Maximize Your Trade Show ROI

EAG, May 7, 2019

You love them. You hate them. Trade shows can be a significant investment for small and large businesses alike. They also give you a chance to be up close and personal with your audience and move sales one step closer to the goal. Here are a few thoughts about maximizing your trade show marketing investment.

Stop Paying for the Traditional Trade Show Sponsorship
For Magnum Systems, we’ve been able to make sure they’re seen by their target audience at both small and large trade shows without buying a show sponsorship package that delivers only a logo on the back of a program. And all that with a lower investment than a traditional tradeshow sponsorship package.

By drawing a digital geographical fence (geo-fencing) around the conference hall and hotels during a 4-day show run in both display ads and on the right social media channels, we’ve driven more than 55,000 viewable impressions of a targeted ad as people are checking the sports teams back home, scrolling Facebook, and connecting with people on LinkedIn. But it’s not just impressions – by targeting people so specifically with a show-related message, they’ve gotten hundreds of interactions with their site to learn about the products they’re showcasing on the show floor, as well as the ones they couldn’t logistically bring to the expo hall. Thanks, overpriced lanyard sponsorship, as much satisfaction as we get from seeing our competitors over in booth 713 forced to wear our brand around their neck, we’ll take our investment elsewhere.

Engaging on the Trade Show Floor.
We’re all guilty of being less than engaging on the show floor; checking work email, sitting down to rest our feet, or reaching a breaking point where there’s no smile left during a lull in traffic. It’s not an invitation for attendees to interact. But calculate the time and money you’re investing in this appearance and you’ll see it’s worth training your crew to be on point from open to close.

What’s your starter line?
One we like is “Hello, (first name I just read on your badge). What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen at the show today?”

Let’s break that down:

  • You’re engaging a prospect in a non-threatening / non-sales way.
  • You’re learning about what they’re interested in so you can tailor your message.
  • You’re learning about what your competition is doing when you can’t see them.

Check out Three Feet from Seven Figures by David Spark for more tips and best practices for small businesses at trade shows. And be sure to smile.

Owning the Social Conversation.
Twitter is your friend at a conference. Hashtags get followed by attendees to know what’s happening where they can’t be. But you can’t be on your phone in the booth cranking out promotional tweets because you’re making a lousy first impression and missing a chance to talk to live prospects. What’s a small business to do?

Communication planning is your friend, as is a social media strategist who isn’t on the expo floor. Plan messaging strategically in advance that fits your brand’s personality while leveraging what you’re doing. You’ll look like you’re there live, and staff on site can add to the conversation with some on-site color commentary. The ones who are winning this game are perceived to be bigger than they are, thanks to the volume and timelines of their tweets. #winning #NotSmallAtAll.

Memorable Swag
Branded logo merchandise is its own form of currency at a trade show. Have the coolest stuff on the floor and people will talk. They’ll seek you out. If it’s THE coolest thing on the show floor, you’ll get everyone’s data in your lead generation scanner – they won’t all be good prospects though, so maybe strive for #2. The promotional products strategy at a trade show can help set you apart. In a study of 536 people through DFW airport asked to show any logo-branded merchandise they happened to have on them, 76% quickly recalled the advertiser’s name, and 52% had both conducted business with the advertiser and had an improved impression of the advertiser as a result of the promotional product. Proving the staying power of the swag, 73% used the item once a week and more than half kept the item for more than a year. Now that’s some memorable swag.

Demonstrating Thought Leadership.
Of course, our number one recommendation is going to be finding a spot to be on stage during the program. Depending on the show, this could be a pay-to-play arrangement, or you may need to plan well ahead and submit your credentials in a call for programs. The opportunity to showcase your thought leadership and expertise will draw people to your brand and to your booth, even when the presentation is more about education than sales pitch.

Trade Show Digital Marketing Support
One of our clients planned to attend a trade show and — through a series of unfortunate events — was unable to actually attend. Turns out, thanks to careful planning and pre- and post-trade show communications support already in place, prospects didn’t realize our client wasn’t there. That’s trade show marketing support. As you’re planning, make sure your brand is seen even if it can’t be seen! Attendees know shows are a blur. They don’t remember everyone they’ve seen and may not even make it to your corner of the map. Well-targeted communications, the right sponsorship, and memorable swag can keep you in the game.

If you’d like help pulling off a miracle for your next trade show, let’s talk.


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