Trade Shows / Conferences are one of the most expensive marketing costs that many companies will invest in. So it makes sense to go into each event with a strong game plan for how your company will achieve the maximum Return on Investment (ROI) for the event. How many times have you heard the phrase "trade shows are a waste of time and money" from one of your colleagues? Probably a lot. In fact, many companies despise trade shows because they don't achieve the results they want and feel like it costs the company money instead of making it money.
The reason most companies don't get ROI out of events like this boils down to one simple problem that you can fix before your next event. It's called a Call to Action or CTA. A call to action is simply a CLEAR ACTION that you would like prospects to take. Now before I get into the steps to creating a call to action, let me be clear about something. There is such a thing as a bad CTA. So if you think you have a CTA, but you aren't getting the results you want, you may need to review the CTA to see if it's any good.
In our business, we are always testing our CTA's with sample lists to see what our conversion rates are. My sample lists typically consist of 2,500 blind emails. These are people that have never heard of us. The reason I do this is that I want an unbiased review of the CTA to see what the worst response possible is going to look like. Because if we can get a decent response from a blind list, I know I'm going to get a good response from people that know us.
So let's talk about how to craft the perfect trade show CTA.
1. Start with a Goal in mind. When I use the word goal here, I'm not saying: How many sales do you want or what is your overall goal for the event. I'm simply saying: What action do you want people to take when they see your CTA? What you should be thinking is: How do I get qualified people into my system / pipeline / funnel? You DON'T want raw volume here. You want qualified prospects. And the best way to do this is to have a really juicy piece of irresistible content that you are giving out.
We give out something called the Government Contractor's Success Kit. The kit comes with some really cool templates, a graphics pack, and a bonus video. Go check it out here: http://www.rsmfederal.com/linkedin
When we go to conferences, we hand out cards with how to download the kit on the back and we offer it at the end of our talks. Our goal is to generate 100+ downloads of this kit at each conference.
So why is this the main CTA that we use? Because we have tested it against several other CTA's and it performs the best. It has the highest conversion rate from a blind subscriber to downloading the kit and it's an easy entry point into our system. When used in combination with other tripwires, it produces amazing results. I explain more about tripwires below.
2. Make it easy, but not effortless. The one CTA that I hate at events is the old drop your card in the bowl to win a TV or something. That CTA is effortless and it puts a lot of unqualified prospects in your database. Which clutters up your database. Quick bit of marketing trivia. Did you know that a single unqualified lead in your database is estimated to cost as much as $1,000 over the course of time? Think about if for a second. If you market to them just like they are qualified, you may spend $500 on postage, direct mail pieces, and phone calls alone. AND unqualified prospects suck precious minutes out of your day that you should be spending talking to qualified prospect.
So back to my point of making your event CTA's easy, but not effortless. There are a lot of ways to do this. We love using a handout like a business card or postcard with a link on it. This also allows you to setup custom url's so you can track where leads come from. You can also use QR codes, setup signup stations in your booth, use social media (got to our facebook page to get the download), or use other handouts / chotchkies to accomplish this.
Filling out an application or watching a demo is not easy. Don't do that. It's irritating.
3. Remove the risk. Before you can remove risk, you have to understand what is risky to a cold prospect. Being asked to fill out 15 fields of information (that are all mandatory) is risky. Most people are willing to give you their name and email. That's not nearly as risky as giving out a phone number and mailing address.
So when you are asking people to fill out a form, just ask for name and email. It's proven that this method converts the highest and it's also proven that qualified prospects won't typically give you their phone number and / or mailing address without having a stronger relationship with you or your company.
4. Qualify the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to create an offer for your CTA that matches the biggest needs of your ideal prospects AND lines up with a service that you want to provide them.
Back to our Government Contractor's Success Kit for the example here. Our headline on our CTA is: Win More Government Contracts. Download the Government Contractor's Success Kit Today. This headline talks about a need of our ideal prospects. To win more government contracts. AND it ties to our services, which helps our clients win more government contracts.
Now, this doesn't eliminate the people who can't afford our services, but it does focus in on people who have winning more contracts as a top priority and that gets us a step closer to qualified. Our tripwires help qualify people even further. But you get the idea. This CTA will only attract people who want to win more contracts and it will position us as a company who can help with this. How does winning a free TV qualify people? It doesn't. It just puts business cards in a bowl.
5. Make it scalable. Scalable equals automation and technology. I try to only use systems where people are putting their information in on their phone, tablet, or computer. It's just not feasible for me to do this any other way. That is why I love sending people to a form on our website. This allows the prospect to enter in their own information (saving me time and money) and it also increases the accuracy of the data. If you have your own people inputting data, you will almost always have errors and lost leads because of those errors.
Making the collection of information scalable also allows you to use the CTA in multiple places. For us, we get to use the same CTA at our booth, while walking around the event, and while we are speaking from the stage.
Another thing you will want to do is integrate your marketing system with your CTA. For example, have the signup form on your website add the lead to your Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, or whatever email system you are using. If you have an autoresponder, have the new lead assigned to the autoresponder so they get your drip marketing.
Another reason I like having people input their own data is that it requires a little bit of effort. I want someone to go through a few hoops to get to me. It shows they have interest. If you make it too easy to reach you, you will be bombarded with unqualified leads.
6. Add in some Tripwires. This is probably my favorite step in the process. Tripwires are a simple and great way to engage your prospects at multiple levels and to further qualify them. The concept is very simple. Think about what you have to offer your prospects for free or even low cost and gently sprinkle that into the process of signing up for the original CTA.
If you want to see this in action, go to check out our Government Contractor's Success Kit page at http://www.rsmfederal.com/linkedin. When you sign up for the kit, you will be redirected to a page where you can download the kit. Directly below the kit is an offer to sign up for one of our free webinars. If you sign up for the free webinar, you will see another CTA (tripwire) for our free trial of the Federal Access program. Once in the Federal Access program, there are other CTA's to attend webinars as well as to upgrade to the full system.
7. Measure it. Last but not least, you have to measure your CTA's to find out what works best. I try to test 6 to 10 at a time. Once I have a winner, I will often play with the headline, message body, and even the unsubscribe notice to see what converts best. Marketing is all about math and knowing your numbers. What performs the best and what generates sales. A high conversion rate of "subscribers" may not be the right CTA for your company if it doesn't generate sales. In fact, sometimes you will find that a CTA with a lower upfront conversion rate may generate more sales in the long run because of something simple like the subject.
For example, you will have a high conversion rate for giving out a free TV, but the odds are slim that it will generate sales for your company unless you sell TV accessories. That is why it's so important to measure everything at every step. In our business, I not only measure the initial conversion rate, I measure the conversion rate from step to step and the overall conversion rate from lead to sale. This helps me make marketing decisions based on data and facts instead of gut feelings.
Bonus Tip: Be Prepared to Be Patient.
I get asked a lot how I became so good at marketing. My answer is simple. I try a lot of stuff and make note of what works and what doesn't. I stop doing what doesn't work and I ramp up what does work. It's not a complicated formula, but the average person / business owner wants to craft the perfect CTA on the first round in a vacuum and have it work. That is NOT a good formula for success.
If you want long-term success, create a dozen CTA's. Create multiple headlines for them, and test the crap out of them. That's the formula for crafting the perfect CTA.
Need help crafting the perfect CTA for your company?
Send me an email at email@example.com and I'll be happy to setup a call with you.
Michael LeJeune is a Partner and Federal Access Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal coaching and consulting business-acceleration strategy firm that helps companies accelerate the education, techniques, strategies, and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information, please visit www.rsmfederal.com