Why websites are essential offline marketing support tools.

Last week I attended the Autosport International and Autosport Engineering trade shows at the Birmingham NEC. Those of you who know me will be aware that my passion outside of work is Motorsport and the trade day at the Autosport show allows me to mix my hobby with business as I visit companies to talk about their products and their offline/online marketing mix.

I’ve been attending this show, which is the biggest pre-season Motorsport event in Europe, for many years, and I’ve seen great progress in the way engineering firms display and promote their products. One area where I feel many need to improve though, is to recognise the value in having a mobile friendly website that supports their immediate offline marketing efforts.

Several times I found myself talking to companies who, due to the breadth of their product portfolio or lack of foresight, had no supporting collateral to help them explain their offering. In the past they could possibly be forgiven for this; creating supporting literature for a complete inventory would be too unwieldy to transport and costly to produce. However, with the advent of 4G or free Wi-Fi connections at most trade shows, the internet provides a simple and cost effective solution to this problem, and I believe that it’s one that they should embrace with open arms.

Many companies have websites but they really miss a trick when it comes to using them effectively. Websites may have been built before the mobile revolution so are not mobile friendly, with clunky navigation and information that is hard to access on a mobile platform. Sites of this era can be slow to load and may use old technology such as Flash, both of which can be a major hindrance to the mobile user.

The first step they should take then, is to ensure that their website works seamlessly on all popular mobile platforms. This isn’t just important at trade shows of course; mobile is used increasingly to browse the web at all times so I would encourage businesses to look at improving this area with some urgency. They should also ensure that the information on their website is comprehensive and up to date as not doing so shows their business in a very poor light.

A common problem with websites in the Motorsport engineering sector, particularly with smaller companies, although not exclusive to them by any means, is the poor display of data. If your website has a great deal of information in tabular form, it’s important that it’s easy to understand and appealing to look at. It doesn’t take much imagination and shouldn’t be too costly to come up with methods of presenting data well on your website – talk to your web designers if you think this might be a problem, or talk to me and I’ll advise you.

Once you have a website that can be used across mobile platforms, you can use it while talking to prospective clients with the simple use of a tablet. Showing visitors images of products or even video of products in use, is much more likely to stick in their minds than a conversation. Additionally, cost savings, when compared to print, are significant across the website’s lifespan. Not only that, you can encourage visitors to engage with your website and bookmark it on their own devices while you are talking to them – it all helps.

The use of tablets as a marketing tool at events shouldn’t be underestimated. Data collection of email addresses for follow up could happen easily and more advanced but highly engaging solutions can also be presented. Allowing visitors to use tablets to access websites or product demonstrations, are just a couple of ways that this type of technology can be effectively used. I found some of the more progressive companies using this technology, some taking it a stage further with larger displays and the development of interactive learning tools.

The key of course, is to make your company stand out. Visitors are likely to speak to many businesses during a trade show and you will want them to remember you above all others. It may be the only chance you have to make a strong connection with that prospect – don’t let it go to waste.

If you would like more advice about how you can improve the connection between your offline and online marketing activities please contact me, i’ll be happy to help.