Much like a sudden deluge of shoppers into a retail store or an unexpected spike in orders via an e-commerce site, there’s never enough time to prep for something like NRF 2020.
Best known as “Retail’s Big Show” and produced by the National Retail Federation, NRF 2020 will attract nearly 40,000 attendees to its more than 175 sessions and show floor of more than 800 exhibitors. It’s where retailers come to understand how consumer purchase patterns are changing, the best ways to develop a powerful customer experience and to face the industry’s challenges head-on.
Whether you’re formally exhibiting at NRF or simply experiencing it as an attendee, the marketing opportunities are considerable — but also easily overlooked.
Like many other major conferences, participating in NRF 2020 should be treated like a marketing campaign or project, complete with a workback schedule or timeline that helps organize your activities and tie them back to your company’s goals.
Depending on how early on you decide to join NRF 2020, that timeline could stretch as far back as 365 days ago, or it could be something you’re trying to wrestle with in these last days before it begins on Jan. 11 in New York City.
You can make this task easier by grouping everything in your timeline under three major phases: before the show, during the show and after the show. If you haven’t already covered these to-dos, there’s still time:
Even though a conference like NRF 2020 has been taking place for several years, organizers tend to set a vision for what they hope attendees will get out of it. This takes shape in a theme that guides the talks that will be given by the more than 400 speakers who will take the stage.
Job #1 for marketers should be looking at this year’s theme and determining ways in which your brand’s messaging can align. Perhaps appropriately, next week’s event uses the double entendre of the numbers “2020” to encourage forward-thinking with the theme ‘Find Your Vision.’ Here’s an excerpt from the conference website:
In retail, vision isn't something you have, it's something you do. A course of action. A plan of attack. A way of working that not only predicts the future, but creates it - one day at a time. That kind of vision isn't easy to find, but this year of all years it's worth taking a closer look.
If you’re a company that works in or somehow supports the retail sector, in other words, how can the products and services you offer make finding your vision a little easier, faster or clearer?
Look through your resource library to find related content marketing assets that could be shared with attendees through social media or other channels.
Remember that word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, which is why you should look through the exhibitor list ahead of time to see who might be a potential customer or partner. You can often reach out and schedule drop-bys or briefings ahead of time.
One of the best ways to stand out at a show like NRF 2020 is to offer your key takeaways and insights to other attendees, and also to those who couldn’t make it. This could include live-tweeting a keynote, writing a post on LinkedIn with your thoughts or even recording a video with a speaker or exhibitor while you’re on the ground.
Instead of taking notes randomly during keynotes and sessions, look for action items you can develop based on each one.
When you’re choosing a keynote, for instance, go in with a plan to get ideas to inspire your next ad campaign, or prepare questions you can ask a panel about how to improve your approach to email marketing.
Although you’ll want to see and do as much as possible, consider how you can advance your goals (like acquiring new customers or nurturing existing relationships) by diving into show-within-a-show experiences offered by major exhibitors and sponsors.
Salesforce, for example, offers trail guides, SMS updates and more for NRF attendees. This may be a great way to connect with other attendees who are also knowledgeable about Salesforce technologies and want to work with like-minded vendors.
When you meet with other attendees, either formally or informally, remember to collect any data that can inform your future marketing efforts. Some of this data may be anecdotal, but examples include anything that helps develop more robust personas for content marketing, identify key steps in the buyer journey or educates you on the use of channels such as social, mobile and email.
A few days spent at an event like NRF 2020 can be a bit of a blur, but it’s important to stay focused, even once you’ve returned to the office.
First, look for any opportunities to continue to engage those you encountered (or even those you failed to meet) at the big show. Determine whether you have an offer for retailers to make via an online ad campaign. Set up a Facebook Live chat to build on the discussions you heard, or create content for your blog that addresses questions raised in key sessions.
Next, create a new timeline — one that takes everything you learned about the retail sector overall or the specific customers you’re targeting — and map out how it will have an impact on your marketing for the rest of 2020. If you’re not changing anything about the way you’re handling demand generation or conversions after NRF 2020, you weren’t paying close enough attention.
Finally (but not necessarily lastly!) connect with your counterparts in sales. If they were on the ground with you, compare notes on key opportunities. Some might be active leads reps will pursue.
The best thing about this timeline is that it doesn’t have to be specific to NRF 2020. You can use the same preparatory tactics for every event your firm takes part in — ensuring you see better marketing results all year long.