Give someone a branded stress ball, and your business will be remembered until that stress ball gets thrown out in the hotel room trash.
Create a memory and a unique experience and that’s when you have something special--a meaningful connection that could turn into a potential client or strategic partner.
When done right, trade shows can be an incredibly effective place to generate brand awareness, meet new contacts, and showcase your latest and greatest products and services.
But your success starts long before you arrive at the convention center or hotel ballroom with your spinner and the massive display that’s part origami, part mechanical engineering project.
If you want to make the most of your trade show spend, you need a plan leading up to, during, and after the event.
Marketing before a trade show
Start to let current and prospective clients know you’re going to be going to be exhibiting at XYZ trade show approximately 45 days out. This can include personal interactions, mentions in email newsletters, and via social media (make sure to include any relevant hashtags).
You also want to monitor your social networks for mentions from contacts about attending the trade show and follow up where it makes sense.
Always look for opportunities to schedule appointments (dinner, coffee, etc.) with partners, stakeholders, and customers during the show. Also think about other businesses and people you want to meet ahead of time. That way you can do some background research and make the most of your time during those initial interactions.
Of course it wouldn’t be a trade show without thinking about your booth—what promotional items make the most sense and most importantly what’s going to help get your business noticed.
It’s okay to be creative and cute with your display, you just want to make sure it’s relevant to your business. John Greathouse profiles how Central Desktop was able to employ a cigar-smoking, bearded angel with an exaggerated New York accent to get some amazing buzz during the San Francisco ad:tech conference in an article for Forbes—definitely a must read for any trade show exhibitor.
The halo? The harp? Tied directly to their move to the cloud? Brilliant.
You’ll also want to check out this article from John on another creative trade show marketing success story.
Marketing during a trade show
I know it can be exciting for some to be away from the family, stay up late, and throw back a few too many cocktails. Remember why you’re there—to meet prospective clients and promote your business. That means you should be easily approachable any time you’re at your booth, mingling with colleagues, riding in an elevator, etc.
And speaking of booths and approachability, those uncomfortable folding chairs are not your friends. If you’re physically able, make sure you wear some sensible shoes, stand up, and get away from behind the table to eliminate any unnecessary barriers to conversations and personal connections.
Notice the focus on personal connections. Collecting hundreds of business cards in a fishbowl doesn’t mean anything if you’re not going to do anything with them. Remember you’ve likely spent a significant amount of time and money on travel, booth fees, displays, promotional items—don’t let your investment go to waste.
Marketing after a trade show
Follow up with relevant contacts. I know that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many times businesses never get around to what’s arguably the most important outcome from the trade show. If a connection is local, find a time to meet over coffee or at their location so you can build upon the dialogue that started during the event.
In addition to individual follow up, consider generating some content attendees (and those who were unable to make it) would find helpful. This could include a recap, insights into emerging trends, observations, or even responses to questions you received during the event. Content is a great way to drive prospective customers and clients back to your website and also expand your reach to others who find the post online after the trade show.
ExactTarget always hits content out of the park around their Connections conference. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the creative articles from last year’s event. Something like “The Top 10 Tweet-Worthy Moments” and “The Survival Guide to Connections #ET13” could be a great fit for any trade show.
Above all, maximizing your trade show spend requires a plan that reflects your unique value proposition and the personality of your business AND one that will resonate with potential clients.
It’s okay to employ a cigar-smoking, bearded angel with an exaggerated New York accent—but you better make sure there’s a clear connection with your brand. If not, you could have just saved your money and ordered some of those stress balls.
Looking for more trade show marketing tips? You’ll love this post >> The Inbound Way to Do Trade Show Marketing.