Conventions and trade shows are a rare chance to market yourself in 3D. They put a face to your brand and let you get an invaluable peak into who your customers are. But attendees form an opinion of you in seconds, so you want to think about how you’re presenting. Look at the latest trends and best practices in convention and trade show marketing so you can have your best show yet.
Marketing Before the Convention: What to do Prior to the Trade Show
There are three objectives common to all advertising campaigns: awareness, interest, and action. Awareness is when you’re introducing customers to your brand. Interest is when you’re stoking your customer’s favor so they’ll prefer you at purchasing junctures. And action is when you’re driving them to take a measurable action such as adding something to their shopping cart or signing up for a webinar. These will be the basis of your marketing strategy at each stage of exhibiting at a convention or trade show.
Pre-show is the time to set goals and be clear about what would look like a successful show for your company. This could mean increasing attention, sales, or conversions. You may also be thinking about how to improve on past shows, such as attracting more prospects to the booth or gathering more leads. Ultimately the hope is to turn those prospects into loyal and referring customers.
Use social media
Building interest and awareness is an important facet of marketing at this stage. That’s why you want to use social media to get the word out about your exhibition. Post promo footage from prior conventions to generate buzz around your offerings. If you don’t have any, this is a great opportunity to get it by hiring a full service marketing company that can provide you professional video editing.
Reach out to other vendors
Think about how your exhibition fits into the bigger picture. Your booth is going to be part of an entire arrangement, and who you’re next to will have bearing on what you may choose for your own setup. If your neighbors offer something loud or disruptive, for example, you’ll want to plan accordingly. And conversely, if they follow the same design, your bold choice may end up blending in.
Moreover, this is a chance to build connections with adjacent brands. There’s a concept in digital marketing of mutual links – you and a similar site referring your visitors to one another. This is meant to increase your respective rankings on search engines. Fostering relationships with other exhibitors is beneficial to your brand because it can lead to collaborations like this down the line.
Lead Generation: What to do during your Trade show
Bold POP displays
During the show, there are many opportunities to make your booth stand out. Think about how brands capture your attention in everyday life. In a crowded drug store where there are many duplicative items, brands have to get creative to draw the customer’s eye. In the same vein, push the boundaries of your exhibition to make the biggest impact.
Marketing used to be more 2D – think like the old longform ads you’d see in magazines – but now even real life is looking more like a website. Creative 3D elements are taking over trade shows and conventions, so you’re going to see more show than tell. This is visible in the use of creative point of purchase displays that tie in the rest of the brand. POP displays are stands or towers stacked with product samples, usually boasting a big image and the color scheme of the rest of your tent.
You only have a moment to succinctly communicate your brand and rise above the noise. Tecno Poultry Systems of Lancaster, PA used a giant egg in lieu of a sign to telegraph across the room that they’re in the egg business. You can do this by getting creative with color and texture.
If your product is for the outdoors, think about putting your customer back into the environment where they’ll be using it. Play with allusions to nature like turf, rocks, or wood palettes. Or use chambray or linen walls to create a rustic, homey look. There are also many inexpensive options for recreating the look of wood or metal. You’re never in danger of going too bold – when you’re competing with a whole floor of booths, the difference will really pay off.
In the spirit of appealing to multiple senses, consider the physical aspect of navigating a convention as part of your strategy. When your potential customer is walking through the show they’re going to be visually overwhelmed and probably tired. By offering seating, you can be a place of respite they’ll want to visit and linger in. In additional to being functional, seating can also underscore your brand – as Straus Family Creamery’s did when they exhibited with seating that looked like an ice cream shop.
One of the biggest advantages and challenges of working a trade show or convention is that you’re marketing in 3D space. Your customers will be taking pictures so try to direct foot traffic with a selfie wall. Selfie walls, scenic backdrops made to encourage photo ops, are moving from retail businesses into the convention scene. They’re easy to set up and break down – just roll out a photogenic background or hang up an eye-catching sign. Selfie walls have the added benefit of free advertising because the subsequent pictures will end up on your customers’ social media, sparking an organic conversation around your product.
Making a big impact on customers doesn’t take much. F2F conversations are one surefire way to attract interest and increase the value of customer relationships. Talk to your customers about what brought them to the convention, who you are and your brand origin story. Don’t underestimate the value of a genuine conversation – that could be the highlight of an attendee’s day and stick with them when they’re at a key decision point. And that’s why it’s wise to invest in booth hostesses, greeters, brand ambassadors and promotional models.
Augmented / virtual reality
You already know about digital displays – screens that act as a dynamic backdrop for your booth. Now it’s all about augmented and virtual reality. Even when digital displays are touchscreen, the interactivity can only go so far. AR and VR will only continue to edge out the rest and create one of a kind experiences for your customers. It could even be used to walk someone through the process of using your product as part of a live demonstration or how-to.
Post Trade Show Marketing: What to do After your Convention
After the show your job isn’t done. Now it’s about improving customer acquisition and retention. This experience just generated a lot of content for you, so make it work for you by posting a blog, photos, or video. As we mentioned earlier, use a professional video editor to cut together a promo vid or “trailer” to show people what they missed. Video’s such a powerful format because it allows you to evoke strong emotions with music and cinematography.
You’ve just retrieved a ton of great leads at your show. Time to follow up on them with a targeted email campaign. Email marketing is effective at turning interest into action because you’re reaching your customers at a key decision point. They’re already aware of you, are online and are ready to shop. You’ll want to act quickly while you’re fresh on their mind, but you also want to make it personal. Today’s customer is used to getting lots of promotions in their inbox, many generated by AI. Use the data available to you to make an authentic connection and show there’s a human on the other side of the screen.
Another way to use those leads is a raffle or giveaway. (Customers love repping different brands in light of the athleisure trend – especially when it’s free.) But as per the rest of our advice you want to be intentional about how you execute such a content.
If you’re a B2B marketer, the people visiting your booth are someone you want to establish a relationship with as a vendor. There’s a lot riding on this first (or second) contact with them, but therein lies the opportunity. That means you don’t want to rely on a random number generator for this one. Sales Hacker recommends using those metrics to target your outreach for a giveaway so it goes to the highest yield client – one who’s most likely to give you their business.
What It Takes To Have A Great Convention or Trade Show
Whether your specialty is outdoor sporting, finance, retail or B2B, there are some common principles you’ll want to abide when putting on your next exhibition. Don’t underestimate the value of emotion in the design of your booth, displays and promo materials. This doesn’t have to be a huge investment – creating a nice memory of your company just costs a smile and a genuine interaction. Go with a full service marketing company so no detail is missed. You’ll be able to work the crowd with confidence when you have a quality, well-researched setup.