Planning for a trade show doesn’t start the month before. It starts as much as a year in advance. Trade show marketing is a critical, deliberate process. You have to determine your strategy, messaging, and marketing and then make sure everything relates back to your business goals. This includes all of your online and offline promotions, as well as any handouts or giveaways you distribute, not to mention the signage and talking points. It’s no simple task, and not every trade show is the same, but in this post, we’ll show you how to apply an inbound approach to your trade show marketing efforts.

1. Establish Your Trade Show Marketing Goals.

Your marketing campaigns should help your business achieve specific goals and metrics. Trade shows are an amazing way to generate many high-quality leads, increase your brand’s penetration, and of course, sign new business on the spot. The goals of trade show marketing can include increases in:

  • New leads and sales.
  • Organic and direct website traffic.
  • Social media activity.
  • Email and/or blog subscribers.
  • Brand awareness.

As you set your goals, make sure you have access to metrics that will enable you to track marketing as best you can. It can be very difficult to track marketing in general, but trade show marketing is probably the most challenging of all. Be sure that all digital marketing has a UTM tag; that way, at the very least, you can track website engagement. From a print standpoint, make an offer or say something to drive interest, and thus traffic. Most importantly, track your booth traffic, leads, and sales so that you can compare them to the previous year.

2. Identify Your Call to Action.

While you are creating your strategy, ensure you are thinking about what your call to action (CTA) will be. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • An offer.
  • A promotion.
  • A game.
  • Happy hour.
  • Morning coffee.

There are many routes to choose in order to increase traffic. Your CTA should be a part of every aspect of your trade show marketing strategy because it will be the key to reaching your goal. Consider the CTA’s role in everything, including your signs, landing page, booth, goals, and metrics. Whatever CTA you go with, keep in mind that it should be memorable and lead to a specific goal.

3. Create a Dedicated Landing Page.

A landing page is key to tracking your trade show marketing success. You can see website traffic and really break it down to better understand your marketing effectiveness. So what should your landing page include? Consider:

  • A short About Us section.
  • What you are going to do for your client.
  • What makes you different (hint: it’s not customer service).
  • Contact information.
  • A lead form.

Now, while most website visitors don’t fill out lead forms, they might be willing to fill out a form that sends them an e-book or helpful information. This can be a slick and effective way to increase your email database.

4. Stand Out.

Have you ever truly taken the time to look a booths and how they are set up? Most of them are pretty much the same: big logo, maybe a TV, and some handouts. Do what it takes to guarantee that your booth stands out from the rest. Have large displays that are bright and colorful, but don’t cut off one entire side of your space. Make them turn or have a wavy design. Include touch-screen displays that are interactive, functional presentations of your product, hands-on demonstrations, and more. I know this all sounds expensive, but the payoff can be huge. Plus, trade show marketing is literally everything you are doing and bringing to the show, so don’t fall short with a boring booth.

Also, think about your attire. Do you look like everyone else at the show? Don’t just wear a black polo; instead, wear something bright and engaging, and don’t be after of graphic tees.

5. Execute Your Trade Show Marketing Plan.

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of what you need to do and know before you start a trade show marketing plan, here are some great ideas to help you achieve your goals. We would recommend using a third party and not going directly with the official trade show products. This is simply due to pricing and transparency. The pricing for official trade show products tends to be extremely high, and the reporting data can be flawed, at best.

Digital marketing is a fantastic way to target trade show attendees and exhibitors alike. You can accomplish this by using several tactics.

The first is geofencing, the ability to target devices in multiple areas that we know attendees and exhibitors will be, and it’s priceless. This tactic allows you to deliver your message to the right audience, whether they are at a hotel, restaurant, or even the convention itself.

The second is social media. With the ability to limit your desired area geographics and then target people by interest, job title, and company, this is a sure winner in our book. Plus, you’ll be reaching people using one or more of their most trusted sources for information: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The third and final tactic for this post is email. It’s a great way to target the right people, but take care that your message stands out and is sent at the right time. Remember that the attendees and exhibitors will be inundated with emails from the trade show. If you send your emails early in the morning and set them up to address the recipients personally, you should have a good open rate and drive more booth traffic.