Welcome to the 5th and final part of our Trade Show Marketing series! In this post, we outline a comprehensive plan that is specifically built for marketers, sales executives and business owners at all levels and across all industries to ensure a successful trade show experience now and in the future. Let’s get started.
Three Phases of Trade Show Marketing
- Pre-Show: develop your strategy, determine your tactics, design the experience
- At the Show: engage your audience, think beyond the booth, keep it fun and free
- Post-Show: follow up, add value...in every message, be patiently persistent
Now that we’ve identified the three main phases, let’s take a deeper dive into each.
Create your initial checklist. This should be a high-level brief to keep you on track and ensure you don’t forget any key items along the way. It should consist of the following:
- Strategy: goals, objectives, tactics, lead tracking
- Communications: promotion, advertising, sponsorship
- Schedule: trade show calendar, meetings, events
- Logistics: hotel, travel, booth size, design, traffic flow
- Legal: contracts, deposits, insurance
Consider your strategy. What are your goals for this event? Let’s map it out. Put together a game plan that is quantifiable, timely and realistic. Something like this perhaps:
We want to come back with 50 solid prospects, which will lead to 25 meetings, which will lead to 5 new sales totaling $2.5M within 6 months of the show.
Design the experience. Design can mean the difference between success and failure at any trade show. By working with an experienced trade show design partner, your company’s identity and personality can be brought to life and translated into an eye-catching 3-D space that can really draw a crowd.
More on the Pre-Show phase here.
2. At the Show
Engage your audience. Striking up a conversation with a stranger...it can be a bit daunting, right? We all have a heated battle going on inside our heads at any given time. So here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you approach complete strangers.
- Be confident. You’re at this trade show for a reason. You are a capable and trusted member of your team who was chosen to represent your company and you know your stuff. So, what is there to be nervous about? Do your thing.
- Be curious. The most interesting people in this world are the ones who find others interesting. Ask questions and really listen. Take a wise man’s advice and become genuinely interested in other people. You might even consider coming up with a few questions to ask people as they are walking by your booth. This way, you can see which questions are well-received and which may fall flat.
- Use time. Offer time-sensitive special offers, raffles and giveaways via social media to encourage attendees to follow your brand’s social media channels during the event. This will give them an easy ice-breaker to stop at your booth and strike up a conversation as well. Be sure to get a picture of the winners with their prizes and share that on your channels. Raffles and giveaways can build excitement around your booth and really draw a crowd.
- Use video. Video is (should be) a key part of your trade show strategy. This could be a clip to demo your product or service, but be sure to keep it short, simple, engaging and memorable to create interest which will leave them wanting more.
Think beyond the booth.
- You’re close. An all-too-often overlooked part of trade show strategy is simply the fact that you are in the same city as your prospective customers. So, set up meetings and events away from the booth, especially after the show floor closes, to allow for key one-on-one time with the people you most want to meet with. You may even consider exclusive invites to evening social events. Happy hour party, anyone?
- Expand your reach. Remember that awesome demo video you’re showing at your booth to catch attention? Share it. Add it to your social media channels – YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, repurpose for Instagram, etc. By doing so, you can reach both trade show attendees and those who couldn’t make the show but follow your company. When people like, comment or share your post, use that as an invitation to interact with them. Ask them for their thoughts on your newest demo and if they’re at the same show, invite them over!
Keep it fun and keep it free.
- Dust off that selfie-stick. Ask people for a picture if they stop by your booth or if they are walking by. Encourage them to have a little fun with it. Often, it helps if you have something at your booth (besides yourself) for them to take a picture with, such as an oversized product replica or company/team mascot, etc. Get creative with it. The idea is to make it something they’ll want to share with their team and others.
Share it via email and social media. After you get the picture, tell them you will email it to them and post it on social media with a shout out to them. Obviously, this will help you gather their email address and social media account(s) so you can keep in touch.
Example: Thanks to @ABCCompany for stopping by our booth #345. Stop back tomorrow to enter our raffle giveaway contest! #yourcompany #eventhashtag
- Offer free food/drinks. Popcorn, pretzels, cookies – they work like a charm. Candy is ok, but you might want to stick to more filling “real” foods. Put them in the middle of your booth to encourage a friendly hello. And who doesn’t love some cold beverages at hand?
- Appeal to the family. Think about who is going to be at the trade show. Keep in mind, many of the attendees could be dads and moms who are traveling. They’ve got kids who may expect a souvenir of sorts when they get back. So, help them deliver. For instance, if you offer T-shirts, be sure to include a few in kids sizes. You’ll make that mom, dad, aunt or uncle an absolute superstar...if only for a day.
More on the At the Show phase here.
Follow up. After the show you’ll want to follow up with two key groups – your leads and your trade show team.
Lead follow-up. Remember those great conversations that were started at the show? Keep them going, especially while they are still fresh in your prospect’s mind. Sincerely thank them for attending and express appreciation in meeting them as well as your interest to continue the conversation and to keep in touch. Here are a few follow-up ideas you may consider (mix n’ match!)
- Handwritten card
- Personal email
- LinkedIn invite to connect with personal message
- Social media posts, tags, follows, likes
- Email newsletter campaign
- Direct mail campaign
- Custom gift
Team follow-up. Get together with your team following the completion of the trade show while the event is still fresh in their minds. Conduct a de-brief. Talk about what they felt went well and what areas they think could be improved. This post-show communication is crucial to creating the very best trade show experience for everyone involved – so don’t skip it!
Add value. Always, always, always add value. Don’t just follow up to “check in” or “touch base.” This is a waste of your time and your prospect’s time. It’s also very likely that your competitors are just “following up,” so be different. As marketers, you can help your sales team bring value at every touchpoint.
- Answer questions. Create valuable content by using the questions you were asked about your product or service at the show. Not only will this help you understand what’s most important to your prospects, it will help you to become a trusted thought leader and problem solver. This will draw your prospects closer to you.
- Share work. Send your prospects project work examples that you think they would find valuable and that may spark some ideas and excitement to potentially solve their problems as well. Even if it’s not your work, share something that you know they would find valuable and you’ll become a trusted, valued resource to them as well.
- Connect them. We all have our networks. We all want to connect with people that we value and who can help us grow our business and enrich our lives. So, be a connector. You’ll be helping them and yourself at the same time. Again, provide value.
Be patiently persistent. We know that good things come to those who wait. However, you can’t just sit back and expect these leads to come to you. Your sales team needs to be proactive in keeping in touch with their trade show leads. But, there is a fine line between exercising “polite persistence” and being so aggressive and relentless that you damage the very relationship you were trying to build.
Schedule it out. Remember that follow up strategy you outlined during the Pre-Show planning phase? It’s time to execute. Have your sales team create a schedule of contacting each trade show prospect around 6-8 times within a period of six months or so following the event and make sure that they are adding value in every communication. Patient persistence in your sales and marketing communications will result in growing your business – it’s all just a matter of time.
More on the Post-Show phase here.
So there it is folks, a high-level overview followed by a deep dive into the three phases of Trade Show Marketing. I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed and found value in this 5-part blog series designed to help you become more knowledgeable on the subject, armed with real-world examples and actionable ideas that you can implement immediately.
Thanks again for your interest in this series and please feel free to contact us if you’d like to further discuss Graphica’s expertise in designing successful trade show experiences.