Tell us about your business and customer base
SEMrush is one of the leading SaaS platforms in the digital marketing industry providing millions of marketers across the world with the solutions for each area of their day-to-day work: starting from the on-page and offsite optimization, through to content marketing, social media tracking and of course competitive research. Our mission is to help marketing professionals enhance their performance, make data-driven decisions and save time for creativity by making time-consuming tasks automated. Our customers are Marketers of every caliber and area of specialization. The SEMrush platform is built in such way that both a junior content marketer and a CMO of the same organization will benefit from the variety of tools. With more than 140 databases within the instrument we have no geographical limitations and are a truly international company.
How long have you been marketing at exhibitions and how important is face-to-face marketing to your business?
Exhibitions go hand in hand with face-to-face marketing and have been an integral part of our marketing strategy for almost 5 years. Currently we implement more than 10 types of live exhibitions that are specifically tailored to the audience we are reaching out to, they have proved their efficiency at every stage of company growth. The uniqueness of exhibition marketing lies within its diversity and ability to cover different stages of the customer journey depending on the company needs at any given time.
How many trade shows do you exhibit at per year and where?
2018 has been a year of geographical expansion for our exhibitions department – so far, we have covered 13 countries across 5 continents. Our core markets see the largest number of exhibitions: 12+ for the United States, for example, plus, this year SEMrush has had its premier exhibitions in Australia, India, China and Israel. At our office we have the “exhibitions wall” where we write all the exhibitions scheduled for the next 6 months, it looks quite impressive!
How have Expo Stars supported you and what value do they bring to your business?
We began our partnership with Expo Stars more than a year ago once we started with large-scale exhibitions and booth spaces. Having great staff that knows exactly what to do during the intense hours of the exhibition is crucial to the success of the whole project. We always have a very diverse team that consists of sales, customer success and marketing managers, Expo Stars are supporting us with the qualification of booth attendees and execution of lead-generation activities. By providing well-trained staff that are highly knowledgeable of our company profile and goals for the specific exhibition, they have been able help us to improve performance and achieve better results.
What changes have you seen in the exhibition industry in the last 5 years?
Change #1: the number of exhibitions. At semrush.com we’ve created a comprehensive digital marketing exhibitions calendar that provides a list of exhibitions for almost any country and the list is growing every year. This brings both exhibitors and the attendees to the next big change
Change #2: choosing the right exhibitions. With such a variety of conferences, trade shows, barcamps it’s hard to understand where your audience will be, and which exhibition will bring more profit.
Change #3: catching your audience’s attention. People do not attend the exhibition for the sake of attendance. They set smart goals, book meetings in advance and do not let anyone distract them on the day. This means that to catch your audience’s attention at the trade show you have to get on their must-attend list before the day of the exhibition. It is not enough to just set up an attractive booth or order cool swag to engage the attendees, you must make it obvious why they would need to spend time visiting your booth and talking with your reps.
How have you modified your exhibition strategy over the years?
Exhibitions have always been a part of our exhibition marketing strategy though the approach has been changing along with the company’s growth. We started with participation in multiple exhibitions of different scale, in each of our target markets, when brand awareness and outreach to new audiences was the top-priority. To now choosing 1 or 2 major industry exhibitions a year per country where our brand is well established, and the major focus lies on customer engagement.
How do you measure trade show ROI?
Measuring ROI for exhibitions is always a challenge since there is no single approach to the matter and the metrics can vary depending on your goals and can differ drastically from one exhibition to another.
What is important to remember is that trade show ROI is:
- A long-term thing – you can’t wrap up the exhibition and clearly define its success or failure within 2 or 3 weeks. Some of the exhibitions can keep bringing value for up to 12-18 months after the end of the show.
- Measured not only in cash-flow. Even though profit you make and the deals your sales reps close after the exhibition is one of the key metrics, one should never forget about the impact your offline presence makes on your potential and existing customers, how it affects their loyalty and emotional connection with the brand and increases brand awareness – you’ve got to measure these things too.
- Is impacted by the goals you’ve set for the specific exhibition. The ROI for regular trade shows you attend every year should be measured differently than for a new exhibition you’ve attended to support your company expansion into a new market.
Those are 3 major aspects we follow when measuring trade show ROI at SEMrush.
Do you have any funny trade show stories or mistakes you’ve witnessed from other exhibitors?
There are tons of them! Usually those are the stories when you’ve been completely stressed out about during the show, however had a good laugh with the team afterwards.
Ours are mostly related to delivery company failures that have led us to the fastest business trips ever arranged. On one occasion we were left with just a couple hours to pack our suitcase and fly over to Israel with the exhibition collateral as the package we had mailed had been lost somewhere in the heart of Europe. One sleepless night, just a bit of stress and a completely successful performance onsite.
As for the mistakes I have witnessed at trade shows, these are by the most frequent I have seen.
- the team sitting back inside of the booth. If you choose to exhibit at an exhibition and if people have agreed to work at the booth then there is no excuse to sit back and avoid communication with the attendees.
- It is extremely hard and demanding to speak all day long, but remain positive,really engage your visitors in conversation and don’ not just pitching the product. This is the only way to success at the live exhibition.
What would be your 3 pieces of advice for businesses looking to improve their trade show marketing?
- Choose the right exhibitions with the right audience and with the right timing. Use data to make such decisions. Intuition is a great thing, but data justifies it and keeps you on a safe side.
- Understand your business needs, goals and challenges and use exhibitions to support those.
- If you decide to invest in the exhibition, do not expect it to be cheap but always understand what the key elements of your performance are and what you can’t save on – such an approach will allow you to stay within the budget and achieve the goals set for the exhibition.