Deciding to attend a trade show is a big decision for any company. There are many factors to take into consideration when nailing down which show is ultimately the best. Once you have committed to attend, the work to maximize your return on investment has only begun. After understanding all of the advantages and disadvantages trade shows offer, it’s best to strategize and prepare in advance to make it worthwhile.
There are many details of show attendance that should be thought out to ensure nothing is forgotten. A few details include: who is attending, booth location, what is your focus, how will you drive traffic, what materials will you bring and how will you market your presence. Right now, we are going to focus on marketing your trade show presence. Pre-show marketing is a critical component of attending a trade show and will set the tone of your success. The fact that you get to see your prospects face-to-face is already giving you a leg up, so if you can pull out all the stops to gain high booth traffic, why wouldn’t you?
You will most likely have access to an attendee and exhibitor registration list. It’s best to get your hands on this list as soon as possible. You may have to source additional information to execute your marketing efforts (if that’s allowed of course). Additionally, you should scour the list to identify any highly qualified prospects you are dying to connect with, let them be your number one focus and any additional connects are a total bonus.
We recommend planning out a series of emails with various topics and subject lines as well as staggered deployment dates. Ultimately, your goal is to raise awareness about who you are and why they should come talk to you. To capture their attention you must hone in on your targets and identify key pain points you are solving for. The more focused you are on the problems you solve for these particular targets, the more likely they are to have their ears perked up. Take a friendly, welcoming approach, keeping in mind you’ll see them face-to-face at the show.
As your email series are sent out keep a close eye on your data. Tracking activity and engagement of your prospects will give you loads of information. A prospect who is consistently opening and engaging with your emails should be flagged for additional follow-up such as a phone call. Don’t forget to send a reminder email the night before the show to those who have agreed to stop by.
Reaching out to trade show attendees over the phone will continue to enhance awareness about your company’s presence at the show. Have a script handy, but it keep it short and sweet by simply inviting them to stop by your booth. It’s important to have a well crafted script for conversations as well as voicemails.
Of course it’s less effort to send a sequence of emails, but putting in the time to make phone calls will allow you to connect with your prospects in a different way - personal touch. Not everyone who is attending the show will be dedicated enough to execute an outbound call campaign which can work to your advantage. According to trade show and event marketing firm Exhibit Systems, an average of only 10-15% of trade show exhibitors invest in pre-show marketing efforts.
If you have a large list, you may find it beneficial to prioritize your list, making it a little more approachable. Additionally there may be people on the list that aren’t an ideal prospect for you or you may already be talking to them and would like to approach them differently.
In a digital savvy world, direct mail is not the most popular marketing tools these days, but trade shows are the perfect time to utilize a direct mail campaign. In most cases, mail gets handed to many people and you have an opportunity to catch someone’s attention along the way. Be strategic in your design of the piece to really capture their eye in a simple way. In our opinion, putting your invite in an envelope would be a way of money and effort. You can simply send a fun postcard that is bright and playful. Think of all the mail you get day in and day out. What would stop you in your tracks? That’s the type of thinking that will set you apart from the rest!
A fun idea to encourage a meet up is by offering an incentive on your direct mail piece. Try something like “bring this postcard to booth 123 to receive a $5 Starbucks gift card” or “bring this postcard to booth 456 for a chance to win a pair of Apple Airpods. Try to leave room in your trade show budget for these types of luxuries. If you are at the right trade show, it will pay off in the end. Keep in mind you don’t have give away hundreds of dollars of freebees to stand out, you just need to be creative. Double check that your mailing has all of the important details about your company: Name, booth number, website, email phone and social media handles if you plan on being active.
Not everyone exhibiting at the show will put effort into pre show marketing so use this to your advantage. Demand your company and product to be known by attendees. The more marketing tools you are able to execute on, the better. Using multiple strategies gives you a greater chance of standing out and connecting with your prospects. When putting your marketing plan together try to keep your message dialed in and consistent. It is the perfect time to be creative and try new things. Make pre-show marketing a priority!
Because trade shows are such an investment, determining your ROI is very important but can be challenging. Establishing measurable and quantifiable goals prior to the show will help determine your pre, during and post show strategies and how to properly execute. The ROI calculator featured in our Trade Shows Aren’t Just about the Shows white paper may be a good starting point for your team.
Stay tuned for during show and post show strategies.