It’s that time of year. Time to gear up for trade shows. Some of the best time to showcase who you are and what you can offer.
Here’s a secret. I have a love/hate relationship with trade shows.
They offer a great opportunity to talk to a lot of people in a short period of time, whether a traditional show or reverse. However, they are exhausting. The buildup to get people to your booth, the time on the floor, the post and follow-up with contacts. Ugh.
And if you are not a marketer or familiar with the tools available to help with any piece of this, it is even more tiring.
So, let’s break it down here. What should you be doing at each stage of the show: before, during, and after? What are tools you can use to help with the process?
We have a two-part post to break it down. In this first post, we are going to look at what you should be doing leading up to the show.
Before The Show
There are many things you can do at this stage to get those people to your booth. Your ultimate goal is face-to-face to sell your venue. Actions like emails, social media posts, and landing pages can help you create brand recognition and bring people to you.
Let's look at each piece.
Most shows today will provide you with a participant list, if you have not gathered the names from another source. Attendees are either notified they will be added to a participant list or are given an opt-in during the registration process. In either case, they are aware they could receive communication from exhibitors.
There are two main ways to utilize these lists: Email all the participants or segment the list.
Segmentation involves breaking the list down, pulling out those names (or job titles) that are more receptive to what you are offering.
For example, at Kinetic Software we want to pull attendees with titles like Director of Conference Services or Conference Manager as opposed to a Facilities Manager.
If you are attending a show attracting all kinds of persona types, check out the titles and see if segmentation would be a better use of the list.
Then upload your list to your marketing automation tool. Be sure to note the name and year of the show when you upload the list. It will give you historical data and help in the future when you are evaluating where to spend marketing dollars.
Don’t just go wild and crazy all over the place. Create an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar is simply a calendar containing the publish or send date of all the pieces you want to send out. This could include blog posts, pre-show emails, and social media posts. Put in the date of the show and then work backwards, planning each piece going out. You can also note deadlines for booth material.
It is a great way to see the full picture and stay on track with your communication and deadlines.
Speaking of social media, a great tip from HubSpot is to monitor social media as early as possible. There are lots of tools out there to help with this. For example, when looking at Twitter, free programs such as HootSuite allow you to set columns to monitor specific items such as the conference Twitter feed or hashtag.
Monitoring social media allows you to join in the conversation, further promoting your name and showing your expertise.
Create and schedule pre-show emails to go out to those identified from the show list. This is your opportunity to let attendees know where to find you and why they should stop by to see you.
When drafting the emails, here are a few tips:
- Keep messaging and imagery the same across the entire email campaign. Make sure it flows with your booth branding as well. You want people to easily recognize you.
- If your automation tool allows, identify the “From” name and email address. It is always better to send an email from a real person.
- Keep the email copy quick and easy to scan.
- Personalization is a great tool, where appropriate.
- Be aware of spam laws, especially the CAN-SPAM Act.
Blog posts highlighting industry specific topics or items special to your venue are also great. You can then promote the posts on social media or link to them in your pre-show emails, if it fits with your messaging.
Don’t be afraid to put something in your email that requires the recipient take action before the trade show. For example, if you have time to set up some one-on-one meetings, send an email encouraging the recipient to schedule a time with your team.
A landing page is a great way to capture this. Or a scheduling tool such as Assistant.to or Calendly.
Landing pages are stand-alone pages used to gather prospect contact information. They are usually not tied back into your website as a way to remove distractions. You want your visitor to give you his contact information, not see you have a blog and move over there before filling in the form.
To drive traffic to a landing page, you place a call-to-action (CTA) in your email, something like “Schedule Time Now”.
This CTA links to the landing page where the visitor fills in a form. Your form should be simple. The more work the visitor has to do, the less likely they will complete it. So, ask for just her name, email address, and a meeting time. You could include specific meeting times in a drop-down menu or a comment box where the visitor writes in a time.
Companies such as Unbounce offer services where you can pick a package and start creating landing pages. The different packages provide various levels of tools and analytics This is a great tool, especially if your website is locked down and you are not able to edit your website.
With scheduling tools, you provide a link in the email and the email recipient simply follows the link to pick the best time. Most scheduling tools will then block the time on your calendar, depending on the supported email providers.
Recap and Bottom Line
Okay, let's create your To Do list:
- Obtain and segment the conference attendee list.
- Create an editorial calendar listing the dates and times your communication will go out.
- Determine the theme for your messaging.
- Create your pre-show emails to send to the attendee list.
- Schedule the pre-show emails for delivery.
- Identify literature you want to take to the show to hand out.
- Create a landing page if you are pushing attendees to take an action before the show.
Now off you go! And stop back by in a couple of weeks for part 2 as we look into what should be on your to do list during and after the trade show.