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Trade Shows and Online Marketing

by | Feb 2, 2012

Before, During and Post Show Communications Plan
As many of you are starting to implement your 2012 marketing plans, if you’re a business-to-business marketer, trade shows are quite possibly part of your marketing plans. One of the biggest complaints we hear from prospective clients is that they didn’t get enough traffic at their booth. Before you embark on the typically expensive adventure of exhibiting at a tradeshow, take a moment to plan all the communications that need to happen before, during and after the show.
Before The Trade Show
Consider that the trade show exhibit hall will likely be full of booths, all competing for the same eyeballs and folks to stop by their booths. Many attendees will walk the hall but others will skip it and go straight to the educational sessions. To help ensure they come to the exhibit hall and find your booth, talk to them early and often. Develop a calendar to communicate with them several times prior to the show. Your schedule might look something like this:
6 months before the show
  •       Work with the trade show organizers to identity sponsorship opportunities to sponsor bags or put literature in the hands of every attendee
  •       Identify what you want to promote and highlight at the show
  •       Work with your booth agency to ensure the booth is ready to go!

6 weeks prior to the show
  •       Develop a landing page highlighting the show your attending, the booth number you’ll have (if it’s a large show you may even want to include a map of the show floor highlighting where you are on the show floor), what you plan to announce or showcase at the show, and of course, if you’re giving away exciting items from the booth, entice prospective show-goers with those!
  •       Issue a press release announcing that you will be exhibiting at the show and offer a sneak peak at any new products or services you plan to launch at the show. (Bonus tip: ensure the release is posted as a HTML file on your web site at least a few days before the release is pushed across the wire; this will help your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as well!)
  •       Deploy an email to all of your existing clients to let them know you will be exhibiting at the tradeshow and to please stop by so you can thank them for their business and show them what’s new with your company, products and services.
  •       Deploy an email to prospective customers that offers compelling information about what you plan to exhibit at the show and your booth giveaways. Often times, you can work with the show organizers to secure a list of prospective attendees; they may not be willing to give you attendees email addresses so you may want to ask the show whether they will deploy an email on your behalf.
  •       Ensure that the press release and emails link to your landing page.
  •       Bonus tip 1: make your landing page work just a little harder by offering something of immediate value such as a whitepaper, that prospective show-goers can download so that they can get acquainted with your company in advance of the show and you can capture their contact information before the show
  •       Bonus tip 2: if you have a technologically advanced audience, on your landing page request their cell phone numbers so you can communicate with them via SMS once they’re at the show.
  •       Consider print and banner advertising in industry publications that your prospective clients and potential show-goers will be reading; advertise your booth location at the show.
  •       Consider partnering with other businesses that are planning to exhibit at the show but are not competitive to you. Do a trade with them for space in their e-newsletter and vice versa. This can potentially expose you to a whole new audience of clients. For example, if you sell software, consider partnering with a company that sells hardware.

4 weeks prior to the show
  •       Deploy two more emails to prospective clients and existing customers. The email should vary slightly from the previous email, hype the show’s upcoming date, and again drive them to the landing page.
  •       Start a personal touch campaign. Identify your top prospects that are likely to be at the show. Have the sales team reach out to these prospects personally via email AND via phone to tell them you’ll be at the show and you would love to set up an appointment where you can focus on their specific needs and how you can help them.

1 week prior to the show
  •       Issue a second press release.
  •       Review your email stats and send a final email to those email recipients who did not open your previous emails. Make the subject line compelling so you can get their attention.
  •       Finalize and firm up meetings and times.

During The Tradeshow
There’s the obvious of having literature to hand out from your booth but here are a few ideas to the push the envelope for during tradeshow communications:
  •       Send them an email DURING the show. Everyone has a Smartphone in their pocket so send them an email and remind them to stop by your booth. Be sure to include ALL the pertinent information in your email and send a Smartphone optimized version. Include your booth number and key highlights of what to expect at the booth.
  •      Captured their cell phone numbers on your landing pages? Well done! Now text them and remind them to stop by the booth or set up  a private appointment with one of your sales reps.
  •       Post updates about the show on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages.
    • Bonus Tip: post pics too and optimize them for search!
  •      Consider having QR codes at the booth. Some folks shy away from picking up flyers…more junk to carry…but they’re likely willing to scan a QR code and then all of your information is in their phone.

Post The Trade Show
Post show everyone is a little tired and weary but this is where the big push comes in. Now it’s time to follow-up.  Within 5-7 business days of the show:
  •       Send personal thank you notes to anyone who took a personal scheduled meeting with you; your email should convey thanks for their time, demonstrate an understanding of their needs and how you intend to meet them, and set out a time for a follow-up discussion to close the deal
  •       Send a bulk email to everyone who stopped by the booth thanking them for stopping by and reminding them why your company rocks and how you can help them
  •       Start an outbound personalized email campaign and phone campaign to anyone who didn’t take a personal meeting with you but stopped by the booth. 
  •       Issue a follow-up press release about the success of the show
  •       If the show made the list of attendees available to you, email a separate message to anyone who didn’t have a chance to stop by the booth, tell them you’re sorry you didn’t connect at the show but you would still love the opportunity to see how you can help them.

Planning a strategic communications strategy for before, during and after your trade show appearance is critical to ensuring you maximize the full revenue potential of the event. Showing up with a sexy booth just isn’t enough. You have to get and keep the attention of prospective clients well before and after the show if your going to realize the ROI you’re seeking.

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