Trade shows require significant planning. As you hustle to prepare for the day of the show, you may not realize you’re missing out on opportunities to connect with your audience long before you ever step foot on the showroom floor. Are you just showing up and shipping out, hoping to close a deal and collecting business cards? Look at the bigger picture and form a solid marketing plan of action such as we’ve outlined below. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to reaping rewards long after the show is a memory.
9-6 MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
- Determine your trade show budget, including marketing expenses.
- Create your marketing schedule. Plan on sending emails, promoting on social media (be specific), and posting on your blog.
- Review your current trade show display and signage. Make sure people can instantly recognize you and what you do. Displays can often be a significant expense, but you’ll be able to use it again and again. This is an investment.
- Evaluate the catalogs and sales collateral you will be distributing at the show. Do they portray you in the best light? You’ll easily outshine your competition with slick graphics and a cohesive message.
- Identify the goals and objectives of attending the trade show. What do you stand to gain? Who are you trying to target?
- Determine your level of sponsorship at the show. Certain levels come with perks such as an attendee list and your logo on official conference materials. Take advantage of this if it’s available. That attendee list can be used for pre-show touch points.
- Determine if you can integrate any technology into your display such as video or a kiosk that integrates social media. This is a great way to draw attention. Try to get away from looping PowerPoints.
- See if you can get a speaking role at the show. Sharing something of value publicly builds trust and shows you are a thought leader.
6-4 MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
- Create and order the giveaways, or as we like to call it, the swag that the show attendees will flock to your booth to get. Think carefully about this. T-shirts, key chains, mugs, iPhone covers, stress balls, and jump drives are done to death. Make your giveaway memorable.
- Similar to the above, if you plan on making appointments or meeting with anyone prior to the show, create personalized giveaways for that select group.
- If you have an attendee list or know of potential clients going to the show, now is the time to invite them to a dinner or an evening of cocktails. Make it a no-pressure and low key evening. Give a brief presentation. Plant seeds.
3 MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
- Now is the time to begin your email campaign. Your first email should be short and sweet. Target all those you consider potential prospects.
- Post your intentions to attend the show on your website, as well as brief team bios, topics you’ll be discussing, and where you are located at the show.
- Begin posting on social media. Why are you going to the show? What are you looking forward to? What are you contributing? What are you giving away? Are you demoing anything? Are you offering any consulting? Like and contribute to the posts of others.
- Start a series of posts on your blog leading up to the event. Topics can include speakers to listen to, sessions to attend, anything you are doing at the show, and any related event info. Make sure to invite people to visit you at your booth in your posts.
2 MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
- Send a second email. Make sure it discusses some aspect of your plan for the show and how you are involved. Offer recipients the chance to book appointments or set up meetings at the event. Link to your blog posts.
- Consider if hosting a webinar makes sense for your target audience. Send an email to announce that. This does require some web savvy and the ability to communicate well with an unseen audience. Perhaps it’s a talk based on what you will be presenting at the show or just a topic about your industry. Make sure to mention you will be at the upcoming trade show and your booth number.
- Plan your on-site sales and presentation strategy. Don’t do all the work to get your customer to the booth only to blow it at the event. If your product or service does not automatically drive curiosity or viewer engagement, your sales force needs to create that spark with a personal connection. Demo the product or service and practice your pitch.
1 MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW
- Send a third email. Perhaps you can tie it into a promotion or limited-time offer for the first attendees to arrive at your booth on the day of the show. The goal is to build anticipation.
AT THE SHOW
- Use all of your social media channels in real time. Schedule announcements, especially on Twitter. Use hash tags. Post photos on Facebook and Instragram.
- Don’t expect to speak to every attendee who comes to your booth. Remember those kiosks we mentioned? Use them to sell your product or capture user data for follow up. Set up a brief survey to collect data, which will be invaluable for future events. Tie the survey to a raffle to increase engagement.
WITHIHN 1 WEEK AFTER THE SHOW
- Email everyone who showed up at your booth and thank them. Include your contact info and offer a link to any presentations you gave. Take them to your website.
- Send a personalized email to prospects that met with you or booked appointments. These are your strongest leads.
- Continue posting on social media. Share your thoughts on the show and what you got out of it.
- Write a blog with key takeaways and highlights about the show.
2 WEEKS TO 3 MONTHS AFTER THE SHOW
- After initial emails go out, evaluate analytics for anyone who shows interest and setup a lead nurturing campaign. Segment prospects.
Doing everything on the above list is beyond most budgets and schedules. However, we hope you can see that there are unbelievable opportunities to reach out to prospects all along the way to the trade show itself. We recommend you do stimulate engagement before and after an event. After all, you aren’t just looking to get noticed at the show but to move prospects through the buying cycle. If you start nine months ahead of time, you just might get that sale on the day of the show!
Streng Design and Advertising is a full-service agency specializing in integrated marketing. We have years of experience designing trade show graphics and catalogs and developing lead nurturing initiatives. Check out our capabilities and contact us anytime at 630-584-3887. We’ll be in touch.