I’ve been thinking a lot about trade expos recently. Yeah, that’s what I do with my spare time.
What I’ve been thinking is this:
For the amount of time and money B2B vendors spend on preparing for, and exhibiting at, trade expos, they don’t half shoot themselves in the foot with their content marketing.
I’m not just talking flyers and posters, before you get your knickers in a twist about how much those leaflets cost you.
I’m talking digital.
Why? Cos crap B2B content marketing costs you money
I often visit trade expos – they’re a great way to find out what’s going on in the trade sector, and they’re a great hunting ground for new clients.
But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: B2B brands that come off really well at expos are often total B2B content marketing disasters.
At the end of the day, you might say it doesn’t matter what I think – after all, I’m touting for business. And you’re right.
What matters is what B2B consumers think.
And here’s the rub: shoddy B2B content marketing is costing you money. Let’s look at six ways to stop your business throwing money away at that next expo.
1. Refresh your website content
Visitors to the expo will look at your website. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t, they won’t.
I’m not saying you have to have a complete website overhaul. Sure, you might need one, but there isn’t always the time.
What you should make time for is a website content refresh. Take a couple of days (even one – I’m begging you) to:
- Remove any outdated and irrelevant pages
- Replace any outdated and irrelevant info
- Update as much awful imagery as possible
- Proof-read your content for errors, clunky phrases and general bullshit
- Check your links to make sure they all work
My general rules are:
- Have as few pages as you can get away with
- No page is better than a shit page
- If your content is rubbish, get rid
Your website may still be terrible after you make these changes, in which case a new one should definitely be on your to-do list, but it will definitely be less terrible.
2. Improve your contact page
I can’t tell you how many B2B websites I visit, both before and after trade expos, only to find that their contact page in particular is a hot mess.
Let’s break it down, nice and simple:
Things that make me not want to contact you / sad that I tried to contact you:
- Ugly / broken down contact pages
- Contact pages with a form but no other contact details
- Contact forms that take me to a weird/blank/rubbish page
- No confirmation email – did it send? Will I hear back?
- Contact pages with only an ‘info@’ address. Who am I talking to?
- Contact pages with only a ‘sales@’ address. I don’t want to be sold to
Things that make me happy to contact you:
- Neat, clean, attractive contact pages
- A variety of contact options: phone, email, contact form, Twitter, LinkedIn
- A clear ‘thank you’ page that tells me what to expect next
- A brief confirmation email that tells me I’ll get a response, and no spam
- Email addresses with names in them. Tell me who I’m contacting!
Plenty of these are quick fixes, so get them sorted before the expo comes round.
3. Sort your email marketing
A lot of the time, the most a B2B brand will do to market their attendance at an event is write a blog about it, then send that out to existing customers.
Not very exciting.
But if you can get ahead, it’s worth really putting some effort into promotion. Email marketing’s still the most successful outbound channel for B2B brands, so here’s a few quick ideas on how to shout about your upcoming trade expo:
- Expo round-up email: if you’re going to be attending a few expos over the course of the year – particularly in different regions – write up a list. Blog it, and email it to your mailing list. Include links to that list in later emails, even in your email signature.
- Specific expo emails: blog in advance of each specific expo, making sure to feature the name and location prominently, plus your stand number/location. Email it out. Try to be excited!
- Target confirmed attendees: let the confirmed attendees of the trade expo know you’re going to be there. Also use direct mail and social media (expos often have their own hashtags).
- Incentives: what’s not to love about a bit of bribery? Incentivise visits to your stand and get folks to fill out their data for a chance to win a prize. Post expo, you’ve got all that lovely data – get emailing.
4. Prepare some case studies
If there’s one thing all the big B2B content marketing reports have shown going into 2018, it’s that case studies consistently come out on top in terms of preferred content types.
In fact, 78% of B2B buyers cited case studies as an important part of their decision-making process. B2B customers love a good case study. Why?
