Bringing a new product to market? Bringing a new solution to your customers problems? Bringing a new shiny object to the world? How, where and when to launch are probably some of your key concerns at the moment.
Just back in the office after launching new products at one of the big trade shows in my industry, I figured now is a good time to cover the topic of launching at a trade show. In this post you will get my view of the pros and cons, and what to think about if you decide to do it.
How, where and when to do my product launch?
How, where and when to launch a product depends on a couple of things. Are you targeting existing customers or a new market segment? Is it THE key launch of the year, or is it perhaps something of less importance? Is the value of the product and the importance of the problem it is solving obvious, or does it need an in-depth explanation? Is the objective of the launch to actually sell the new product, or is the launch meant to highlight your ability to innovate or show your future direction?
Trade shows, especially for business-to-business oriented companies, are great places to get face-time with a large number of existing customers and prospects in a short period of time. Demoing a new product or solution on the show floor gives you the time to explain what it is, its value and to briefly discuss how it applies to the customer. It also gives you time to explain how the new launch fits with the rest of your portfolio, how it supports your vision and how it makes your company an even more important partner going foward.
Trade shows are also great places to reach out to a new, highly relevant, audience through speakers slots. While speakers slots should not be used to directly pitch your new product, they can be used to highlight the problem you are solving and the value of solving that problem. Even though speakers slots are limited in time, and there’s a lot of competition, they are your chance to speak for 30 mins or so to a very relevant audience.
When a trade show is the wrong place
There could be many reasons a trade show is the wrong place for a product launch. They are usually very crowded, getting in front of new potential customers is hard and you compete with tons of other launches. If your company and customer base is big enough you might want to consider your own event, giving you undivided attention with no competing launches or messages.
Also trade shows really only generate and mature leads, they don’t help you close deals. So if the value of your product is obvious, and you need to reach a mass market, then something like paid digital marketing is probably a better way to go. With an obvious value the conversion rate is high, meaning the more people who are exposed to your product the more will buy. If it is a niche product targeting only a handful of customers, then targeted sales and business development activities would give you a much better chance to close sales.
If you address a completely new set of customers it might be better to market your new product together with someone else. The same goes if your company is new and your brand is not recognized. Buying space for articles, blog posts, white papers or webinars from an industry source gives you an immediate authoritative voice. Something you would lack if you simply show up at a trade show where no one knows about you.
What to think about if launching at a trade show?
So you decided that launching at a trade show is the way to go. Now what to think about? First of all make sure that you really take the opportunity to explain your launch. What you are launching, why you do it, the value of your product and how it fits with the rest of your portfolio and current industry trends and shifts. To do so you need to prepare a story. If you demo your product, make sure you don’t just show how it works. Instead build a story that explains why the customer should be interested. Don’t be scared to use power points, pictures, drawings, videos and other tools to give your product the context it deserves.
If you want to get in front of new potential customers, buy a speakers slot. You will get a room full of highly relevant people, dedicating 30 mins or so to you and only you. It is an opportunity to create leads that is hard to beat.
Putting your booth in a high traffic area of the show might give you some extra traffic. But those visitors are often not very relevant. The position of your booth will help with the number of leads, but less so with the relevance of those leads.
Spreading your message is hard with all the noise. Press releases are really a thing of the past, and while they help make your launch feel more formal they don’t attract much attention any more. The way to go is a holistic approach to the event and the launch. Be creative to get attention, both at and around the conference grounds. Depending on budget this creativity can include anything from buying billboards to and from the airport, to guerrilla style marketing with a guy in an animal suite roaming the show floor. Perhaps obvious in 2015, but also make sure you combine the event experience with messages through digital channels. Many of those not attending the show still pay extra attention during the time of the event, as they know a lot of news will surface.
The pros, the cons and the takeaways
So finally, what are the pros of launching at a trade show? What are the cons of launching at a trade show? And what are the takeaways to remember of you decide to launch at a trade show?
+ You get to meet a large number of customers in short period of time.
+ You will generate high quality leads if you do it right (speakers slots, high traffic location).
+ You get to explain the value of your product, and how it supports your bigger vision and strategy.
– There is lots of noise and competing launches.
– Your message only gets in front of limited set of eye-balls.
= For complicated products, trade shows are great to generate high quality leads and get the time needed to explain the value of your product.
= Make sure to use that time. Build a story to explain the value and why you launch.
= If you do launch at an event, do more than simply rely on a press release to create interest.
= Other channels, such as paid digital marketing, creates more visibility. For simple products with obvious value remember that visibility translates into sales.
= If your company or market is new, get authority by working with someone else. Paid or not.