How to Use Digital Marketing to Rock Your Next Trade Show

By |2018-01-31T18:32:25+00:00May 12th, 2017|Featured Guide, Marketing|0 Comments


Trade shows are an incredibly versatile and effective form of marketing. Just look at these statistics:

In 2015, 51% of U.S. trade show attendees from 2001 to 2015 were planning to buy exhibited products or services within 12 months of attending.

In 2013, 81% of potential audience remembered visiting a company’s trade show exhibit in the United States.

In 2013, 52% of a company’s potential trade show audience members with whom meaningful engagement was achieved during a trade show in the United States.

With a well planned and executed digital marketing strategy designed to support your trade show efforts, you can likely jump the above statistics into the hero realm for your company.

About this digital marketing guide for trade shows

This guide was written to help you build and execute a digital marketing strategy that works for you. It is broken down by tactic during each phase of a trade show.

Each tactic given in this guide will include:

  • Assets required to execute this tactic: know what you will need to have before you begin executing each tactic you are adding to your overall marketing plan.
  • Explanation of what the tactic is and why it can help: this will help you decide if you should try this tactic or not. Not all tactics in this guide will be appropriate for every business or trade show.
  • Step by step explanation of how to execute tactic: this is the nuts and bolts of how to execute the tactic, the tools you need, how to set things up, etc.
  • What key performance indicators (KPIs) to pay attention to: know what you are aiming for. This section will tell you how to measure the success of the tactic after you have executed it. This is the most important piece to any marketing plan. If you don’t know whether or not it works, the whole effort is a waste.
  • For further reading: where appropriate we have included links to other articles to provide more in-depth information regarding a certain tactic or execution of a tactic.

No time to read it all now? No problem! We can send you the PDF of the guide.

Just enter your email address and we will send you the PDF. You can print and read at your leisure.

It starts with a plan

There are three distinct phases to a digital marketing strategy for your trade show event: before, during and after the show. Each phase has its own goals:

  • Before the trade show: Your goal should be to promote the show to your current audience, including your customers, to encourage attendance and of course a visit to your booth.
  • During the show: Your goal should be to collect as much data possible about the attendees you meet.
  • After the show: Your goal should be development of relationships with as many of the attendees of the show to generate sales.
What to do before the show

According to a case study performed by Deloitte & Touche, pre-show marketing increased the quality of the audience attracted to the booth by 46%. Also, booth visitors converted to qualified leads increased 50%. So, what should you focus on pre-show?

Remember, your goal is to increase attendance to the trade show event as well as increase booth visitors during the event. That means promoting the show. Promote your participation in the show. Here are a few ideas on how to use digital marketing tactics to do that.

Build a landing page that announces your attendance of the event.

What you need to execute this tactic: a website to host the landing page or landing page design software

Why this tactic: This tactic is your branded announcement that you plan to attend a trade show. It will have all the detailed information regarding both the event and your participation. This page acts as a home base to refer leads, prospects, customers, etc to. It will provide a centralized place to add updates as they become available.

How to execute: At a minimum, you should consider adding the following information to your landing page:

  • The name of the event
  • The location of the event
  • The dates of the event
  • A link to the official website

Also consider linking to the floor plan (bonus points for highlighting where your booth will be).

Video introductions are a great way to add a personal element to the page. Take the opportunity to introduce your company or products as well as the staff that will be at the event.

If you are presenting at the trade show, include the title and description, time, location of your presentation. You can also consider including an opt-in box for attendees to receive a text message to remind them of your presentation.

Link to published press releases about the event or your attendance of the event.

If you have any special activities, events, announcements or even just cool swag you are giving away, be sure to tease about it on your landing page. The idea is to design the page as both a promotion of the trade show itself as well as your participation in it.

Finally, include a form where a visitor can request an appointment with you while at the show.

The serves as a concise page with all the important information about the event and your participation.

Promotion ideas:

  • Distributed press releases (make sure you link to your landing page from the press release)
  • Links to the landing page from other pages of your website
  • Social media announcements (bonus if you schedule follow up posts)
  • An email announcement to your newsletter
  • Cross promotion with other trade show exhibitors where a crossover audience exists

How to know it’s working: The KPI to monitor for this is the number of daily sessions to the page as you promote it leading up to the trade show. Also, if you add in the opt in elements of text messaging or appointments, the number you are getting.

