4 tips to step up your trade show game with digital marketing

Whoever thought to launch a U.S. trade show for British brands is a genius. Although each exhibitor is entirely responsible for their own success, a new trade show called Source British has become popular and successful in recent years.

United States consumers are hungry for British style, even though most U.S. citizens aren’t familiar with British brands. For U.S. buyers who don’t want to travel out of the country, the Source British trade show makes it possible for them to shop British brands without leaving the United States.

Prior to each trade show, Source British exhibitors use digital marketing to make U.S. consumers aware of British brands they can expect to find at upcoming shows.

Digital marketing has become the backbone of the trade show business. Although trade shows are conducted in person, being a successful trade show exhibitor requires significant digital marketing skills.

Step up your trade show game with the following digital marketing strategies:

Set appointments ahead of time

Setting appointments ahead of time is important, and to do that, you need to develop an existing relationship with your contacts. Start reaching out to your list of contacts about six weeks ahead of time. Making appointments to meet with your contacts gives them an incentive to show up.

The idea is to generate as many leads as possible before the show. For InsideSales.com, using this strategy for Dreamforce 2012 got them 1,057 appointments before the show started. They walked away with 1,900 qualified leads and 20,000 partially qualified leads.

Segment your email list

If you haven’t segmented your email list, it’s time to start. Segmenting your list allows you to send relevant communications to certain groups of subscribers rather than blasting everyone with potentially non-relevant communication.

For example, say you sell clothing for men, women and children, and your summer dresses are on clearance. You’re bringing your clearance inventory with you, so you want to tell your contacts they’ll get a great deal on summer dresses.

If you haven’t segmented your contacts, a portion of your male subscribers might unsubscribe or file spam reports. They will recognize your company, but they’ll wonder why you’re telling them about summer dresses.

Once you segment your email list, you can market your presence at a trade show more intentionally, reaching out to different segments of your market with different messages. Additionally, with a segmented list, creating a workflow is easier, which brings up the next point.

Set up a workflow

Setting up a workflow is a simple way to stay in touch with your contacts once they’ve joined your list or registered for an appointment with you at the show. For example, digital marketing agency Simple Machines outlines a basic workflow cadence for contacts that register for a manufacturing trade show that includes:

  • Sending a thank-you email. This is a basic email thanking a contact for entering their information or registering for an event. This email should be sent immediately following the user’s registration. Sometimes email marketing programs delay the thank-you email by several minutes, and that’s okay.
  • Sending a reminder email. For events, a reminder email should be sent out the day before an event. This email should be brief and to the point.
  • Sending a follow-up email. The follow-up email is sent two weeks after the show to thank a contact for meeting with you and possibly providing them with some kind of free download. It’s important to make sure you keep track of contacts who keep their appointments so you can remove those who don’t. It would be embarrassing to send a follow-up email thanking a person for meeting with you when they didn’t show up for their scheduled appointment.
  • Sending a final email. This email can be automated but should be written more personally to get the contact to respond or demo your products.

Remember to program your email marketing automation to remove contacts from the main email sequence once they’ve responded to an email. You don’t want someone to RSVP and then receive a follow-up email asking them to please RSVP.

Trade leads with other vendors

Despite what you might think, trading leads with other vendors is a fantastic way to increase your success as an exhibitor. Introduce yourself to other vendors who have a similar market, and ask them if they’re interested in trading leads and potentially cross-promoting products and services to each others’ lists.

You can double or triple your leads by trading leads with just one other vendor. Some of the leads will overlap, but you’ll get plenty that don’t. Don’t be afraid of perceived competition. Not every vendor with a similar market is direct competition. Other vendors might even become prospects or partners.

Keep attending shows

Some trade shows are better than others. If a show has a bad reputation, go at least once to see for yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to reach a crowd of people your competitors probably aren’t reaching. You might walk away with a couple hundred leads you can nurture into customers or clients.