In the digital age, tradeshows may seem like a relic from the past, but the truth is that they can still provide benefits for most businesses.
After all, tradeshows aren’t just about displaying your products, they’re about meeting people, making connections, and then parlaying those connections into a long-term relationship.
They also give you the chance to measure your competition and hopefully garner some press interest for your products.
But if you aren’t properly prepared before you arrive at a tradeshow, you might as well just stay home since you’ll never be able to truly justify the time and money you’ve spent.
So instead of showing up and trying to ‘wing it,’ there’s a better way to make sure that you reap all the rewards that a tradeshow can offer.
Let’s dive into the 8 things you can do to prep for your upcoming tradeshow so that your next one is an overwhelming success.
1. Social Media Promotion
You’ve got a website, right? It’s a rhetorical question because every business that wants to compete needs a well-designed website that creates and distributes content to other platforms.
And in this era, social media has become the go-to channel for getting the word out about upcoming events.
When you promote your upcoming tradeshow on social media, the key is to create short-form content that excites your target audience and makes them want to attend the event.
To do that you can do one or several of the following:
• Make a short video (60 seconds or less) that talks about the tradeshow and what you’re going to display at your booth.
• Post short video interviews of people that will attend the tradeshow to give your audience a tease of the value they will get by attending the tradeshow.
• Write short blog pieces that relate to the tradeshow and post them on your social media channels. End these pieces with a short CTA that directs people that are interested in learning more about the topic to stop by your booth at the tradeshow, and include your booth number and tradeshow name.
• Post daily announcements about the tradeshow on your social media channels and incentivize your audience by offering special discounts and promotions if they stop by your booth.
• Do a live-streaming Q&A session about the products you will display at the tradeshow so your audience gets excited about attending
• Use the tradeshow’s attendees contact list to follow key influencers on their social media channels. Cross-reference this list with the tradeshow’s official hashtag so that you can engage with people that are talking about events and activities at the tradeshow.
• Start using the tradeshow’s official hashtag in all your promotional content on social media at least three months before the show.
2. Reach Out to Journalists
Getting an industry reporter to interview you at the tradeshow can help boost brand awareness because journalists are powerful influencers in their own right.
Reach out to journalists by following these steps:
• Get a list of reporters that have pre-registered for the show
• Research their bylines to determine which reporters match your brand
• Reach out to the reporters and request an appointment based on the niche that the reporter covers. For example, if your skateboard company is releasing a retro skateboard targeted at Generation X, you would target reporters that have written about the skateboarding culture among an older demographic. The key is to offer reporters something new and relevant to what they find interesting, so by analyzing their previous content, you can target the reporters most likely to respond to the products and services you will display at the tradeshow.
You can also continue your journalist outreach efforts during the tradeshow as well. For example, if you’re a software company that will be hosting a live demonstration of your newest product, email reporters at the tradeshow and invite them to attend the demonstration so they can test-drive the software.
Or if a journalist said that they might stop by your booth, email that journalist at the tradeshow and invite that person for after-hours drinks, or to a reception you’re hosting. The key to journalist outreach is to offer something of value to the reporter as opposed to a general invite just because you happen to be attending the same tradeshow.
3. Craft a Press Release
Press releases are still an effective means of making a public announcement that can help boost awareness of an event.
This is especially true if you’re attending a tradeshow where you’re going to unveil a new product or unveil an enhancement to an existing product.
It’s also true if you’re going to demo an existing product or service, unveil new accessories for an existing product, host a panel discussion, or deliver a keynote speech.
Some of the must-haves on your press release include:
• Name of the event in the headline
• A distinct call-to-action (CTA) which drives readers to know what to do with your information. Do you want them to download a press kit or a blog piece about the products you’ll be displaying at the tradeshow? Do you want to provide a link so readers can download a special tradeshow promotion or discount?
• Include product photos, infographics and other visual content that brings to life the experience readers will have if they attend the tradeshow.
• Use clear, active words to make the event feel personal as opposed to another marketing ‘gimmick.’
• Include your booth number, and tell readers what they can expect to see at your booth, including exhibit information, promos, discounts, and any other freebies that will entice them to show up.
• Align the release with your social media marketing by providing hashtags and links to more information on your social media channels.
4. Reach Out to Your Existing Customers, Partners, and Prospects
Tradeshow premarketing gives you a fantastic opportunity to leverage your email marketing.
The whole point of sending weekly emails is to provide your customers, prospects, and partners with new and valuable information about your business, right?
So take advantage of the hard work you’ve put into building your list and create a special email marketing campaign that focuses on your upcoming tradeshow.
The goal is to make your email list feel as if the tradeshow is an extension of a company that they like, so make these emails less formal and stylized, and more fun and chatty.
