Exhibiting at an industry trade show is a tried-and-true marketing tactic that can drive highly-engaged and qualified leads.
But make no mistake: Pulling off a successful activation is more than just designing the perfect booth, ordering swoon-worthy swag, and making sure your most personable employees are ready to deliver the perfect elevator pitch. To maximize the impact of every single trade show sponsorship, it’s so important to plan your on-site and online marketing strategies ahead of time. Why?
Because I’m spearheading Splash’s trade show strategy this year, I can personally attest to how successful a cross-channel approach has been for us.
Recently, Splash took part in one of the biggest trade shows of the year for event planners: BizBash LIVE: The Expo. We generated some amazing sales leads, fans & followers, and can attribute our success to these 5 trade show strategies.
Go ahead and steal them for your next trade show activation. My treat.
Tip #1: Amplify Your Message in Digital Before, During and After the Event
For example: The night before the expo (when everyone was settling into their hotel rooms), we promoted a Facebook post that invited attendees to swing by our booth to watch live demos and to enter our raffle. The expo hashtag was clearly displayed, and the location of our booth was front and center. We found it to be one of the best ways to invite our existing user-base to come meet us face-to-face – AND to pique curiosity from new prospects.
Tip #2: Leave Your Business Cards at Home
I know. This sounds completely counter-intuitive, but stay with me. At first, we panicked when attendees asked us for cards we did not have, but we soon realized it was our secret weapon.
Attendees who were serious about continuing the conversation with us were more than willing to share their contact information. We flipped the standard equation, which put us in a powerful position.
Here’s the cool part: While most companies would have just asked visitors to write down their name & email on a sheet of paper, we had something much more powerful: The Splash On-Site iOS app. Aside from collecting their name, email, job title and company, we recorded notes about their business needs and automatically synced every contact with a dedicated campaign in Salesforce. We received contact info from every person we interacted with, which was a huge win (and super eco-friendly)!
Tip #3: Show, Don’t Tell
The best way to capture someone’s attention at a trade show? Show, don’t just tell.
Mobile manicure companies offer on-site manicures, photobooth companies let you snap a few photos, and catering companies hand out free samples.If you’re a technology platform, you can’t just show a few product screenshots on a screen, hand out a generic one-sheet and expect people to get excited. You have to offer them something personalized and memorable.
Here’s what we did: We asked every visitor to describe their next event. The venue, the mood, the purpose, the attendees. Everything. As our Customer Success Managers chatted with them about the event details, one of our top in-house designers started building a gorgeous event page for it – right in front of their eyes.
Tip #4: Draw People in With Swag and Smiles
The biggest challenge of a trade show is often the not-so-simple act of actually getting people to stop at your booth.
Making eye contact and flashing a friendly smile when people pass by can truly work wonders. If you hit a lull, resist the urge to just start chatting with your teammates – it gives passersby a bad impression.
We also recommend giving away swag that attendees will actually use. For the BizBash Expo, we decided to hand out keychain bottle openers. Our hope is that when attendees cracked open a cold one, they would remember us.
Tip #5: Goals: Set ‘Em and Don’t Forget ‘Em
Before you even step foot onto the trade show floor, make sure you set tangible goals with your team to determine what success looks like. Based on event attendance and your history at other events, hone in on specific numbers, and set up the right mechanisms to track your performance. Not only will specific goals (with a paper trail) motivate the team, clear benchmarks make it much easier to compare event performance, and will help your team come up with ideas on how to improve your trade show game-plan for future events.
Our goal for the BizBash LIVE Expo was to book 50 demos. Not only did we surpass our goal, but the On-Site App data collection + Salesforce campaign integration allowed for a much more streamlined way to keep track of every single interested visitor.