While a customer journey map doesn't have to be a literal map, it should examine the journey your “customers” (or attendee prospects in this case) take when interacting with your organization and event. Consider the following stages of the journey and how mapping your attendee path will allow you to build more personalized relationships with your attendees:
Stage 1: Discovery
This is when prospective participants realize they have a need your trade show or conference could fill and consequently start to learn about your brand. If your event isn't well known in your space and/or if you are relying on generating leads outside of your database, it is imperative that you invest in SEO, SEM and other digital channels to reach prospects at this time. When adding new leads to your database, consider "warming them up" with dedicated emails designed for those who are just learning about your event, rather than adding them directly into your existing event marketing campaign. These emails should introduce prospects to your event in straightforward, yet compelling language, ideally targeted to their job title and/or industry sector. Create your website so that prospects unfamiliar with your event are presented with the same kind of to-the-point, easy-to-search information that will answer the types of questions they are likely to have. And don't neglect re-targeting tools, as it may take several impressions to move the prospect into the next phase of the journey.
Stage 2: Evaluation
As your prospects discover and analyze various events or solutions to their challenges, they weigh their options. This is the stage where it is imperative to communicate the unique benefits of participating in your event, rather than simply providing a list of features. When prospects are evaluating your event, they aren't questioning the number of square feet of exhibit space you offer or what annual edition of your event this year represents; rather, they are looking for you to answer, “What's in it for me?” Tell them how your event will solve their business challenges and provide a high return on their investment of both time and money. Even better than you telling them, use peer testimonials and success stories to help convince prospects to take that next step in the journey. As much as possible, give prospects an opportunity (via targeted landing pages, personalized emails, etc.) to find stories with which they will identify. For instance, a new-to-the-industry supplier might better relate to a story from another start-up who used your event as a foray into the market versus one from a bellwether exhibitor—much in the same way a C-level attendee prospect will better relate to another C-level prospect regarding the value of your event.
Stage 3: Conversion
The conversion stage happens when converting a prospect into an actual attendee. Most people reach this stage when any doubt or obstacle they had about the event has been systematically eliminated. However, if prospects are in the midst of registering and questions pop up in their minds, you don't want them to leave the page to look for answers. Therefore, it's helpful to walk through your registration process and ensure that all information needed to complete each step is readily available without leaving the registration page. Bonus Tip: Consider offering a money-back guarantee for those who aren't satisfied with the event, further eliminating the risk they may feel upon registration. You may be surprised how far this gesture can go in removing uncertainty and how few attendees will actually ask for their money back.
Remember, this is just the beginning of your attendee's journey. Maintaining a consistent brand experience happens before, during and after your event.
This content originally appeared in mdg's News You Can Use article from Trade Show Executive, February 2017.