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How to Align Your Trade Show Marketing Strategy with Today’s B2B Buyer Traits

Shane Shirley | Aug 9, 2017 262 views No Comments

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Marketing segmentation

There’s no doubt that today’s working generation spends more time on their phones and other connected devices than any other in the past. Many believe this has led to deteriorated interpersonal communication skills and a heavy reliance on communicating and doing business through these devices.

When looking at the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) “2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” report, the top of the list of the most frequently used B2B content marketing tactics certainly does not disprove this point, with social media content, blogs, and email newsletters (all digital tactics) occupying the top three spots.

But, if you move just one more spot down the list, you’ll find that 68 percent of B2B marketers leverage in-person events to market their products or services.



Trade shows provide B2B marketers a unique opportunity to discuss and review products and services in person, while also networking and learning more about the industry all under one roof.

So, as a B2B marketer, what are some of the buyer traits you should be aware of as you set up for your next trade show or in-person event?

They Research Online

For nine out of every ten buyers, the B2B buying process begins with an Internet search. This is primarily due to the quality of today’s websites and quite simply, the availability of information that the internet provides. Whether it be through social media channels, industry research, online forums, product pages, or any other digital avenue, information about your product is likely instantly available the moment B2B buyers want to access it.

Aligning Your Trade Show Strategy: With this factor in mind, those exhibiting at trade shows need to understand the prospects are most likely informed about the basic functions and qualities of your products or services before they approach your booth. They no longer need to interact with a salesperson to learn about the high-level information. Use your time at the trade show booth as a chance to build a relationship with the prospect and offer value-add insights that may be more difficult to exhibit online.

They Crave Personalization

Today’s B2B buyer wants its vendor to truly understand their needs and offer solutions that will simplify life for their organization. According to Demand Gen Report’s “2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey,” the top four reasons why buyers end up choosing a winning vendor are:

  • Timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries (98 percent)
  • Demonstration of a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape (97 percent)
  • Demonstration of a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs (94 percent)
  • They made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase (90 percent)

In other words, B2B buyers want a truly personalized experience.

Aligning Your Trade Show Strategy: Heading to a trade show or other marketing event with a one-size-fits-all strategy in today’s market will spell doom for your efforts. It’s essential to understand who will be in attendance and understand their needs before they even approach your booth. If there’s an attendee list available online, do some research about each and be prepared to showcase how your products or services can make a difference. While it might be very difficult to understand every attendees’ needs, be sure to ask the right questions when an unfamiliar attendee approaches your booth and truly make them feel unique.

They’re “Social”

According to LinkedIn research, social media and information sharing were the only two content sources that were in the top three for all five stages of the path to purchase. These stages include awareness, scope, plan, select, and implement.

This stat shows the prowess of social media, even inside the B2B environment. Today’s buyers rely on social media to gather information and seek guidance from their peers across the industry as they make a buying decision.

Aligning Your Trade Show Strategy: Before the show even gets started, as a vendor, you should be ready to join the conversation on social media. This means researching to find out what hashtags will be used at the trade show and connecting with other attendees. During the show, be sure to participate on social media and include social icons, QR codes, and other social media account information at your booth where it fits. Doing so will give you a better chance of connecting with other decision makers that were unable to attend the show. After the show, go through your list of contacts that were gathered and see if they are on social media. Connect with them to keep the conversation going and answer any other questions they may have about your products or services.

They Don’t Make the Buying Decision Alone

According to CEB Global, an average of about 5 people are involved in today’s B2B purchase decisions. This means that trade show exhibitors need to think of ways to extend their message beyond the walls of the show, as chances are, not all decision-makers will be in attendance.

Aligning Your Trade Show Strategy: It’s critical to think outside the box with ways to extend your message beyond the trade show. Writing follow-up blog content, publishing videos from the show, and staying connected to prospects on social media are all effective ways to do this. Also, don’t forget to hand out free promotional giveaways at your trade show booth. You never know, that reusable shopping bag or customized pen sitting around the CEO’s office could put your company at the top of mind and get the conversation going internally.

Final Thoughts

Exhibiting B2B products and services at a trade show has certainly evolved in the last 20 years as the digital takeover continues. Be sure to keep your target buyer in mind at all times of the trade show (before, during, and after) and cater to their wants and desires as best as you can.

A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing in 2017 and beyond will likely leave you coming up short and falling behind the competition.

Image Credit: iStock

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