Promote the trade show to your social following and your newsletter subscribers.

What you need to execute this tactic: an email subscriber list and active social channels

Why this tactic: This tactic should be used to invite your audience to attend the event. It is in your best interest to get your leads, prospects and customers to the event. Event coordinators appreciate you promoting the trade show and might reciprocate the love back to you.

How to execute: Offer your audience an exclusive show attendance bonus or badge discounts, free badges, etc. to incentivize them to attend.

Set up autoresponder to follow up to your email list as the event approaches with appropriate content to support show attendance, speaking gigs, etc.

Promotion ideas: Record a video announcing your attendance at the show and promote to your audiences with personal invites as well as possible giveaways.

How to know it’s working: The KPI to monitor for this is the number of appointments scheduled pre-show and the number of confirmed attendees.

Build an outreach campaign to set appointments for the trade show.

What you need to execute this tactic: the event attendee list, auto-responder to determine if an appointment would be appropriate, appointment scheduling page

Why this tactic: For anyone you identify as a high value lead, you can begin an outreach campaign to schedule appointments during the trade show. Building an automated email sequence can smooth the process of outreach, scheduling and follow-up.

How to execute: Comb the list of attendees and pull out those that you believe would be a good fit for meeting in person. Prepare a new list that you would like to reach out to and import it into your email marketing automation software. Build the autoresponder sequence campaign to qualify the list and manage the process of scheduling appointments.

Here is a workflow example of how to automate this process in Drip.

How to know it’s working: The KPI to monitor for this is the number of confirmed appointments attributed to the outreach campaign

Prepare the assets you need to execute your marketing plan during the show and after the show.

In order to execute your digital marketing tactics during the show, you need to prepare for them before the show. They include:

  1. Welcome autoresponder series for all badges scanned at the event: ask for permission to add to email list. those that join get a welcome letter and then lead magnet or other valuable content. Then begin the follow up sales pitch or product introduction or other appropriate content.
  2. Build a list of social media accounts, per channel, of those that you know will be attending the event. These do not need to be targeted leads, prospects or customers only. This list should be as all encompassing as possible to find as many opportunities as possible to engage during the show.
During the show

Encourage digital interaction to all booth attendees.

What you need to execute this tactic: Trained booth employees that know to ask for the digital share or follow to all attendees they talk to.

Why this tactic: If you are able to get a booth attendee to interact with you digitally, even if it’s only a connection on social media, you have the seed you need to try to grow a relationship with them. Ensure that each new interaction gets your “welcome attention.”

When you meet someone new that you like, they get an unequal portion of your attention. Do the same for all show attendees you meet.

How to execute:

  • Use QR codes to give attendees a chance to like or tweet about you quickly and easily.
  • Advertise a piece of valuable digital content in your booth that attendees can opt in for.

How to know it’s working: The KPI to monitor for this is the number of social followers and mentions you gain during the trade show

Scan the badge of everyone you meet.

What you need to execute this tactic: A show provided badge scanner or the mobile app installed on your phone.

Why this tactic: The idea is to collect information so you can turn those attendees into leads, prospects and customers. This is best accomplished by building a relationship with them. You can quickly build relationship with the people you meet by following up the conversation in email.

When you meet someone new that you like, they get an unequal portion of your attention. Do the same for all show attendees you meet.

How to execute:

Promotion ideas:Set up the email autoresponder in the style of what Ryan Deiss calls the indoctrination series.

In his book Invisible Selling Machine, he gives a welcome template designed to build trust with your new contact quickly. The template is to send 3 emails, each with a piece of highly valuable content that they can only get this way.

Open a loop at the end of each email to look for more freebies in the next email. This gets the new subscriber engaged with you and your content, increasing the chances that they will continue to open your emails.

If you are interested in marketing automation, then Invisible Selling Machine is a must read.

How to know it’s working: The KPI to monitor for this is the number of email opens, number of opt-outs, number of clicks to the free content, and the number of clicks to product or service content.

Digitally record a product/service video, breaking news, announcements, contests, or speaking gigs, at the event.

What you need to execute this tactic: A smartphone or tablet to record the video, a video script when appropriate, light video editing skills

Why this tactic: One of the main tenants of digital marketing is digital content, so it makes sense to try to create the best digital content you can. This content can be repurposed into other content pieces for social media or your website, email newsletter, etc.