Emails targeted to your prospects and existing customers should make them feel like they’re being invited to a social gathering where they can meet the faces behind your business, and learn more about your company on a more personal level.
But the key here is networking. Many of your clients have probably booked the tradeshow tickets in advance, so it’s not so much about getting them to attend, it’s about what benefit do they get when they interact with your company.
The answer? Make it personal. Invite your audience to schedule an appointment with you and offer them something valuable in exchange.
While you may be tempted to offer some small keepsake, the truth is that product samples are the most effective giveaways.
Because they directly align with your brand, and they offer immediate value to the person that receives it.
For example, if you sell software, give away your newest software product with an activation code that only last for seven days. People get to try out your product for a limited time, and the perceived value is far greater than what you would have gotten out of a pen or a keychain.
5. Create An Informational Page for the Tradeshow
An informational page about the tradeshow is important because you can use it in your email marketing and your social media marketing.
The tradeshow promo content on your social media channels and in your email marketing needs to drive back to this special informational page that will include:
• Name, dates, and locations of the tradeshow
• Your booth number
• Exhibit information
• Special deals and promotions for attendees
• After-hours mixers and get-togethers that your company is sponsoring
• Photos of previous tradeshows
• An ‘I plan on attending’ CTA button that users can click so you can capture leads
Every headline, sub-headline, and CTA on that page should answer the five Ws of the tradeshow, and leave no questions unanswered in a user’s mind.
6. Create a Dedicated Landing Page
Set up a landing page for the tradeshow so that all the email marketing and social media marketing campaigns drive traffic to this page.
Since prospects have already signaled their interest by arriving at the landing page, you can email them with daily updates after the tradeshow begins.
The beauty of this strategy is that you won’t have as many opt-outs because you’re targeting people you know expressed an interest in hearing more about the tradeshow.
But the trick is to make sure you provide value in these updates, so one example is offering a giveaway every day to the first 10 people that email you the message, “I want free stuff!”
Notify the winners by email, but make them pick up their prize at your booth. You can then chat up these motivated prospects when they stop by your booth.
7. Set Up a Proximity Marketing Campaign
What the heck is a proximity marketing campaign?
It’s a really neat way to grab the attention of people that attend the tradeshow.
Proximity marketing is a location-based marketing technique that uses beacon technology powered by Bluetooth (not Wi-Fi) to set up a geo-fence so that prospects within that fence receive special messages and promotions.
The beacons connect to prospects through an app, and once prospects opt in, they receive promotional messages.
By using proximity marketing at a tradeshow, you basically fence in prospects that are already at the event, or very near the event location.
With proximity marketing, you can send on-the-spot digital coupons, special promotions, and photos and videos of activities during the show.
For example, you could send mobile invitations such as ‘Would you like a 50% discount on a product order today?’ and guarantee that discount to first 10 people that show up at your booth.
One other cool thing about beacon technology is that because it runs on Bluetooth, you can still send promotional messages even if the Wi-Fi reception at the tradeshow is spotty.
8. Create Engaging In-Booth Games and Activities
In all the rush to implement your premarketing for a tradeshow you may forget something really important: to make your booth fun.
Yeah, this sounds pretty obvious, but it takes planning and time to create engaging games and activities that will keep foot-traffic humming around your booth.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your booth games and activities:
• Choose someone to play the host for ‘contestants’ that stop by your booth. This keeps things fun for your visitors.
• Invent games that force your visitors to analyze your products and services, and then answer questions. For example, if you’re selling video games, you could have contestants play the game for a minute, pause the game, then ask them a series of questions about characters or events that took place during that session.
• Invent games that are tied to your brand or to the theme of your booth. For example, if you sell golf equipment, set up a small putting green and let players try to hit the ball into the hole.
• Require some type of ‘opt-in’ before visitors can play your game so that you can capture leads for follow-up. Make sure everyone that wants to play a game writes their name and email address on a sign-up sheet before they get started.
• Provide instant gratification for your visitors by giving them tangible prizes as well as discounts they can use later. For example, if you’re selling roller blades you could give away free kneepads, and also give people a discount code that they can use later towards an item that’s $50 or more on your website.
>Pre-Planning Makes the Effort Worthwhile<
Tradeshows are often time-consuming to plan for and expensive to attend, but if you have a targeted plan in place, the rewards can pay off for months - and even years - to come.
Like with all marketing, the key is to understand what your goals are, and then create a plan that helps you achieve them by skillfully planning out each piece of the puzzle so that they all work together to create marketing synergy.
Once you understand how each strategy is linked to something else – so, for example, how social media promotion ties into email marketing, which then ties into a dedicated landing page
About the author:
Tabitha Naylor takes control of your marketing with outstanding services for strategic marketing, combining the power of design, great content, PR, SEO, social media, and mobile to attract serious prospects when they’re ready to buy.
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Image 8: Spoon Events
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