Maximising ROI from the Photonex Exhibition


I attended the annual two-day Photonex event last week at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and met a range of exhibitors with varying marketing challenges, one of which included utilising their digital channels to get the most ROI from their event marketing spend.

Photonic manufacturers and social media

I was surprised when researching event exhibitors that there are still many businesses in the photonics technology and manufacturing sector that don’t have social media accounts. Speaking to a couple of marketing managers at the event, there seems to be the view that social media isn’t relevant in this industry. Using the excuse ‘no one in manufacturing uses social media’ is like saying ‘our customers don’t use the internet.’ Your customers aren’t just businesses, they’re individuals making purchasing decisions. If you want those decision makers to find you online and be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, it isn’t too late to start using, and integrating, your digital marketing more effectively. 

An inbound trade show campaign

Manufacturers using such excuses are not alone however: according to a recent survey by HubSpot, under half of businesses use social media as part of their trade show campaign strategy, which is surprising when spend on trade shows makes up on average, around 20% of a business’s marketing spend. As such, I really think there are some big opportunities for innovative companies in this sector to make waves. Relying on repeat business and word of mouth will not suffice in a meeting with your CEO looking for a realistic business plan. Particularly one which has ambitious growth aims.

Social media, as part of a carefully planned inbound trade show campaign would enable manufacturing and technology businesses to continue the discussion with their leads from the event; sharing content they’ve produced that deals with some of their leads’ business challenges that they can help with.

Photonex event marketing

There also seemed to be quite a divide in the way businesses at the event were promoting themselves. Photonex may have been the first time that these brands were seen by potential customers and I felt that some businesses missed the opportunity to maximise on the financial investment they’d made to be there by not displaying their brand or their products in the best way. For example, I would have liked to see more videos demonstrating the more complex and unique products that couldn’t be shown in full at the event. Like any marketing, you have to find a way of reaching your audience that best aligns with your brand.

Hungry for your thoughts

A business that particularly impressed with how they positioned themselves at Photonex were Thorlabs (promotional materials pictured above), an international manufacturer in mechanics, optics, fibre and advanced systems technology.

Thorlabs had some really eye-catching promotional items. Looking at their website, I’m a bit disappointed not to have found any of their Lab Snacks on the stand. The Lab Snacks are aligned to their “Hungry for your Thoughts” commitment online, which is an initiative started by Founder and President of Thorlabs Alex Cable to connect with the scientific community that the company serves. The initiative is simply to encourage the industry to engage more in discussions on the science and business of photonics. The culture of the brand is particularly impressive; one that seeks input from customers, demonstrated by Alex’s commitment to responding to all enquiries or feedback on this page, personally. I would have loved to see some Lab Snacks given out at the event with a call-to-action directing visitors to this page on their website. This page captures data too, so is a great tool for generating leads or at the very least, advocates for their brand. Nicely done Thorlabs.

One thing I would say is that Thorlabs, as far as I can see, have no social media channels which is a big shame, as the quirky “Hungry for your Thoughts” landing page would lend itself so well to social sharing; elevating the idea, the discussions and company to a wider network, ready and waiting to engage with them.

By Rhiannon Hulse

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