- Relatability: case studies are the perfect way to demonstrate the potential ROI your product or service can achieve. B2B buyers want proof, not promises.
- Focus on results: B2B consumers are looking for products and services that offer them quick, quality, cost-effective results. Case studies are real-life examples of what results can be achieved, and where.
- Benchmarking data: benchmarking data is high on the list of priorities for 2018’s B2B buyers: 62% said they want more of it in the content they get from B2B vendors.
- Story-telling: B2B buyers want to situate themselves in relation to others, especially businesses that share the same pain points as them, so they can better predict their potential growth. Salesforce is a brilliant example of storytelling in B2B content marketing.
Get some case studies up on your website, and get some printed out for the expo.
Moving forward, make sure you and your customer-facing staff are routinely gathering data from every job you work on.
5. Dig out your technical info and prepare to bare
Potential suppliers, partners and customers want to know exactly what you’re selling, how it works, and what the benefit to them is going to be.
Technical info is what’s needed. Clear, well-presented, precise technical data.
The type of data you’re going to need to have to hand will vary depending on what your business does – it could be anything from material safety data sheets to product specification charts.
Here’s what you need to remember:
- Make it attractive: smudgy print-outs and cheap, shiny flyers from the print shop down the road won’t impress your audience. Quality paper, sharp printing, nice design. Spend a bit, eh?
- Make sure it’s well written: whatever writing you’ve got on there, make sure it’s clear, concise, customer focused, and checked for any spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Include your contact info: put a name, an email address and a phone number at the bottom. Be specific: no one wants to talk to info@.
- Make it visual: it can be hard to generate interest in B2B products and services. Invest in some quality imagery to drive engagement. Folks recognise stock shots, and they don’t like them.
6. Invite customer questions
Anyone who’s known me for more than 10 minutes will know that I’m a big fan of Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer approach to content marketing.
TAYA is a way of targeting long-tail keywords while building trust in your brand by answering every question your customers put to you.
Publicly. In written form.
Stick with me.
I’m of the firm opinion that businesses can build an entire B2B content marketing strategy around They Ask, You Answer.
And expo attendance is the perfect way to kick-start it.
- Email your mailing list: let them know you’ll be attending the expo. Ask them to email any questions they want to ask you, and promise them a detailed answer, in person, on the day.
- Promote your TAYA approach: let folks know you’ll answer whatever they want to know in as much detail as you can while at the expo. No pussy-footing, no bullshit, no bluff.
- Have a TAYA box at the expo: every question you get asked, write it down and stick it in the box. At the end of the expo, you’ll have a whole heap of blog ideas based on real customer queries.
They Ask, You Answer isn’t just a great way to gather important data – it’s a brilliant conversation opener at trade expos.
- It’s customer-focused.
- It’s 100% free of sales spiel (something 74% of B2B consumers say turns them off).
- It allows you to get right into the nitty-gritty of what makes your business so good
That last point in particular is amazing for B2B brands with complex products or services.
It’s often hard to communicate your USPs in a few words, and this method gives you more words to play with and a captive audience.
The Short Version
B2B content marketing might not be vital for your business yet, but it will be. B2B consumers are becoming more demanding, and increasingly active online.
Attending trade expos is still a great way for B2B brands to attract new business. Refreshing your online marketing efforts before you attend one will help to maximise your investment.
Customers want easy to read, engaging content from B2B brands that:
- Is visually appealing
- Is easy to navigate, if hosted online
- Contains benchmarking data
- Has detailed information
- Includes real-life examples
- Is customer-focused, not salesy
Spend some time before you attend trade expos making sure your online presence is up to scratch, and that you’re really giving the modern B2B consumer what he or she wants.
Did I miss anything off? How does your B2B business prepare for trade expos? Tell me in the comments if you’ve got any bright ideas 👇🏻
Need some help with B2B content marketing? Give me a shout.