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Targeted Pre-Show Marketing To Create Better Trade Show Leads

Target your customer at trade showsIf you simply set up your trade show booth and collect business cards or scan badges of everybody coming by, you’ll get a lot of leads, but they won’t be very good leads.  Sure, you might get a hot prospect or two, but you’ll burn through a lot of suspects along the way.  Can you afford to spend that time?

Worse yet, you’ll miss those list-building attendees who never even made it to your part of the show floor.

The secret to generating higher-quality leads – as with any form of successful marketing – is to offer a highly relevant message to a highly targeted audience.

That starts with a creative message that compels your target audience to learn more about you.  Ask a provocative question, make a challenging statement or suggest a different reality.  But make sure to let your audience know that you understand their situation and have a solution that solves their problem.  Remember, however, your goal with pre-show marketing is to earn a spot on the attendee’s must-see list. Nothing more.  It’s not the time to share your company’s history, list every feature, share prices or ask for the sale.

You can reach your audience a number of different ways before they even set foot in your trade show display:  “Snail mail,” email, advertising and social media, for example, offer advantages and disadvantages – at different costs.

Direct Mail

Physical direct mail has to be different to be noticed.  We call this “fun” or “lumpy” mail because it stands out from typical letters, invoices and postcards.  Promotional items, dimensional mailers, DVDs and jump drives, for example, give you a chance to stand out from competitors and other exhibitors well before the show begins.

Email & Website

Email has to be written very carefully to get past spam filters and deliver value to keep it out of the trash.  Include bullet points about what the recipient will see or learn when they visit your exhibit. Embed a short video or white paper to demonstrate your value.  Don’t forget to link to the show’s web page and/or a show-specific page on your own website so they can connect quickly and easily.  Make it easy for them to put you on their list of companies to see at the show.  For a targeted mailing list of people who have opted in to receive show-related emails, purchase an attendee list from the show organizer.  See if you can also get last year’s list to capture those who have attended the show in the past but haven’t yet registered for this year’s event.

Advertising & Mobile Apps

If you have an advertising budget, consider advertising in the show guide and on the show website to get your message in front of potential customers.  More shows are integrating mobile apps into the registration process and show experience, so be sure to ask for sponsorship and advertising opportunities there.

Social Media & Newsletters

Don’t forget to promote the show on your social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, blog) and website weeks before the show.  Visitors have already indicated their interest by visiting, following or liking you in those media.  Make sure the event is listed on a calendar of events in your e-newsletter and website.  Remind your fans and followers of the date and location of the show, and tell them your booth number.

Whatever medium you use, consider a gift or token for visiting the booth, but make it relevant and make it available only after talking with a representative.  A timely piece of research, a popular business book or a jump drive loaded with an industry calculator will probably draw more traffic than a divot tool (unless your business is about golf).  Want something more intriguing?  Offer a two-part gift: Send a nice mechanical pencil and give visitors the matching pen when they stop by your exhibit.  Send the lid to a travel mug and give them the mug at the show.  Mail an empty DVD case and give the DVD at the show. Whatever it is, make it relate to your message.  Nobody needs another letter opener.

Your offer or message will help prospects self-select (link to the previous post), but if you use a premium item, make sure receiving the item is contingent upon speaking with a representative.  That means the premium item is in the staff’s hand or behind the counter, not in a bowl on top of the counter.

Different tools naturally produce different results, so test each one – and combinations of each – until you hit on the magic formula for your audience and your industry to produce your leads.

How have you reached out to your audience to compel the best leads to step forward?  Share your best tricks in the comments box below.

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About the Author

Mark True was the Marketing Communications Manager for Skyline Dynovia, located in Des Moines, Iowa.

3 responses to “Targeted Pre-Show Marketing To Create Better Trade Show Leads

  1. Good advice, Mark. Exhibitors need to do a better job with pre-show planning.

    To make the most of their show investments, companies also need to implement a solid post-show strategy. We’re always amazed by how many companies fail to follow up on the leads they generate from shows. Calling booth visitors, or at least sending a personalized letter, is important to reel in these sales opportunities.

  2. Great information for any exhibitor. Certainly social media has provided a new avenue of contact and we are trying to help our clients work through this new marketing tool. Skyline offers a great seminar/workshop where social media opportunities and techniques are discussed.

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