As a small business, trade show marketing is probably something on your marketing tactic list. Your company purchases booth graphics, prints a few brochures, and send a few salespeople to work the floor and gather as many leads as possible. But have you really thought about how you could make exhibiting at trade shows more successful for your business?
Marketing is such a big component of trade shows. If you aren’t using marketing effectively before, during and after your show, you may not be maximizing your investment in your trade show dollar. Here are some tips for how you can succeed with trade show marketing:
Deciding on shows to exhibit: What some people may not realize is that there is quite a bit of research that should go into selecting a show in which to exhibit. One tactic I like to suggest is to attend the show one year in advance and walk the trade show floor, and attend the conferences. Make a note of who is in attendance, how the show schedule flows, as well as which companies are exhibiting. If you don’t get a good feeling that the show would benefit your business, you may want to reconsider the event. Also, pay close attention to the exhibitor prospectus and exhibitor section of the website and review attendee demographics and numbers to see if these align with your marketing plan and targeted customers. Finally, consider the cost-ratio of potential leads versus the cost and time required to exhibit.
Location, Location, Location: Selecting a location for your booth can be just as valuable as selecting one for your physical office or store. A location can make or break your trade show success. How far in advance you sign up to exhibit could determine how you can select the best location for your booth, as it is usually on a first-come, first-served basis. Look at the show floor layout to determine where the popular traffic flow is, and try to find a reasonable location for the cost. Also, consider where you are in relation to other popular exhibitors or even competitors.
Pre-show marketing. It’s very important to promote 30- to 60-days out from the trade show you are exhibiting. This can help boost attendance at the show in general and encourage people to visit your booth. Some activities you can include are:
- Direct mail pieces to attendees that are registered
- Invitations to your existing database
- Mentions in current or special email marketing efforts
- Blogs and social media posts prior to the event
What you should say in your pre- trade show marketing campaigns can make a difference as well. Try to build excitement for what you will be showing, or why customers or prospects will not want to miss out on the opportunity to visit your booth. If you are offering a giveaway or incentive, mention that in your campaigns.
PR: Public relations is also an opportunity for you to maximize your trade show marketing dollar. Many people do not realize that there are many industry representatives from trade media who attend most trade shows. Exhibitors normally can obtain access to a list of which media personnel are attending the show. Some ideas include contacting those media reps with a show-only press release, mentioning something exciting you’ll be launching at the show, or inviting them to set up an interview with one of your key executives at the show. Some larger shows also have press rooms where you can put together a packet of information to leave with media. You can also sign up to hold a short press conference at the show for major announcements. This could enable you to get free press coverage in show daily publications or mentions in industry publications during and after the show.
Show theme. Many trade shows have a theme for the events or some sort of tagline or message. You can use the theme to your advantage when creating your booth design, your giveaways and your message for your product or service. Some of the trade show themes that I helped clients with over the years have included secret agent, roaring ’20s and tropical islands themes. While some of these things may seem silly, if you make your booth fun and tie your content into the show topic, your booth will be more attractive to people walking by, and you will be more approachable (meaning more booth traffic) to show attendees. Even including the theme in your pre- trade show marketing can help, so get creative.
During the show. Having a plan of attack for how your sales team will talk to prospective buyers during the show can make a difference in your success. Use talking points and have goals for getting prospects to the next step in the buying process. Use social media throughout the show to engage people in attendance and to communicate with those who could not attend the show but are following you on social media. Often, trade show events will encourage the use of social media hashtags, so use them to your advantage. Also, consider using RFID or other badge scanning software to capture leads on the spot when attendees visit your booth.
Post-show. My biggest pet peeve is when companies pay so much money for a trade show experience and they waste it by not following up properly with people who visited their booth. It is very important to add any leads who came to the show into your company’s database and CRM system and have a way to follow up with them promptly. Some ways that you can follow up other than passing hot leads to the sales team to call, would be to:
- Add booth visitors to a segmented list in your email marketing program
- Send out postcards or sales letters to leads after the show
- Talk about your experience at the show in your blog or on social media
The power is in the follow-up, so don’t give up on a lead just because they have not responded right away. Sometimes people need time to digest the information from a trade show and may come around later, so keep them in your database and continue to follow up.
Evaluate the Show. Make sure your sales and marketing teams regroup after the show to discuss frequently asked questions and consider all follow up and future marketing campaigns. Stay in touch several months later to see how things are going and to gauge whether the trade show marketing was a success for your company. Taking all these things into account will give you a better idea of whether the trade show was right for you.