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Trade show marketing: By failing to prepare; you are preparing to fail

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Posted by , 10th January 2017

Trade show marketing entails preparation if you are to be successful

One view I hold dear, is that, even in this digital age, I still firmly believe that no marketing channel will ever beat face-to-face.

Exhibitions bring your target audience to you under one roof for a finite period of time. Chosen well and planned carefully, they can reap huge benefits for your business.

Having said that, I’m always amazed at how little preparation many exhibitors put into them and – without naming any names – how quick some of them are to blame the organizer if they have a poor experience onsite. There is so much to plan in advance to ensure that your objectives are met. From the moment the contract is signed a plethora of marketing collateral and advice is yours for the taking. Don’t waste these opportunities.

You are probably reading this article because you are responsible for achieving your organisation’s strategic goals at an upcoming trade show. Even if the show itself is a year away you can start getting value from your involvement now.

Get in touch with the event’s marketing team as soon as you can. There is a whole range of things they can do to help you get the best possible outcomes from your participation. They know their show inside out – from visitor demographics to their purchasing cycles. They have also created a detailed visitor marketing campaign that you could tap into.

Launching a new product?

Ask if there are any speaking opportunities. Be warned, they will want original content that will enhance their programme so your speaker will need to be engaging. By adding a speaking slot to your involvement at a show you have two platforms for your product launch. And that means, two opportunities to get a mention in the show’s marketing campaign.

At the same time think about planning an event on your stand right after your speaker’s session. Invite your customers and prospective customers to come along. Make sure your PR team issues a press release to coincide with the show. Don’t forget to get in touch with the event’s PR team too. They are hungry for exciting news to include in their press campaign and they can tell you which magazines are producing show previews.

Many shows also highlight new products in other ways so always ask the marketing team about their plans. Will there be a New Product Zone? Are there any specific emails planned to focus on new products? Which trade magazines are interested in new product launches? 92% of visitors to a trade show are looking for new products, so the marketing team will be interested to hear about yours. Be sure to check what they need from you in terms of word count and images.

Trade show marketing: success is all in the planning

75% of exhibition visitors have already decided which stands they plan to visit before they arrive at the show (Center For Exhibition Industry Research) so it is crucial to be on their list.

If you don’t have a new product to launch at the show maybe you have a white paper or some original research to share with the industry. This is another possible speaking opportunity. Are you planning to run a competition or make an important announcement? Will you be running product demonstrations at specific times during the show? Whatever your plans, make sure you share them with the show’s marketing team. They will, in turn, tell the visitor audience, ensuring that your company name is associated with the show before it opens.

Read this related article 

The Exhibitor List on the show’s website is the second most visited page after the Homepage

With that fact in mind, make your exhibitor listing as comprehensive as you can. Treat it as your shop window and your primary opportunity to get your company on the list of ‘must visit’ stands.

It seems blindingly obvious but I have spent countless hours sourcing and uploading logos and writing profiles for exhibitors who have ignored this vital piece of advice.

Exhibition marketers want to send potential visitors to an Exhibitor List that will excite them and make them register to attend. Empty exhibitor profiles don’t do that. Once you’ve completed your profile, include links to it in your social media posts. In fact, make as much noise as you can about your plans for the show to ensure you attract strong visitor traffic to your stand.

Make the most of all the promotional opportunities

Don’t forget promotional basics especially when they are free. Add an event promotional message to your emails like the one shown above from exhibitor Balfour Beatty.

If you are targeting a very specific audience, the event marketing team can tell you how many of those people have registered to attend. They can also suggest all sorts of ways you can reach out to them. From bespoke emails to invitation-only lunches. If you share your plans with the team, there is every likelihood that they will include details in their marketing activity and so widen your reach.

The most important source of visitors to any trade show is the organisers’ own database of past attendees but a close second is its exhibitors. Those who register as a result of an invitation from an exhibitor are actually more likely to attend. Why? Because you have a personal relationship with them.

For this reason, the show’s marketing team creates all manner of marketing collateral. Web banners, email signatures, electronic invitations, suggested tweets, and more. These are all open to you to use when inviting your contacts to come and visit your stand at the show. If you can’t find them in the online Exhibitor Zone, ask the event marketing team to send them to you.  They should be able to provide whatever you need to suit your preferred method of communicating with your target visitors. It’s in their interest to do this and it’s in yours to use their expertise. Working in partnership will get everyone the best possible ROI.

A busy stand with visitor engagement is exactly what you want. The show is Highways UK 2016.

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Getting it right on site

Make sure that your forward planning includes the days when the show is open, especially if you are not going to be there each day. Do your stand personnel know what the strategic objectives for the show are? How will leads be followed up? Have the team been briefed about how to exhibit? Don’t let yours be the stand that has empty coffee cups all over the surfaces or inattentive staff talking amongst themselves.

Brief your social media team to ensure that your stand activities are shared with your followers. Use the show’s hashtag to get retweeted. Take any press packs to the Press office and introduce yourself to the team. Make contact with the show’s marketing team. The stronger the relationship you have with them, the more likely they are to come to you with new opportunities as they arise.

Finally, assuming you have a great show, make sure that you provide a testimonial. Follow up your leads quickly and share your experience with your business community.

Hopefully, you have been inspired to start planning for your next trade show. Next step is to call the event’s marketing team. I wish you every success.

About the Author

Diana Little has over 20 years’ experience in B2B events marketing across a range of markets. She has worked on some of the largest, most established shows – including Spring Fair – as well as many niche exhibitions and launches. She started her own consultancy, Event Resolutions, in 2002 and her areas of expertise range from strategic planning, data analysis, market research, new product development, event launches, team mentoring and troubleshooting. For more about Diana and her work see her entry on LinkedIn.

Posted in B2B Marketing  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show marketing

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