Let’s play Mad Libs! Exhibiting at trade shows is __(adjective)___. Whatever word popped into your head was likely rooted in an emotion.
Maybe it was positive, maybe it was negative. Either way, you probably have a strong opinion when it comes to exhibiting at trade shows.
If you’ve had great success on the trade show floor, you probably attribute it to your awesome booth design, creative giveaways, and killer product. If you loathe the trade show circuit, you probably hate the logistics involved in getting that amazing booth up and running, or maybe you just don’t believe the ROI is there (but you feel compelled to keep showing up).
Believe me, I can personally relate to both reactions. It’s not easy to put a great trade show experience together, and it’s especially tough to do it on a budget.
That said, let me provide you with three alternative ways to leverage your trade show dollars that have nothing to do with your booth design. In fact, I’ll challenge you to downsize your booth space and reinvest those dollars into all three of these simple, “outside the trade show floor” strategies:
1. Kick your website in the teeth.
Your incredible display at the trade show may wow the people that meander by, but what are they going to do when they get back to their hotel room (or even while they’re standing there marveling at your space)?
They’re going to hit up your website. And guess what? If the digital experience sucks, they’re going to wonder what’s wrong with your brand.
“Oh, so you spent the big bucks to get my attention, but you don’t have the wherewithal to have a mobile-responsive site? That’s a little shady. I’ll pass.”
Your trade show booth is like a temporary, physical storefront; it’s an invitation to dig deeper into your company. Your website is your digital storefront. If the two don’t match, you’re going to lose prospects before you even had them. Get your site in tip top shape before you hit the trade show floor and you’ll convert more prospects into leads when they do their digital homework on you. Because…they will.
2. Blog a little, why don’t ya?
If you want to attract and engage prospects from the trade show, you need to offer up some great appetizers that they can sample before you shove a main course down their throat. Forgive the food references – I must be hungry.
But really, everyone who drops by your booth knows that you’re going to hit them up with emails after the trade show. That’s like force-feeding them. When they’re checking out your website (and hopefully you’ve taken my advice above), you need to show that you’re relevant. One simple way to do that is to actively blog about things that matter to your target audience.
- Are there certain common problems in your industry that you know how to solve?
- What complaints do you hear over and over from customers?
- What questions do you hear over and over from customers?
Write about the answers!
Don’t try to sell, just talk about the problem. Share information. It goes a long way in establishing your credibility when those trade show prospects are sniffing you out. It helps you out on the SEO side, too, increasing traffic to your site. In fact, Hubspot found that “B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month.” (HubSpot, 2015).
But the best part about regular blogging is that it’s a low-cost way to greatly impact your audience.
3. Get a little more social (and visual).
If your business isn’t very active in social channels – especially leading up to major trade shows – you’re missing out big time. Trade shows, expos, and nearly every major event have a social presence. Even if you’re not overly active with your business’s social media accounts, leverage the event by attaching your organization to it.
If you’re at a loss for original content to post, re-post or link back to something that references the upcoming trade show or event. This gives you some pre-game exposure to the audience segments that are active social media users.
Share images or videos about what you’re doing for this year’s major shows. According to Buffer, a social media management and application developer, “Visual content is now 40X more likely to be shared on social networks.” (Buffer, 2014).
Ask your followers to contribute to a theme or giveaway you’re considering. Recognize and reward people who engage with you.
Social channels are all about creating conversations, so you have to speak up if you want to be a relevant part of them.
If you’re already killing it from a digital marketing perspective, these three tips are “yeah, duh” items.
But don’t sit back on your laurels. Be the company looking for an edge – the one that embraces a little push to think differently. The ones that embrace a different perspective with their trade show strategy are the ones most likely to join the “big leagues” in years to come.
And they’re probably the same companies who completed the first sentence of this blog with the word “profitable.”