Busy trade show floor (courtesy John Siebenthaler at Flickr CC)

Busy trade show floor (courtesy John Siebenthaler at Flickr CC)

Where do you want to have a social media/online presence and make connections?

In the places and channels where your market spends their time.

If you’re using social media for sales in tourism or hospitality organizations….B2B or “business to business” as opposed to B2C “business to consumer” marketing to leisure travelers….it means that sales teams need to be where the meetings and tour markets spend time, and that’s increasingly online and on social media, just as it is everywhere else.

Start thinking of B2B social media as an ongoing virtual trade show with the folks in your market.

They are walking around the trade show floor Googling for information – does your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) help them find your offerings on the sales side? Once people do find you, does your online show “booth” give them the help they need? Prospective customers are constantly working the floor, conversing and swapping business information as they run into people via LinkedIn and Twitter; are you even there for them to meet?

Let’s set you up for a successful show….

Building Your Trade Show Presence

Your social media channels are like booths at this trade show; they need to be as visually enticing as possible, friendly and welcoming, and you need a system to further relationships away from the show.

Although different customers are drawn to different booths and ways of communicating, you’re covered because at this trade show, you can have more than one booth, and they’re mostly free to set up and affordable to run.

**  Have a blog “booth.” Your own CVB, DMO, or hotel blog focused on sales-related information is a great way to give customers meaty, helpful, share-worthy content. People can subscribe to your blog, which adds them to your email list. Unlike the average Facebook update or tweet, blog posts have lasting impact online – big help for SEO – and posts that resonate will draw traffic for years.

What sort of blog posts do prospective customers want to read? Posts that help THEM!

Here are two examples: Bring the Outdoors to Your Indoor Meeting from the Cincinnati CVB’s MTG PLNR blog, and Using Local Products for Client Gifts, from the Grand Rapids Meeting Minds blog.

Both posts incorporate information about the DMO and the destination….without being all about the DMO and the destination. Smart!

**  Have a LinkedIn “booth.”  Sales staff should all have complete personal LinkedIn profiles, they should frequently post personal LinkedIn updates and each can raise your organization’s visibility as they interact in LinkedIn Groups for your market.

Personal networking, in concert with a robust, frequently-updated Company Page, are your keys to success with LinkedIn.

**  Have a Twitter “booth.”  If you do nothing else on Twitter, follow the #eventprofs hashtag to see what is top of mind for planners and to find new leads.

#Eventprofs used to be a twice-weekly Twitter chat as well, but it’s currently on hiatus while they do some research about the chat’s direction. If the chat gets going again, sales staff need to be there at the designated time, because their market is there.

We could add some other ideas for booths that would interest B2B customers, but you do not want to get over-extended at the trade show. That leads to a ratty, neglected, under-manned bunch of skirted tables that do the opposite of selling your offerings.

Here are some more trade show tips from Meilee Anderson with the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (think of them in the context of social networking at this virtual show….)

“You wouldn’t go to a trade show without understanding what buyers want, right? You would invest money into how your ‘booth’ looked and in having new collateral to share with potential buyers. You would do your homework on attendees; in fact, you would have a plan for connecting with key people at [the] trade show.”

Don’t Show Up Online With Your Hand Out

Social media is a powerful set of tools for building sales leads; it helps you build relationships, qualify prospects and nurture leads. You can try to make more direct offers when the timing is right, but understand that the culture does not tolerate the hard sell.

If you show up on social media only to make pitches and close deals, you will fail, because you’re “making the ask” before building trust and relationships.

At the B2B virtual trade show, it’s the same thing. You’re there to be available and helpful to possible customers, not to annoy them.

Think about those offline expo booths that you tend to avoid; they don’t have anything interesting to show you (so they’re boring,) the person in the booth turns you off because they’re too pushy and eager, or maybe you are a bit interested but the person in the booth does not pay attention to you standing there, so you move on in disgust. It’s the same thing online.

Be the trade show booth that is easy to find, clear about its offerings and helpful to prospects. Your sales will follow.

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Need some help with B2B social networking or social media for sales, especially on LinkedIn?

We offer one-on-one help, and Lesson Three of our online course covers LinkedIn. Contact us and let’s see how we can assist your sales efforts.

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Time is running out!

Making connections at the COTTM conference on outbound travel from China (courtesy COTTM)

Making connections at the COTTM conference on outbound travel from China (courtesy COTTM)

Learn how to connect your destination or hotel with millions of outbound Chinese travelers at next month’s COTTM (China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market) in Beijing, April 9-11, 2014. We are proud COTTM Media Partners.

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