Marketing For Trade Show Exhibitors

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Marketing For Trade Show Exhibitors

Original Title Photo © Gary Bembridge, modified for use in this blog post

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Marketing Your Trade Show Booth

Trade shows are a major expense and time commitment, typically costing £10,000’s and taking up weeks of your key marketing and sales personnels’ time. This blog post is intended to serve as a guide to making sure your digital marketing efforts:

  • Bring more visitors to your stand at the show
  • Bring more visitors to the show, because they want to see you
  • Converting more leads from the show into customers
  • Positioning you as a leader within your industry

You probably start planning your trade show six to twelve months in advance – and that’s the right time to start thinking about your marketing. Here’s a breakdown of the activity you should include in your marketing plan twelve months before the show through to the week after the show.

12 Months Before The Show

Work out your show hooks

What’s going to compel prospective customers to visit you at the show? Are you unveiling something new? Can you offer a discount at the show? At the very least can you offer something valuable in exchange for a serious prospect’s details (prize draw for an iPad – or cupcakes if you want to get even more leads). You need to give prospective customers a compelling reason to want to visit your stand.

Interactivity is key, so make sure you are able to put enough product (and people to run demos) on your stand. If you sell a service, have brochures for people to take away and make sure you have enough knowledgeable reps to speak to and engage with customers as they come on your stand. 

If you are concerned about staffing levels, video as a great content to keep visitors interested and willing to wait whilst you finish up the conversation you’re in.

6 Months Before The Show

Create A Landing Page

Create a landing page on your website which tells show visitors what they can expect to discover at your stand. This page should be updated throughout the year until the day of the show.

Showing your expertise as an industry leader can improve the perceived value of your brand.

Include photos from last year – especially if you gave a talk to position your company as an industry leader. Photo © Web Summit

Make sure you include:

  • A map of the venue and where your stand is
  • Your stand number
  • The date of the show and opening/closing times
  • Names of key personnel who are attending
  • Times for any demonstrations, talks, promotions or events
  • Content from past shows
  • A link to your exhibitor profile on the trade show’s website (once you are able to)
  • If you are including a prize draw, what the prize is and when you will be announcing the winner (always at the show)
  • An exclusive show offer for people that fill in a form on your landing page (this could be entry into the prize draw)

This last step is key, because e-mail will be the major force in driving more traffic to your stand on the day – and you want to start building up your mailing list.

You now have a resource you can direct people to when they enquire about your page, and a content to push out across your marketing channels.

Get your SEO expert to optimise the page so that when the show is googled you come up on page one.

Prepare Assets to Send To The Organiser

Stand packages will often include mentions in the show organisers marketing. Make sure you know what assets they need (graphics, wording) and proactively send it and check it’s being used. Where possible include tracking code in any links so you can monitor any uplifts in traffic to your website.

Speak to your Trade Association

Trade Associations may be happy to mention your show stand  in their newsletter or on their website – particularly if you are releasing something new and cutting edge. Wikipedia has a helpful list of UK chartered and non-chartered trade associations.

3 Months Before The Show

Create your exhibitor profile

Your exhibitor profile on the trade show’s website will be many visitors first port of call when researching the show. You should summarise the information on your landing page, and make sure you direct people to it (so they can sign up to your mailing list).

Make sure you link to your social media channels, and take a look at what other exhibitors are doing with their profiles. Profiles are very often overlooked, but this prime real estate is generally free of charge and included in the cost of your trade show stand – make sure you use it.

Some trade shows only put up the exhibitor list a week or two before the show – if they do this pester them to get the exhibitor lists up sooner!

Update your e-mail signature

Now’s the time to add the show’s banner and a link to your landing page to your e-mail signature. Make sure you include the date of the show and your stand number – often times people will forget your information, but everyone has access to their e-mails on their phone – if they are able to access it quickly you’ll make sure you increase your footfall on the day.

Social Media

Start spreading the word on social media, ramping up the frequency of posts before the event. Make sure you’re regularly posting on

  • Twitter (make sure you use the show’s hashtag)
  • Facebook
  • Linked In

If you attended last year, make sure you use your content.

  • If you have video, make it your intro video on your YouTube channel
  • Share last year’s blog posts
  • Start uploading photos to your instagram account

Create a link to the landing page on your home page

Make sure there is a prominent link to the show on your homepage. Use the show’s logo, but have it click through to your landing page.

6 Weeks Before The Show

First mail shot

Now is the time to start mailing your contacts. You should send out specific e-mails to:

  • Existing customers – tell them what you have that’s now
  • Prospects – tell them about your top sellers
  • Signups to your landing page – remind them about your show offer

Make sure you include relevant information about the show from your landing page, and a link back to it.

Also make sure you segment your lists. There’s no point inviting your international customers to a trade show in Birmingham – you’re simply going to annoy them. To do this use intelligent e-mail marketing software like ActiveCampaign instead of MailChimp.

Setup and test your business card scanning technology or iPad kiosk

Capturing accurate data on day is crucial – it’s why you’re at the show. Make your life easier and capture more information by leaving the paper forms at the office. You need to invest in digital technology – it costs a lot less than you think.

Business to Consumer Shows

Invest in an iPad Kiosk. This can be as simple as a lockable ipad stand for £50 which you can buy on amazon.

The use ActiveCampaign’s lead capture App to start capturing prospect’s data on your stand. SoMotion can help you set this up – visit our marketing automation page to find out more.

Total setup cost: >£100

Business to Business Shows

Use FullContact with your smart phone to take a picture of business cards, and have a human transcribe the information and automatically add it to your CRM.

You can be really clever with this, and even send out a brochure or e-mail series around a specific product a lead is interested in, automatically, with the touch of a button. We can help you set this up using ActiveCampaign as part of our marketing automation serivce.