And let’s not forget, someone that can’t be the trade show to see the announcement for themselves will still feel like a part of things if they can watch your special announcement on Facebook live as it’s happening or when they are scrolling through their feeds later.

It is Presuasion 101 to make someone feel like they are part of event and streaming your participation in the trade show will accomplish that.

How to execute:
The how depends on what you are doing. If it is simply documenting an announcement from your booth, make sure someone from your staff is prepared to record it. Choose a well lit section and give the camera an unblocked view of the speaker.

If you are recording a product or service video, then I would recommend a script to follow to be sure of at least covering all the benefits of using the product or service. What you want to avoid is rambling. No one has time to watch a video of someone rambling! I would also record this video at the very beginning of the trade show, during a time when the venue is quiet.

Bonus points if you record your product or service video and then use it inside your booth during the trade show.

Promotion Ideas:

  • stream on FB live
  • upload recording to youtube
  • promote via other social channels
  • show viewings of the video in your booth

How to know it’s working: The KPIs to monitor for this is the number video views and the time spent viewing video.

Offer a giveaway with an opt-in form / autoresponder designed to increase engagement.

What you need to execute this tactic: A giveaway valuable enough that someone would give personal info to get it. A form designed to capture the personal info required to receive the giveaway. An autoresponder series designed to pull the trade show attendee through your sales process.

Why this tactic: The reason we are at a trade show is to physically interact with potential customers. But, being in front of someone is not the same as meeting them. In essence, an opt-in form is an introduction method, whose sole purpose is to learn more about the people you interact with.

Once you know how to contact each person you meet, you can follow up your conversation with them via email or phone. The giveaway that you offer is your chance to give that person a sense of the quality of work you will provide them once they become your customer. It’s your chance to shine in front of your target audience. It doesn’t have to be a tangible item either.

How to execute: First, you need to create a giveaway that is highly valuable. And you need to advertise the giveaway in as many places as you can. If the giveaway is right, then attendees should seek you out to get it. This is what you want to aim for with your giveaway design.

Then, you need to have easy methods of collecting the opt-in information. The easiest method would be to scan a badge You can have ipad stations in booth and a mobile page to enter.

The opt-in form should be tied to an autoresponder that pulls your new lead through your sales funnel.

Promotion Ideas:

  • Advertise your giveaway in the trade show event guide, in your booth, on your announcement landing page, etc.
  • Make your giveaway digital so that your lead has to read email from you to receive it.

How to know it’s working: The KPIs to monitor for this is the number of people that opt-in for the giveaway.

Boost a Facebook post that promotes to a local audience during the event to stop by the booth.

What you need to execute this tactic: A Facebook business page. A post about the trade show event and your participation in it. A predetermined audience and a small budget to promote the post. This is something that should be prepared in advance of the show so that it can just go live at your predetermined time.

Why this tactic: This might be more beneficial for consumer trade shows, but it can be a way to push attendance to your booth by pushing attendance to the show while it is happening.

Someone might be looking for something to do and attend the show. Someone might not have known it was happening or forgot about it and will attend. In either of these cases, if you are the one to let them know about the show, they might just stop by your booth and express gratitude.

How to execute: Read over this article on how to boost a post in Facebook to learn how to do it.

Promotion Ideas:

  • Advertise your giveaway in the trade show event guide, in your booth, on your announcement landing page, etc.
  • Make your giveaway digital so that your lead has to read email from you to receive it.

How to know it’s working: You are looking for post views from an appropriate audience in Facebook, but ultimately, you want more people to see you at your booth. This will be hard to determine unless you are sought out by someone that saw the boosted Facebook post.

Live tweet the event and follow the hashtags on all active social channels.

What you need to execute this tactic: This is something you should prepare for before the start of the trade show. You want to have a list built of appropriate twitter accounts, including exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, event organizers, etc. The same goes for appropriate hashtags. If you have a list of them, you can follow the chatter around them.

Why this tactic: You want to establish yourself as thought leader in your industry. You can do this by participating in the conversations going on in your industry. A trade show event gives you a highly engaged audience to do that with.

How to execute: First is to build a list of twitter accounts that are pertinent to the trade show. This should include exhibitors, attendees, organizers, sponsors, etc. You can use listening tools to help you track them down.

