Make the most of your exhibit investment with these trade show marketing best practices.

Trade shows are the go-to option for generating lots of face-to-face encounters with highly qualified prospects and customers.  Fill your booth with the right attendees and boost your results with these easy-to-implement trade show marketing tactics.

1. Objectives and Metrics

Identify just one or two top objectives you’ll focus on achieving at a show. This could be maximizing new leads, conducting training, up-selling current customers, App downloads, list sign ups, or many others. Start out knowing what event priorities will be, then set metrics that define success.

2. Pre-Event Content Strategy

Launch your event content strategy before the show to give attendees a peek at the value of visiting your exhibit. Send out email teasers of what you’ll be announcing/demoing. Write a blog about a topic trending around the show and how your product leads that trend. Post a video excerpt from a special speaker you’ll feature in booth. Promote free downloadable materials that educate about your solutions.

3. Registered Attendee Email Campaign

When a list of registered attendees is available, reach out pre-show to your target personas. Start out with an interesting and relevant content email and save the direct promotion of your booth presence for a follow-up email.  Focus messaging on how target attendees will benefit from a visit to your trade show exhibit. Include an incentive offer for qualified prospects who stop by.

Trade Show engagement

4. Current Users and Prospects Email Campaign

Build a targeted email list of current users and prospects located in the region of the trade show you’re attending. Personalize your email campaigns by dividing into groups as much as possible and creating custom offers for each segment. Promote a special offer for loyal customers such as a party invite. Send prospects a discount ticket or offer a free giveaway if they stop by for a demo.

5. Company Email Signature

Adding a promotional line to the company email signature subtly announces your show presence with every email contact employees make. Roll these out company-wide one month prior to a show and dodge spam filters that may be weeding out your other promotional emails.  Include a CTA with a link to your trade show microsite and you’ve effectively reached a broad audience with a complete campaign in a friendly way

6. Trade Show Microsite

A trade show microsite offers another highly effective tool for driving engagement with your show news and happenings before the event starts.  Publish a schedule of featured booth speakers and activities. Collect early signups for workshops, activities, or demos and/or collect entries (leads!) in a daily giveaway for free expo hall passes or party invites.

7. Sales Team 

Enlist your pre-sales team for one-to-one outreach to top prospects in the area. Deliver a sales toolkit or briefing with show messaging, demos planned, and show objectives about one month prior to the show. Work with sales management to set a target number of appointments each sales team member should schedule for the event, and put an incentive in place for them to hit their targets. Make sure they have tools such as free exhibit hall passes and/or special private event invites to help them meet their quotas.

8. Booth Staff

Select the right booth staff and train everyone on show goals and messaging before the doors open. Include staff members who are comfortable smiling at strangers and initiating conversations as well as those who have detailed product knowledge. Make sure everyone knows what the booth CTAs are and how to handle tire-kickers who are just trying to get one of your giveaways. 

9. Purposeful Giveaways

What’s a trade show without free SWAG? Just be sure all those giveaways you purchase are items your target attendees want AND are tied to an expected ROI. A few low cost “brand awareness” items such  as stickers can be available to all takers, but reserve higher value items as reward for lead scan, newsletter sign up or App download only.

Trade Show SWAG

10. An Unbranded Experience

Create an opportunity for people to interact at your exhibit in a fun or meaningful experience that leads with something other than your brand. Attendees will form a stronger and more positive memory of your brand when it’s tied to a stimulating experience. Experiences don’t have to be expensive & elaborate to have an effect. A simple game can improve engagement.

11. Real Time Social Activity

Have onsite staff or a brand ambassador posting live updates about the show and your booth happenings at key times throughout the day.  Leverage the event hashtag and/or mobile app community to share valuable content and insights with your audience on-site. Connect them to what is happening in your booth, and offer them a reason to stop by in person. Remember to post interesting content and not just company promotions though.

12. Follow-Up

It’s surprising how many trade show exhibitors don’t have a strong follow-up plan for the leads they generate. Plan and build your lead follow-up before you hit the show floor for best results. While some lead capture systems can send an automatic thank you email to booth visitors, you’ll still want to send another more detailed follow-up with its own value proposition and CTA within the first week – before attendees forget why they were interested in the first place. The sooner this goes out, the better.  Connect your follow-up to the show experience with interesting post-event editorial. Recap what was great about the show and what they might have missed.

Share your tips for trade show success in the comments below.

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