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Hybrid fairs for beginners - decision support for undecided

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Many exhibitors do not have an individual, company-specific trade fair stand concept and have not yet dealt with the digitalization of trade fairs and its opportunities. Companies must deal with hybrid formats, otherwise they will disappear from the market in the medium term. The digital transformation in marketing enables a measurably higher chance of success for generating leads and increasing sales.

Hybrid Fairs

My responsibilities at RocketExpo include the all-round support of our prospects and new customers. Here I experience daily that the expectations and objectives around trade fairs and exhibition stands are very different. A first important requirement for me is to find out what level of knowledge the prospective customer has in order to pick up this knowledge in the best possible way - and finally to work out THE suitable trade fair concept that guarantees maximum success for the exhibiting company. Very often I experience astonishment from exhibitors when they learn that it is not enough to "put up" a stand, invite customers to the event and see what happens.

This blog deals with the basics for marketing strategy decisions with a focus on hybrid trade show formats and booths. In this blog basic terms are defined and I try to give undecided people a decision support to use hybrid event formats effectively and successfully.

Table of contents

Definition of basic terms of the hybrid fair

In this chapter I will describe only the most important terms in brief. We assume that "real" or physical events (trade fairs, road shows, in-house exhibitions, events, etc.) and digital formats (website, digital exhibition stands/ trade fairs/ road shows) are subject to a firmly defined objective: New customer generation, existing customer care and expansion.

The order of the following terms is intentional. They stand in an essential context to each other:

  • Customer Engagement describes the level of interaction between prospects and customers that they spend to engage with your company and products.
  • Customer Journey describes the joint "journey" with your customers. From the first contact to the conclusion of a business transaction and even beyond in the care of existing customers.
  • Customer Lifecycle describes the different stages of the Customer Journey. There are different models for stages of the Customer Journey, I use a model from the CRM tool HubSpot
    • Stranger: The interested/potential customer does not (yet) know your company and products.
      Visitor: The interested/ potential customer becomes aware of your company.
      Lead: The interested/ potential customer wants an offer and allows you to actively enter the offer phase (Attention: Please observe RGPD!)
      Customer: The interested person becomes a customer.
      Promotor: The customer becomes your fan and recommends you and your products to others.
  • Touchpoints describe all the points of contact that customers have with you at the Customer Journey.
  • Buyer Personas is a further development of the target group and represents typical customers. The content is adapted to the different needs of the buyer personas, so an identical content topic can be formulated differently for the purchasing department than for the sales department.
  • Content describes the informative content that is created for the target group (or Buyer Personas) with the aim of attracting attention, offering the target group added value and building trust.
  • Content marketing addresses the target group with content adapted to their needs. The most important goal is to attract the attention of the target group (awareness).
  • Inbound marketing goes one step further: The goal is to be found by the customer based on the published content offers.

The Customer Journey in hybrid formats

Figure 1 shows the customer journey of a customer. It shows the relationship of each stage to the required content (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight), so that the prospect or customer is motivated to continue to engage with your company. At physical events as well as on the net, a company tries to attract attention in such a way that its customer target group is interested in your company and your services (engagement). This means that your company presents touchpoints that arouse the interest of your target group.

Customer JourneyFigure 1: Customer Journey


Figure 2 shows the respective stages of the customer journey in the context of the various touchpoints with interests.

Physical and digital touchpoints in the customer journey      Figure 2: Physical and digital touchpoints in the customer journey

The diagram illustrates the various touchpoints in each phase and whether they are physical or digital touchpoints. So there is the division into "Digital Touchpoints" and "Physical Touchpoints". We find it very easy to define physical touchpoints. Here are just a few examples:

  • Print
  • Fairs
  • Radio
  • Direct Mails
  • Customer Events
  • ... and much more.

Since digitalization and the Word Wide Web, digital touchpoints have been added:

  • Online Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Blogs
  • Online Webinars
  • ... and much more.

Why hybrid trade fair formats?

We are all sure that real fairs, showrooms or road shows are essential. At trade fairs people meet, get to know each other physically and "sniff" each other. Here all senses are used to initiate long-term business relationships and last but not least important (purchase) decisions are made. Digitalization has long since been introduced at trade fairs:

  • Visitor measurement delivers important KPIs in terms of the number of trade fair and stand visitors, length of stay at the POI and number of returning visitors.
  • LED-video walls allow the use of moving walls at the stand, which enables completely new content strategies. Here too, success can be measured.

However, the sole physical presence at trade fairs and congresses is no longer sufficient. Traditional push marketing tools such as brochures, print media and cold calling have receded into the background. This is due to the fact that potential customers today first want to get "smart" on the Internet (customer engagement) before they seek physical advice. The marketing strategy for this customer behavior is called inbound marketing, the definition is described above.

In inbound marketing, the company "advertises" itself by making itself visible on the Internet and being found by the target group because the content activity of the company is so interesting that the interested persons ultimately contact the company: The interested person becomes a lead. The goal of the company is to turn the lead into a customer, as shown in Figure 1 above.

touchpoints, we see that the number of digital touchpoints increases as we progress through the Customer Journey. The logical conclusion is that in all phases of the Customer Journey there is a variation between physical and digital activities (touchpoints). Usually, a deal is closed after the two partners have gotten to know each other physically. These meetings either take place at individual appointments or at trade fairs to build trust for long-term business relationships. The content or inbound strategy is therefore used to flank and prepare the physical touchpoints. What are the options for content and inbound lead generation?

  • Website with search engine optimization
  • Blog posts on the website
  • Whitepaper as Gated Content
  • Virtual exhibition stands with chat function, multimedia integration, CRM integration and their integration on the website and the social web
  • Social media strategies (Facebook, LinkedIN, Instagram and many more)

Opportunities of digital formats

  • Real trade fairs can be "stretched" by retrieving the digital content on the net: Before, during and after the trade fair, the content can be called up digitally on the net.
  • Leads can be generated 365 days a year / 24 hours a day, with worldwide reach.
  • With your professional content and graphically attractive presentations on the net, you show your target group that your company is innovative and sees the digital transformation as an opportunity in the marketing segment as well.
  • As an interface to many marketing tools, the content once created can be used in many ways.
  • The behavior of the target group can be easily tracked and analyzed with digital content. Through "try and error" content is optimized and adapted to the needs of the target group.

Conclusion on hybrid fairs

  • Without an individual marketing strategy of the company with clear target definitions and measurable status updates, marketing makes no sense.
  • The combination of physical and digital touchpoints at the Customer Journey brings great advantages: hybrid trade fair stands, hybrid trade fair are the corresponding keywords.

Do you have questions, suggestions or criticism? Then please feel free to contact me. I am very happy about the interaction with you!

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