Creating experiential exhibitions for the modern world

Exhibitions have been a long-standing fixture in the B2B world, but is there still a place for them in the modern world? As the next generation of B2B buyers comes to the fore, brands will need to make sure that they are creating content that resonates with them, on channels that they use, in a language that they engage with – all on the trade show floor.

So, what’s changed?

The popularity of trade shows hasn’t waned over recent years: in fact, with 81% of trade show attendees having buying authority and 92% actively looking for new products, they are great places for B2B brands to be present. However, although trade shows are a popular way for businesses to generate leads and drive brand awareness, the next generation of B2B buyers expect more from a brand’s exhibition stand than just furniture, sales talk and statistics.

The B2B marketing landscape is constantly adapting to meet the different needs of new generations. 45% of B2B technology buyers are 25-34-year olds, making them the single largest demographic, followed by 30% in the 35-44-year-old age group. Born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, Generation Z is also starting to enter the B2B workforce, and it won’t be long before they themselves are making critical B2B purchasing decisions.

Furthermore, the B2B sales funnel is no longer linear: we live in an omnichannel, multi-touchpoint world where buyers can enter the buying process at any stage. Brands shouldn’t assume that visitors to the stand will all benefit from the same, top-level datasheets and product information, but should instead develop content and on-stand activities that appeal to prospects, no matter how far along the funnel they are.

Truly experiential

So, how can brands create an engaging, more ‘experiential’ event as we enter trade show season? While email marketing is still an important tool for B2B marketing teams, other digital tools and platforms need to be considered. For example, social media is still not being used to its full potential. Businesses need to assess how they talk to prospective buyers, and whether they are using the most appropriate channels and sharing content that resonates with them.

An engaging trade show experience can also be achieved through written invitations to the event, on-stand activities and games, or a booth that encourages interactivity. One example of such interactivity includes a ‘graffiti wall’, where attendees can write messages about the brand in a public way that is great for social and PR. EWI Worldwide used the ‘StoryBoard Experience’ at EXHIBITOR EXPO to attract attendees to their booth: all images drawn onto the walls were recoded digitally and people were sent a QR code so that they could save an image of their artwork. The experience helped the business meet its goals for post-show client meetings and exceed its lead objectives by 50%.

These tactics have some basis in fact, as well. According to cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, humans are 22 times more likely to remember a fact that’s been wrapped in a story. By making customers the hero of their own memorable experiences and tying it all into your brand story, these creative efforts can have a transformative effect on your business results.

Staying ahead of the game

Adopting a new experiential marketing strategy for an upcoming trade show can seem daunting, but even implementing just a few different creative experiences for your audience can be a gamechanger. It all hinges on preparation, so keep an eye on trends and what your audience are seeking out – and adapt accordingly.

Remember, it’s no longer just about your products – it’s about the experience, the story and the memories created. Despite our digital-first, rapidly changing marketing landscape, the importance of a face-to-face meeting should never be underestimated. Younger B2B buyers certainly still understand the value of in-person meetings, but they want more from them than just a couple of leaflets and giveaways. By providing them with an experiential, engaging exhibition that tells a coherent brand story, your brand can ensure a successful trade show appearance.

Are you interested in what experiential marketing could do for your upcoming events? Download our guide today for top tips and insights into how being more ‘experiential’ could boost your trade show appearances.

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