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So, you made it back home from the show. You’re exhausted and work has backed up in your absence. Here is where the entire investment in the show can go down the drain. Follow-up is critical. Every one of those prospects need to have follow-up. Lots of it. One contact isn’t going to be enough.

First, send out a short email drip that includes a ‘thanks for visiting us at the trade show.’ The second should be a ‘call to action’ email. Send an invitation to meet via phone or in person, and add something for them to download. The download can be a whitepaper, or even just your brochure, but it is always good to attach something.

Now comes the really hard work. Contacting prospects. No one is going to just mail you revenues. You need to actively market to your trade show visitors. If some seem uninterested, put their names in a tickler file to try back in 6 months. Just be sure not to just let them drop; the situation may change in the future.

In summary, look at a trade show as a marketing event that goes beyond the time spent at a booth in some convention center. It is just a stage in a lengthy and important marketing campaign. Make sure you prepare for the show and do active follow-up afterward. Otherwise a trade show is just an expensive few days meeting lots of people you will never see again.

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We’re back. In the last post, we talked about building momentum toward a trade show exhibition. Today, let’s look at your efforts during the show itself.

You already should have sent out a reminder the morning of the show in posts on all your social media accounts, an article on your website blog, and a general email that you’re exhibiting. Now it is time to work the booth.

First, recognize that your goal is to use this show to develop as large a list of prospects as possible. That means you not only want visitors at the booth, you need their contact information. The proven way to get attendees contact information is to offer them something for free, or run a contest for something worthwhile. Most booths will offer some giveway, coffee mug, etc. at the booth if visitors sign a contact info sheet. People can’t resist free stuff, no matter how muchthey don’t need another mug or could afford to buy them on their own by the caseload. Therefore, have giveaways.

You can also run a contest for those willing to take the time for a demo of your product or service. If they will take the extra step, enter them for a raffle for something of greater value, such as an iPad or tablet.

If anyone shows special interest, keep your non-exhibit hours open to schedule meetings for coffee or a demo.

Beyond getting prospects, use the show for broader networking. Work the other booths and introduce yourself to other exhibitors to get your name known. You can never do enough networking, and you never know when it might pay off. If the exhibitor entrance fee does not include entrance to other networking events such as meals and meet-and-greet-happy-hours, consider buying a ticket for access.These offer additional opportunities to network.

Finally, don’t forget social media. Throughout the show, post pics of yourself with clients or prospects who visited your booth. You can even use the event hashtag if they have one to help your business generate buzz!

Next time, let’s talk about what to do once you get back home.

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Going to a tradeshow for the first time? Don’t make the mistake of viewing this as a 1-2 day discreet marketing event. Instead, view your exhibit at a tradeshow as the central feature of a much longer and holistic marketing plan that builds to the event, and then culminates in the successful post­show follow up that signs on new customers. In the next few posts, we are going to break down the tradeshow marketing plan into three bite size pieces. Today, the pre-show build up.

The goal of your pre­show marketing is to attract visitors to your booth at the show. You want them to know about all about you before they take that first walk around the exhibit hall.

  1. Take advantage of all the marketing opportunities that the show planner offers. This may include access to an attendees list. If so, use this to send out a few introductory emails prior to the show including your booth number. Send one the day of the show reminding the reader where you are.
  2. Sponsorships are also an opportunity, if your budget allows it. This can be a small ad in the program or sponsoring an event or get-together during the conference. This is a bigger step and may be beyond the budget of a SMB.
  3. Social Media: Use social media to introduce yourself before the show. This means an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Send a brief announcement of who you are and that you will be exhibiting at the show, and then a reminder the day of the show or the day before.
  4. Website and blog: Post an invitation to the show on your website and your blog. This should go up about one week prior the to event.

These are just three simple steps you can take to build momentum before the actual exhibition. Next, we’ll talk about marketing during the show.

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Updated August 2016 - Matt Dubois