5 ways to build an effective tradeshow marketing strategy

Canton Fair

Table Of Content:

With online marketing taking the world by storm, you might forget about the power still held in its offline alternative.

One of those is tradeshow marketing: presenting your company, product, or service at industry events. But if you think tradeshows only deliver great returns for specific types of business, you might be wrong.

Tradeshows are a fantastic marketing tactic for any business to improve sales and build relationships. From engineering events to tradeshows for wedding companies, it’s not an activity that fails to make an impact on your bottom line.

In fact, tradeshow revenue in the US was $12.81bn (£9.33bn) in 2016 alone, and that figure is set to rise with almost 30% of companies planning to increase their tradeshow budget.

So, if you’re looking to get a slice of the tradeshow marketing pie, here’s how you can build an effective strategy that delivers a return on your investment:

1. Set your goals

Just like any other marketing campaign, we’ll need to plan our strategy around a key set of goals. Not only will this help to measure the success of your tradeshow attendance, but having a clear vision on what you want to achieve will make sure all staff members are on-board, too.

The most common goal for tradeshow marketing campaigns is direct sales, but you might also want to improve brand awareness and boost site traffic, post-event.

However, don’t fall into the trap of setting basic goals. Follow the SMART goal framework and double-check that your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Results-orientated
  • Time-bound

For example, instead of setting a goal of making sales”, my tradeshow strategy goal could be to make 25 sales of my product at the event. Because this goal is attainable and easy to measure, I have a clear target to work towards – and can make sure my marketing strategy meets this.

2. Find suitable tradeshow events

After defining goals, it’s time to find suitable tradeshow events that you can exhibit in. (That is how we’ll make this campaign possible, after all.)

There are two types of tradeshows that you should focus on:

  • Tradeshows for your industry
  • Tradeshows for your ideal audience

For example, a marketing agency might want to look into tradeshows specifically for marketing companies. It’s also wise for them to exhibit at tradeshows visited by their ideal audience – like events for small business owners.

That way, they’re covering both areas: keeping up with industry news and positioning themselves in front of people who will purchase from them (to generate ROI).

You can find tradeshows for your industry by using Google, and searching the Trade Show News Network.

Fancy diving deeper into your strategy? Take a look at your competitors’ PR coverage. If you’ve spotted their name in a write-up of a previous event, add it to your calendar for the following year. Since your competitors have already been featured there, there’s a high chance it’s suitable for your business to exhibit in, too.

3. Plan around new launches

Some 92% of tradeshow attendees say their main reason for attending tradeshows is to see new products being featured.

Why not use this as your opportunity to showcase the new products you’ve been working on?

To do this effectively, take a look at your marketing calendar and plan to attend tradeshows that fall just after any upcoming launches. That way, you’re exciting attendees with access to your new range – and not boring them with products they’ve seen before.

4. Prepare for your tradeshow

Ever heard the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’? That doesn’t just apply to life in general; it applies to marketing, too.

However, preparing for your tradeshow doesn’t need to take years. Simply pick the right team (staff with great communication and sales skills) and gather the equipment you’ll need beforehand. That might be:

  • Products (for demonstrations)
  • Leaflets
  • Business cards
  • Display boards

Remember: you’ll need to make your booth noticeable if you want to generate any results from your tradeshow attendance. The average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s, so don’t be afraid of splashing out on reusable equipment for your booth.

Just take a look at the tradeshow booth featured in this case study. Promega found a unique way to liven-up its booth, and transformed a simple 20ft x 30ft exhibit into a mini storefront – much more interesting than a boring, old-fashioned tradeshow stand.

5. The importance of a follow-up

You’ve just finished attending your first tradeshow. You deserve a cup of tea and a few minutes to put your feet up, right?

Not necessarily: that could cost you those all-important sales.

Don’t let the people you meet at tradeshows forget about you. These attendees might not have buying authority to purchase from you on the spot, and some people might need to consult their team before buying your product.

More than 80% of leads collected at tradeshows receive a follow-up after the event, according to half the respondents asked.

tradeshow marketing chart

You could do follow up by:

  • Sending handwritten notes, thanking the attendee for visiting your booth
  • Grabbing the names of people you’ve spoken to and sending a LinkedIn request (bonus points if you add a note to your request which names the tradeshow you met at)
  • Emailing the people you met, asking them to jump on a 15-minute call to discuss how your product or service would benefit them

When it comes to tradeshow follow-up, your options are endless. The only thing we shouldn’t be doing is sending spam emails or neglecting a follow-up completely. (But you already knew that, right?)

Final thoughts on tradeshow marketing

Now you’ve created a fantastic tradeshow marketing strategy, it’s time to put it to the test. Start finding those events and meeting new people.

Remember that trial-and-error is the key to any successful marketing campaign – tradeshows, included.

If you spot that a specific part of your strategy isn’t working, switch it up and try something new. That way, you can continually work towards a tradeshow strategy that perfectly suits your brand, product and marketing goals.

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