Trade Shows are an important event in the calendar of many businesses. But often, companies make the mistake of simply doing the bare minimum before turning up, failing to take advantage of their digital presence to bolster the actual event. This is a mistake, as digital marketing can support a trade show exhibit before, during and after the event itself. Let’s take a look at how.
Before the trade show
Before the trade show begins, it’s important to consider how you can leverage your own digital marketing channels to make more people aware of your presence at the show and attract them to your stand.
The first thing to do is to prepare. A plan is critical to ensuring that your trade show is successful, and your planning should include not just the actual show itself, but also all the digital resources that will accompany it. As an example, if you are providing any resources at the trade show, it may be worth creating digital copies, which you can provide to users using email.
Additionally, it will be good to plan out how the show will be promoted using the company’s social channels. By creating a social media content plan that promotes the show, the company’s attendance, and any events that are going on during the show.
This could be supported with a landing page that announces your attendance, where you can be found within the show, what you’ll be showing, along with a form for readers to get in touch. You can use this page as a hub for all your information about the show, before, during and after, to ensure that those who couldn’t attend can still see what you were offering.
You’ll also want to consider engaging your current clients or prospects with an email outreach campaign designed to inform and boost attendance at your stand. It would be worth considering which of these two groups you’d like to promote to, and to consider different messaging for each - focusing on the benefits each one will get from meeting you at your stand. It’s also worth considering the amount of effort you want to put into each - this will depend on the value of new customers vs the possibility of upselling or delighting your existing ones.
During the show
During the trade show, the most important thing to do is to link the attendees that visit your stand to their digital profiles by capturing their information so you can market to them. The bluntest way to do this is simply to have staff at the stand ask for an email address, but for many stand visitors, this will be something they won’t want to part with so easily. As such, you’ll want to engage in some inbound marketing techniques, such as offering some valuable content in exchange for these details, which will be emailed out to them after the show.
Consider finding ways to share the goings-on at the show: you can use social media to post pictures and updates from the event or create and share live video content. There are plenty of services that allow you to stream content, such as Facebook Live.
Also, make sure to follow conversations related to the event on social media. If you can comment on and speak to people discussing the show, you will be able to both increase your social media following, and engage with people who are interested in or attending the show.
After the show
After the show is when digital marketing can really help your efforts. Now you need to follow up with all your prospects from the show, and digital marketing offers you a great range of options to do that.
The first thing you should do is begin sending out contact emails to the people you’ve engaged with, these should be as customised as possible, ideally filled with the kind of content that will get people subscribed. If you’ve promised content to people who’ve visited the stand, this is a good way to deliver it.
You’ll want to do something to make your email stand out from the crowd, as many other businesses will be doing exactly the same. This could take the form of a content offer, or a video of your team at the event, or something as simple as a company photo, just to make you stand out.
You should also consider creating a roundup for the show, detailing what you showed off, what you saw, and any content you’ve made relating to the show. If you had an existing landing page, you can update it into this after the show is over, repurposing the existing content to get more value out of it.
Are Trade Shows Worth It?
With all this in mind, there’s one question to think about - is attending a trade show worth it, when all the digital marketing you’ll do to support it could possibly be put to better use promoting the business and its products?
That’s a difficult question to answer, as it depends on a number of factors - the best way to work this out would be to assess each show you attend based on historical data from going there - how many leads did you get? How many of those became customers? You can use this data to work out a rough ROI for trade shows, then compare this to the effectiveness of normal marketing efforts to see if this would be a good use of budget.
The above calculation doesn’t take into account the brand awareness you can create by attending a show, of course, and also doesn’t place a value on the thought leadership you can gain by speaking or exhibiting as well. These benefits are harder to place a value on - ultimately it will be up to you to decide if they’re worth the cost of attending a show.