Trade Show Marketing Strategy Using Digital Tools

Having a trade show marketing strategy is crucial to the success of the event. In the past decade or so, trade shows have transitioned from being the only opportunity for industry connections to become the most exciting opportunity. Even though many people thought internet technology would make trade shows obsolete, they actually become more important as a way to break up the monotony of increasingly homogenized business activities.

In other words, trade shows have become all about the experience. Their chief role now is to provide a form of physical proof for a company’s digital footprint — kind of like going to test drive a car in-person after looking at pictures of it online.

As a result, trade show marketing has shifted from being an intense race to generate leads to a method of signal-boosting brand hype. The trade show is now just a middle point in a longer marketing cycle — the main course to a much longer meal.

Case in point: over 90% of our clients see a greater increase in revenue stemming from event‐based digital marketing than the actual trade show itself. Yet, 65% of exhibitors have no clear strategy for attending a show.

In response to the shifting role of trade shows, modern marketers must serve up “appetizers” before the show to pique key attendees’ interests as well as side dishes during the show and a filling dessert after to leave them wanting more.

Marketers interested in making the most of the new trade show landscape can put the following digital marketing tactics to good use as a way to generate more qualified leads from their attendance.

Start Building Hype Early

Maximizing the amount of booth visitors you get — and increasing the quality of booth visitors — requires you to broadcast your attendance loud and clear.

  • Begin by crafting personas for your ideal lead targets. Include their job role, motivations, interests, and other key traits.
  • Craft at least one sample customer journey for each persona, and begin building event-specific campaigns for each touchpoint.
  • Make sure to broadcast your attendance on every available channel, including:
    • Content Marketing
    • Social Media Marketing
    • Email Marketing
    • Paid Search Marketing
    • Digital Ads/ Marketing
  • Ensure each channel-centric campaign shares a common theme, but make them unique so they can add different ideas to one cohesive “story.”
  • Show people where you are! Use a map with your booth location highlighted on all event-related content and landing pages.
  • Create a banner for your homepage blasting your attendance in an exciting way, possibly with the use of bright colors. This should be the first thing site visitors see.
  • Use a signup form on site pages, including blogs, and dedicated landing pages to get signups for events you’re leading or for access to lead magnet content
  • Speaking of lead magnet content, generate both gated and ungated content for your audiences.
    • Ungated content should be general reflections on the event or industry, including helpful articles like this one or “best things to see” posts
    • Gated content can include customized itineraries created for various personas/industries, swipe files of killer trade show strategies, ebook primers on key industry topics, etc.
  • Tease activities you are going to engage in during the event while hyping things you are excited for overall. Your goal is to make people eager and help them remember your plans.
  • Begin qualifying leads early and putting solidified appointments into your scheduling system. Don’t overbook your staff!
  • Turn aware leads into nurtured leads and booth appointments with retargeting display pointing clicks towards related content and landing pages.

Stay Organized During the Trade Show

When the event kicks off, remember that you have a limited window to make a maximum impact. Converting a trade show lead into a sale costs 38% less than relying on sales calls alone, so maximizing the hype the event generates can put your lead gen on steroids and lubricate leads through your funnel.

  • Set automated reminder emails for registered guests to catch your events or keep private appointments.
  • Ensure all badge scans and form entries can be captured by your CRM.
  • Brief everyone on pre-qualified attendees who might stop by the booth, especially those with appointments.
  • Also brief booth workers on how to recognize true leads from scavengers. Ask quick questions about industry and job role; don’t let ineligible non-leads hog your attention.
  • Maximize visitors with an interactive booth element, cheap giveaways and premium giveaways that require a drawing entry.
  • Always talk with booth attendees and listen. When you do speak, tell stories; don’t give pitches. Make it about them, not you!
  • Use landing pages attached to tablet stations for easier entry into giveaways, signups for events, or contact info for later follow-up.
  • Take TONS of photos and video. Your social media pages should be updated several times throughout each day with the choicest content.
  • Keep a “diary” of the event, and post cleaned up summaries on your blog to help non-attendees keep up with happenings.

Have a Marketing Strategy for Following Up

A crucial part of your trade show marketing strategy is having a plan to follow up. Making contacts during the event is just the start of your relationship. Ensure your CRM is updated and that your marketing touches reflect the context of each customer journey, such as having special pre-packaged follow-up information for everyone who watched one of your presentations.

  • Start your first formal marketing outreach activities within 72 hours post-event. People will forget you quickly!
  • Brief sales on the hottest leads generated for context-aware 1:1 conversations. Remember that typical customers are 65‐90% through buying process (including qualifying multiple vendors) before engaging with sales.
  • Post follow-up content, including the winner of any giveaway contests and your overall “What we learned/saw” recap.
  • Keep a strong digital presence for all new subscribers/social followers. You don’t want them to forget who you are.
  • Lead an obvious trail of breadcrumbs back to your sales pipeline with campaigns that retarget leads and promise valuable content.
  • Double check that all form entries and badge scans made it into your CRM.
  • Don’t assume a cold lead doesn’t want more info! 51% of trade show attendees request a sales representative visit their company after an event
  • Hold a debriefing with everyone covering every single activity on every channel.
    • What were your greatest successes? Failures?
    • Were there any particular moments of clarity related to generating new leads or having productive conversations?
    • What would you do different next time? Write it down!

Throughout the entire process, remember that you are not promoting a specific event or engaging in a campaign for the campaign’s sake. Instead, you are taking advantage of an accelerated growth opportunity and enhancing your trade show marketing strategy. If you’re looking for help creating a trade show marketing strategy, reach out to my team at Vonazon for all your marketing needs.

As Neil Patel once said: “Mediocre marketers think in terms of campaigns. Great marketers think in terms of growth frameworks.”