Trade shows are one of the most versatile and effective forms of marketing out there. There isn’t much that can compete with the face-to-face networking opportunities they offer you and your brand. If used right, they’re a goldmine for lead generation.
But all too often, businesses don’t reach their full potential. Many end up leaving ROI on the table. A common culprit is not taking advantage of the many techniques the modern world provides.
Incorporating digital marketing into your trade show plans will breathe fresh life into your brand. In fact, it helps in every stage of your strategy: before, during, and after the event.
In the lead up to the event, you should be taking full advantage of digital opportunities to spread the word.
The first point of attack is your website. Make sure visitors find out about your attendance at the trade show and invite them to join you. Consider creating an e-form so attendees or other exhibitors can schedule a meeting with you at the event.
Next, you’ll want to build a social media campaign to further your digital outreach. Let all your followers know about the exhibition early and often.
Find out the official hashtag for the trade show. Write it down, keep an eye on it, and attach it to every relevant post you send.
If the trade show has any social media accounts of their own, follow and engage them. That way, you can stay up-to-date on any details about the event. It’s also a great way to build rapport with the people involved and make yourself more public.
A well-crafted campaign can zero in on the kinds of people most likely to have interest in what you do. Find out what social media platforms your customers, prospects, and trade show attendees are using the most.
Holding a contest or giveaway is a very popular choice for attracting attention to your social media accounts. Such a strategy will be especially helpful if you promote a potential prize for people who stop by your booth at the trade show. (More on that a little later.)
Then, it’s time for some good old-fashioned email marketing. Send a series of emails to promote the trade show, explain what you’ll be offering, and offer valuable, eye-catching content.
If you’re sponsoring any events, such as a lecture, give a heads up to anyone who might be interested.
Any time you send an email, make your contact information readily available. If you’ve set up a form on your website for scheduling an appointment, link to it.
And lastly, Google AdWords can help you attract the right people. Set up search-specific ads to reach the people googling keywords related to the trade show. They’re already interested; now it’s just a matter of directing them to your landing pages and other hooks.
Pro tip: A lot of people don’t take advantage of Google AdWords so that you won’t have much competition. It’s also inexpensive to target those keywords for the same reason.
You’ve got all the attention you can from your website, social media, email campaigns, and targeted ads. Now it’s time for the big day itself.
First off, your social media focus shouldn’t end when the trade show begins. Throughout the event, stay active on all the right platforms and share your experiences from the trade show floor. (And don’t forget to use that hashtag, either.)
Post plenty of pictures showing yourself, your team, your trade show booth, and your visitors getting along and making connections. Videos can be a great way to draw traffic, too. You want people to see it on their Twitter feeds and say, “That booth looks worth a check.”
If you’re offering any treats for visitors, post appealing teasers for them. When someone sees a tasty snack or a cool drink, they’ll be more likely to swing by to grab a nibble or two.
Plus, you’re showing your followers who aren’t at the event why they’ll want to show up for the next one.
Now we come to giveaways and exclusive content. If you’re already working on a piece of digital content, why not make a splash with it?
There are a few ways you can do this:
Create a unique URL for your content and offer it on cards at the show.
Have a tablet in your trade show display so visitors can download the exclusive content piece while at your booth.
Supply your sales team with plenty of printed copies so they can give them out to leads.
Remember: if you do offer exclusive content at your booth, promote it through email and social media before the event.
Investing in the planning and execution of a trade show is essential. However, a common mistake is to wash your hands of it the moment it’s over.
Until those leads you got at the event are qualified or disqualified, you still have work to complete.
Send a short, non-sales email within 24 hours to anyone who showed promise during the event. It should be no more than 4-5 sentences at the most. Don’t make the mistake of sharing your mission, vision, or values. It’s just a friendly checkup.
In it, you should:
Remind them who you are; they probably spoke to hundreds of people.
Remind them what value you offer–but don’t be a salesman.
Thank them for visiting your booth and the time they spent with your team.
Include a photo of your team to help them remember you better. It may also set your brand apart from all the other emails they’re probably getting.
Close with a call-to-action. Again, you’re not trying to sell anything too major with this. You want them to click so you can start tracking their engagement on your website. Offer a simple opt-in for a grand prize drawing or a free piece of quality content.
Email isn’t the only good way to engage leads after the trade show, either. Facebook’s Custom Audiences lets you import your lead list and target them with ads. You can remind them of your value and prompt them to take the next step.
From the first step to the last, digital marketing should be front and center in your trade show strategy. Once you see the difference it makes in drawing leads and converting them to sales; you’ll never go back.
Welcome to the future.
Mike Weimar is the president of Iconic Displays, a provider of portable tradeshow displays, booths, and exhibits. He has over 25 years’ experience in high-technology marketing and product development.