Next, write out posts that can be scheduled automatically, such as pre-event reminders, speakers coming up, etc. These should be in a system like Buffer or Hootsuite to post them at the appropriate times during the event.

While at the event, using Hootsuite to listen to the twitter conversations occurring around the show so you can participate in the conversations in real time. And be sure to use the official event hashtag in every tweet.

Promotion Ideas: Hubspot has a great article on how to live tweet an event. There are some really cool ideas here that help you prepare even better to be the lead tweeter of the event.

How to know it’s working: Ideally, you are looking for an increase in followers, likes and retweets of your content, and of course one-on-one engagement with your followers regarding your products or services.

Grow all your social media channel followers during the show.

What you need to execute this tactic: A social listening tool, like Social Mention, that covers more than just twitter.

Why this tactic: Because you have something so strong in common at the same time (the trade show event), it will be much easier to ask for and receive follows or page likes, etc. Taking the opportunity to follow anyone that comes across your radar should result in growth across all your channels.

The more social followers you have, the more exposure your future marketing efforts, including future trade shows, will receive.

How to execute: Think of creative ways to make it really easy for someone to follow you on social media. You can ask for the follow point blank, you can advertise that you are live broadcasting on social channels. You can follow and get follow backs.

How to know it’s working: The number of followers increased during the trade show event.

After the trade show

Publish a roundup of the event.

What you need to execute this tactic: A list of notes you took during the trade show. A condensed narrative of your show notes published to your website.

Why this tactic: This will give you a nice piece of content to promote that will likely get shared and linked to by others that were at the trade show. It gives you an extra punch of exposure after the show, and if you make it valuable enough, you should see a bump in shares and links.

How to execute: First, make sure that you and your staff have a plan to attend all the important events of the show, including your own announcements and event information, the speakers and seminars that occurred during the show, as well as other special announcements, cool booths, cool swag, and anything else that would be interesting.

If you are planning to live tweet the event, you should have quite a bit of information on your twitter account also. You then need to turn the notes and tweets of you and your staff into an interesting narrative recapping the show. Try to build camaraderie with the other attendees and exhibitors and create a sense of loss for those that didn’t go. This could be beneficial for increasing the attendance of the next trade show.

Promote the post as you would your other content pieces.

Promotion ideas:

  • email to your list
  • promote to the event coordinator
  • post on social channels

How to know it’s working: The number of page views of the post; the number of social shares of post, the number of backlinks for post, and the growth of organic traffic to the post.

Keep the social conversation going.

What you need to execute this tactic: A published roundup of the event.

Why this tactic: For a week or two after the event, you can still use the buzz around the trade show event to earn more followers, links to your website, and even leads for your products or services.

If you promote others via your roundup post, they will most likely share the content, providing you with more links and followers and a new audience to generate leads and sales from.

How to execute: Use social channels to promote the published roundup. Use the lists you built to promote the event while it was happening to post bits and pieces of the roundup. Be sure to include the social handles and hashtags in any post where appropriate.

Promote the post as you would your other content pieces.

Promotion ideas:

  • email to your list
  • promote to the event coordinator
  • post on social channels

How to know it’s working: The number of page views of the post; number of social shares of post, number of backlinks for post, growth of organic traffic to the post.

Implement marketing automation to segment and qualify leads.

What you need to execute this tactic: A marketing automation system with a workflow designed to segment and qualify leads gathered from the trade show.

Why this tactic: Having a marketing automation workflow in place for all leads captured during the trade show will ensure that no one slips through the cracks when following up. Each lead will be captured, and if you have the workflow set up correctly, will begin to capture lead intelligence.

With lead intelligence, you can have better conversations with your leads, further identifying their problems and offering them solutions that make them buy.

How to execute: This is an advanced digital marketing technique. If you are interested, you can read up about marketing automation here and here.

In Conclusion

As marketers, we know that exhibiting at a trade show can be an extremely effective way of generating leads and sales for our business. Digital marketing in combination with trade show marketing can significantly multiply that effectiveness.

The tactics we just covered are industry agnostic – they can be used by any company that exhibits at a trade show. If you are preparing for a trade show, we highly recommend implementing a few of these tactics to improve your return on investment.

What do you think? Which methods do you use? Which ones don’t work for you? We want to hear from you! Please leave a comment and let us know. Thanks for reading!

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