Using Digital Marketing to Maximize Trade Show ROI

Building brand recognition and website traffic are “nice” objectives for exhibiting at trade shows but most of us marketing for small- to medium-sized businesses want to generate warm leads and sell (or at least move the process along). With that in mind, here are some ways you can use digital marketing to make the most of every event you attend.

  • Email. If the organization provides lists of registrants in advance, craft email blasts that feature your booth number and focus on the benefits attendees can achieve by visiting with you. Encourage them to make appointments. If you can tie into the content of specific sessions or panels, that’s an even better approach. For example, Affinity Express is exhibiting at the upcoming Key Executives Mega-Conference in Las Vegas. The pre-conference bonus session is on “Simplifying Digital Services Selling . . . for Easy Deployment & Big Profits! Since we design those digital services such as websites, videos and social profiles for the newspapers’ advertisers, as well as provide professional services to make implementation painless for our clients, it’s a perfect opportunity for us to gear our materials to reinforce this theme.

    After the show, use email again to send relevant material on your business. Invite recipients to opt into your newsletter and highlight your website address, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social channels to build your following. By the way, when people get your communication, it is more likely they will forward emails to other colleagues than any hard copies of flyers and brochures that actually survive the trip back to their offices.

    Divide your leads into hot and cold and create a follow-up strategy.
  • To the warm leads, send any information specifically requested or literature related to the conversation you had (e.g., a case study on how you saved costs and reduced turn times for a client).
  •  To the cool leads, research what each company does and send survey results, tips and tricks for using products, white papers or links to resources you think they would find valuable. Avoid generic messages about how nice it was to meet them at the show and instead focus on helping.
  • Website. Set up a dedicated landing page or website of a few pages branded for your company and about the event. Make sure there is a form to capture email addresses, contact details and questions of visitors. After the conference ends, create a recap document or video that you make available on a landing page. Promote the resource as a guide for people who were not able to attend the conference.
  • PR. Write a press release, submit it to a free press release site such as and post it on your website news page, including your booth number and the details of the trade show. The idea is that your press release appears in results when individuals search online for the event.
  • Mobile. Take photos of your booth but also other companies’ interesting products, demos and speakers. Invite your followers to reply. If there are any celebrities or well-known industry leaders, get photos of them and it will result in more visibility for your tweets or Facebook posts.
  • Video. Feature a video in your booth that lets visitors learn what you can do for them in case you have a flood of traffic and can’t get to everyone. Ensure your monitor is large enough so that multiple people can see it clearly. It never hurts to incorporate customer testimonials. You can also shoot videos of your best sales people having productive conversations with prospects to answer common questions and feature them on your website. Upload videos to your YouTube channel as well. Typically, it is better to share several shorter videos on individual topics, rather than longer ones to enable people to easily digest the content. Don’t ignore Vine—six-second videos could be used to capture quotes from booth visitors on where your industry is heading.

  • Social Media. HubSpot’s 2013 marketing annual report revealed that social media generated almost twice as many marketing leads compared to trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail or pay-per-click. That’s why it makes good business sense to use social media to amplify your marketing at trade shows. Comment on events in real time. Share reviews of sessions you attend and quotes from speakers you enjoyed. Express opinions rather than sound like one of the event organizers. Be sure to use the hashtag of the event if there is one. Link back to your booth location whenever possible so you are positioned as a knowledge resource for the show. You could even set up a Twitter account using your company name and the event name. Whichever you choose to use, be sure to make the most of each channel, taking advantage of its specific features.
  • Blogs. Besides writing your own informative blog posts before, during and after the event, a great suggestion from Gorilla76 is to ask if you can write a guest post on the trade show blog and tell the organizers you will promote it on your social media channels. This way, your company and the show both get extra visibility. But only do this if you can provide useful information, as it would be bad form to publish a sales pitch.
  • Twitter. Live tweeting reaches more people than the attendees. There will be many who can’t make it but will follow colleagues or hashtags. An important tip is to make each tweet a complete thought because individuals may see only one rather than a chain of comments.

  • LinkedIn. Chances are, if the event has been around for at least a couple of years, there is probably a LinkedIn Group. If so, get involved and provide interesting information and assistance. You can see what the concerns are among the group and tailor the pitch you give in your booth.

After the show, if you know the name and company of visitors, you can try to find them on LinkedIn and send a brief message. While you are at it, follow their companies. If the contacts you made are not ready to buy or they are not the actual decision makers, it’s possible they will point you in the right direction.

  • Facebook. Set up a Facebook event to generate buzz about the offline show. Don’t invite the world, just the people who could participate (e.g., they are in the same city, industry, association, etc.). You can also leverage Facebook ads and target registered attendees of trade shows. Facebook makes it easy, using many factors such as city, profession, people who have liked the event Facebook page and more.
  • Pinterest. Set up a board and post your event photos, including those of you with important clients and prospects, exhibits that interest you, the best speakers you heard and people at social events. We all enjoy looking at photos and trying to find ourselves and people we know!

  • Google+. Group all of your leads together in one Circle. Segment the rest of the leads in other Circles, such as those that need to be nurtured, influencers, bloggers and media, and so on. Follow up with Circles based on where the contacts are in their buying cycles.
  • Presentations. Create a PowerPoint or other type of presentation specific to the event and its attendees. Instead of a keychain or pen, handout branded USB drives with important information and differentiators. No one is going to read every detail about your company, so be selective. One other point, it is likely your competition will get their hands on these, so choose wisely what you include. Good options are white papers you have written or sponsored, collections of helpful articles from industry experts, templates or tools to help prospects make decisions on your products or services and so on.

  • SlideShare. Upload yourslides to this database of presentations. You can set up SlideShare to collect leads for you at the end of your presentation. This extends your reach beyond the pool of attendees to others interested your products and services.

Lastly, here are a few words of advice for all your digital marketing efforts for trade shows:

1. Simplify. Pick one or two things to highlight. Focus on qualities that make your company unique. People at trade shows are hearing dozens or even hundreds of pitches. They won’t be able to remember everything you tell them.

2. Be visual. Make sure your graphics have a key message of six or seven words at least three feet off the ground. Develop flyers, emails and presentations with strong imagery, evocative headlines and concise copy that communicate key benefits to distinguish your company.

Do you have any other tactics for increasing booth traffic and lead generation at trade shows?

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