Total setup cost: >£100

The great thing about both of these methods:

  • you’re guaranteed to get real information that works
  • visitors can’t skip filling in data such as name, e-mail or phone number if you make them required fields.

Some shows will offer you a card scanner to scan visitor badges. Whilst these can be great, make sure the show organiser is capturing useful data when visitors sign up online – some only ask for a name and e-mail address.

2 Weeks Before The Show

Second Mailshot

Your second Mailshot should use a different subject line and design to your first, whilst keeping content similar. The reason for changing it is people respond to different things, and, on average, only 12% of e-mail is read (yes even when you have an opt-in list). Does that mean you should send out 8 e-mails? Maybe. If you have enough content, new products and interactive things to do on your booth go for it – if you are selling the same services as last year (professional services, insurance, finance), then no – stick to two or you risk increasing your unsubscribe rate.

We’re always happy to advise on what content works and help you setup an automated marketing campaign to engage with your leads!

Write your e-mail follow ups ready to send out

You are going to have a lot of leads to follow up with after the show. The time to write your follow up e-mails is now, not once you get back and have an overwhelming amount of leads to write to as well as needing to catch up on your backlog of work having been out of the office for a few days or week (not to mention, you will be knackered). Write e-mails for each product or service you are promoting and have them ready to send out.

If you are using marketing automation software, you can combine this with your CRM and lead capture methods (above) to schedule these to go out automatically as leads come in to your system.

1 Week Before The Show

Final Mailshot

Send your final mailshot. Rather than send a branded e-mail, send out a mailshot using a template based on your normal business e-mail and send it from one of your trade show reps or sales director. Make it a personal invitation to visit you at the show. Low-branded e-mails typically get a better response than branded e-mails, but should be used sparingly.

At The Show

Marketing Refresher

People sometimes forget the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising is simply pushing a message out on a channel. Marketing is everything about your business that tells a potential or existing client something about you. This includes your invoices, your terms of business, the tone of the receptionist when you answer the phone.

Make sure your team delivers on the day:

  • Stand at your stand. Chairs are not for your reps, they are only for meetings with prospects.
  • Eat lunch away from your stand.
  • Never leave your stand unattended, ensure you have enough staff on hand or hire extras for the day (a minor expense compared to losing a hour or prospecting)
  • Keep your stand tidy.
  • If you are offering hospitality (coffee, water, biscuits) make sure the area is frequently cleaned and that all supplies are topped up.
  • Keep your brochures, business cards and any other print collateral topped up and ready.

The number of times I go to shows and find people sat at the back of the booth, on their phones, frowning when a prospect interrupts them is shocking. Make sure your stand and your people are at their best – every lead is judging you on your presentation.

Take pictures

Send someone out with a camera to start taking photos. Get shots of:

  • Your stand when it’s busy
  • Customers interacting with your sales team
  • Keynote speakers (particularly if they are industry experts or celebrities)
  • If you are in a venue like Olympia, get up on to the gallery and get a high up shot when the show is at its busiest
Take great photos of the show and your booth for next year's landing page

Make the most of venue’s like Olympia to get up high and get a dynamic shot. Photo © Andrew Green

Take video (optional)

If budget allows and you can do it to a good standard (this normally means hiring a camera guy), get video on the day. Video content is invaluable for sharing a flavour of the show to prospects who weren’t able to attend, and can help you generate more of a buzz when you start marketing next year’s show.

Video Content helps improve SEO performance when included on a landing page.

Video content, whilst costly, can provide marketing material you can leverage for the next 12 months and beyond. Photo © Angel Ganev

If budget allows and you can do it to a good standard (this normally means hiring a camera guy), get video on the day. Video content is invaluable for sharing a flavour of the show to prospects who weren’t able to attend, and can help you generate more of a buzz when you start marketing next year’s show.

Make a note of your hottest leads

This should go without saying, but stop treating all leads as equal. Your hottest leads should stand out, so make sure you highlight them. If you are using an app, make sure you go into the CRM to highlight your hottest leads. If you are using paper, highlight them in pen – you won’t be able to keep all the names in your head so make sure you write them down as you are collecting their details.

Announce your prize draw (if you have one)

Make sure you do this at the show and hand out the prize – don’t do it afterwards, as you may lose trust with pundits who feel you are simply collecting data with no real intent to give something back. Get a photo with your prizewinner and put it on your social media channels.

Meet other exhibitors

Your fellow exhibitors will often be your potential customers. Go out and speak to them, and see what they are doing that you could do next time.

The Next Working Day

Send out personalised follow ups to every lead

If you captured leads using either of the methods described above you will have a well-segmented list of hot prospects who are waiting to hear from you with more information or who are ready to buy. If you are using marketing automation technology, this step will happen for you automatically, provided you have set it up in advance.

Your top priority is to send them the information they are waiting for.

One Week Later

Write a blog post

Summarise the best parts of the show for anyone who wasn’t able to attend. You can send this out to your mailing list, making sure you ask for comments from people who did attend. Include in this:

  • A reminder of any time-sensitive show deals and how to take advantage of them
  • The winner of your prize draw
  • Photos and video content that you took on the day

Ben Kelly is Managing Director of SoMotion. He has exhibited, attended and spoken at dozens of trade shows the world over generating £100,000’s of new business in the process.


Suggested further reading:

By | 2017-10-24T08:12:03+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Marketing Automation, SEO, Social Media|0 Comments

About the Author:

Ben Kelly is So Motion's Managing Director. He has 16 years experience providing internet marketing solutions to businesses. He is married, has a daughter and a pet spaniel and enjoys long walks in the woods near home in the Ashdown Forest.

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