booth traffic, improved the design of your demos, or streamlined the lead gen process? Use before-and-after diagrams, renderings, photos and video as proof that your strategy performed. After all, seeing is believing.
6. Exude passion. Enthusiasm is contagious. Share your excitement about and pride in your program with others. Even if they laugh at you a little, you’ve made an impression.
7. Share accolades. It’s natural to want to be the hero. But before you take all the credit, think about the good—and future support—you’ll gain if you publicly thank and compliment all of the people who supported you.
A final piece of advice:
Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither is a results-generating trade show marketing program. It will likely take you years to go from where you are now to where you want to be, so your best bet is to accept that and mark your progress with the small victories you achieve along the way.
What approaches to obtaining internal support for your trade show exhibit program have you found to be the most successful?