Trade show marketing is experiential marketing. Trade shows give brands the floor to wow attendees with unique experiences, product demonstrations and human-to-human connections. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: we love trade shows!
But the trade show floor is not where the marketing begins. To be successful, you need to carve out a pre-show marketing plan that kick starts the attendee experience before they even arrive at the event.
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), exhibitors who use pre-show marketing raised the quality of their booth attendance by 46% and number of qualified show leads by 50%. The CEIR’s research also shows that 76% of attendees use pre-show information to help plan their trade show and travel time in advance. Marketing is vital, as your booth competes with other exhibitors, conference and workshop sessions, networking activities and even the tourism hotspots of the destination city.
These statistics should make you realize just how important your pre-show work is, and we’ve got some ideas to make pre-show marketing a breeze!
Here are a few pre-showing marketing tips to try:
- Invite your existing customers. Exhibitors often get a few passes or discount codes to distribute, and we recommend you take advantage of them! Treating existing clients to a trade show experience is a great addition to your account-based marketing efforts and allows you to connect with your clients on a deeper level. Plus, this group is more likely to help you spread the word on social media, so don’t be afraid to create incentives for their referrals.
- Update all of your company communication collaterals to promote your booth number: emails, postcards, email signature banners, stickers for catalogs or invoices, sales rep communication, newsletters, etc. Don’t be shy about adding your booth number to anything!
- Send “chunky mail” ahead of time to help persuade booth traffic. What’s chunky? It’s direct mail that isn’t flat, that has a fun item inside. For example, you could send one item that’s part of a pair (e.g., work gloves, ear bud covers, remote control and device, key to something) and ask attendees to pick up its matching item at your booth.
- Offer an exclusive product discount or prize contest giveaway for show attendees, and get the word out beforehand to draw show attention.
- Schedule sales appointments while you’re visiting the host city with either in-market clients or show attendees. Offer a free coffee or lunch in the exhibition center’s cafeteria. Be sure to send special swag for those who book appointments, rather than just giving the same tchotchkes that all attendees will pick up at the booth.
- Create special landing pages on your company’s website to detail your participation in upcoming trade shows. Include an appointment scheduler right on the page. A call-to-action that is exclusive to show attendees should be prominent on the page.
- Advertise to pre-registered show attendees. Many times a mailing list is hard to snag before the show, so get creative. If you exhibited last year, it’s a safe bet many of those same attendees will come back or send a different company representative. If you have friends in the industry who sponsor or also exhibit, combine forces to share leads and promote your participation in a co-branded fashion.
- Consider paying for print or online ads that promote your booth number in show-related or industry publications, including the show’s email newsletters.
- Target social media ads to people who follow the show’s social media account.
- Employ search retargeting with event keywords as part of your digital marketing strategy.
- Integrate your other marketing efforts and create a media mix geared toward the audience most likely to attend the shows you’re investing in.
- Craft multiple PR-worthy stories about why you’re exhibiting in the show and what type of experience attendees will have when they visit you. Distribute to news media at least three weeks prior to the show’s start.
- Start actively using the event’s hashtag on social media at least three weeks prior to the show – and don’t stop until well after the show has ended.
- Create an interactive countdown online or on social media. Reveal something new every day until you’re ready for the big reveal at the trade show booth to create suspense and draw attention.
Consider how your pre-show marketing and your on-site experiential marketing will tie together, so you’re designing one consistent attendee journey from pre-show to post-show. If you need help, let us know.
Until then, there’s this ultimate guide for trade show exhibitors that you should totally download. The best part? It’s free!