Marketing any company includes such a variety of different things these days that it’s often hard for businesses, especially smaller organizations, to cover all the different directions they could take each campaign. Trade shows, however, are an opportunity to cover everything, and do it with strong brand consistency.
Having just returned from an annual international produce convention in New Orleans, the possibilities are fresh for both traditional and new ideas to make these huge expositions successful. The most effective way to do that is to develop a plan, messaging and a design for the show itself, and then keep that same look, feel and language throughout everything that relates to the show.
Dividing the marketing work for a trade show into three different categories is a good way to remember all that needs to be accomplished. We have things that need to be done before the show, important accomplishments during the show, and the follow up after you’re back in the office. Here are a few highlights for you to consider the next time you embark on the time and expense of a trade show. These pointers could be the difference between your raving about what a good show it was and wondering why you didn’t walk away with additional business.
Before the show, everyone thinks of the layout of the booth, making reservations and having handouts for attendees. But make sure you promote where your customers and potential customers will find you. Include your booth location in all your correspondence, on your website, on social media and in email blasts to attendees. Lists are usually available through the promoter’s office. Tag any ads you’re running in trade media with your booth number, and promote something special attendees will find at your booth, whether it’s giveaways, a fun participation or an opportunity. Also, use this time to set appointments with current and potential customers who will be visiting the show. Meetings, dinner parties, press conferences and other special invitations should all be set far in advance of the actual dates.
Really Work the Show
Trade shows are often one of your greatest opportunities of the year to see your customers. Make sure you take advantage of every minute. All meetings outside show hours are a great way to thank your biggest customer and renew that relationship.
It is important that attendees are well educated on the company, your products and the benefits that you offer over your competitor. While you are busy meeting customers, you may want to have a spokesperson whose job is to connect with the media attending the show, to make sure you get publicity not only at the show, but afterward as well.
Your booth should have materials that visitors can pick up that will remind them who you are when they go home. Consider offering bags, having a fishbowl for business cards that will be used for drawings or offering a game or a food product. Most Importantly, always have someone manning your booth, standing and ready to engage in conversation with visitors. A staff person seated behind a table reading is a strong invitation for visitors to ignore you and move on.
Don’t ignore the digital side. Give someone the responsibility of continually connecting to high-profile attendees through social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are important ways of spreading the word at the show itself as well as connecting with non-attendees. Live tweeting gives you the chance to build web content during the event and gain followers.
After the Show
Thanking attendees, creating video recaps and following up on specific conversations from a trade show is sometimes the difference between success and mediocrity. Always do some sort of follow up, whether it’s an email to all attendees, social media videos and posts, personal phone calls or individual response to questions.
Good luck with your next big event. Oster and Associates has helped our clients by successfully “working the shows” for many years, and we’re here for support when needed.