Trade shows are back and better than ever.
Today’s shows mix in-person and virtual formats, creating exciting opportunities to win over new customers.
This article explains how to create a trade show marketing plan that drives traffic, leads, and conversions sky-high in 2023. We’ll walk you through the process in six easy steps.
Step 1: Set goals.
The first step is to ask yourself, “Why is my company attending this show, and what do we hope to accomplish?” Your primary goal will guide your strategy and keep your team on track.
Common marketing goals include building brand awareness, generating leads, closing sales, and entering new markets. The right shows attract your best customers and prospects. That’s why many companies also leverage this marketing channel to launch new products.
Clearly defined goals allow you to measure success and gain insights to drive more wins in the future.
Step 2. Zero in on the right shows.
Knowing your ideal customer is essential here. You want events that can give you direct access. Start by drafting a list of possible shows and check out their past performance to determine the following:
- Their reputation
- Attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors
- Competitors’ presence
- Participation of industry influencers and senior executives/decision-makers
Next, talk with the management team for specific shows to see if your audience matches their attendee profile. Attend shows that attract your best prospects. Analyze the crowd, size of the qualified audience, and estimated cost per qualified attendee.
Finally, based on your research, create a list of trade shows that best fit your marketing goals, budget, and target audience.
Step 3: Keep everything on track.
Once you know your shows and goals, the next step is to build a timeline. Effective B2B trade show marketing begins well before the opening session and extends long after the show floor closes.
Timing is everything in marketing. If you promote your presence too early, people will forget about it before the show begins. Start too late, and you won’t have time to build buzz or lock in appointments for your onsite sales team.
To maximize your chances for success, begin planning larger events a year in advance.
A detailed trade show marketing timeline helps keep everything moving forward. Schedule announcements, email newsletter flow, social media posts and other content about your participation.
Step 4: Make your booth irresistible.
Many marketers find this step the most creative and fun. Enticing prizes and booth design are the hallmarks of a buzz-building trade show marketing plan.
Think outside the branded water bottle; be generous with unexpected swag. Make sure gifts and prizes are useable, brandable, and portable. Among our top picks:
- Lightweight Bluetooth speakers
- Colorful webcam covers that protect against hackers
- Power banks and phone chargers
- Reusable convention totes to boost sustainability and promote your brand after the show ends
- Wheat keychain mints and holders for a flavorful, eco-friendly treat
- Power adapter night lights that work double-duty to keep devices charged
Attention grabbers like these below are magnets drawing people to your booth:
- Delicious aromas and treats to engage the senses. Cupcakes and cookies, anyone?
- Giant branded balloons that put your booth head and shoulders above the crowd
- Specialty coffee bar and a barista who adds your company logo as a flourish to the foam
- Branded flooring to catch the eyes of passers-by looking down at their phones
- Mini golf with branded gear as the hole-in-one prize
Augmented & Virtual Reality
Budget permitting, these technologies wow visitors at the booth.
Consider these inspired trade show marketing examples:
- Absolut created an AR mobile app that takes prospects on a 3D tour to the village of Ahus, Sweden, to see the distillery and learn how the company produces its iconic vodka.
- Car companies invite prospects to customize their dream car in a virtual environment and see how it looks before they make buying decisions.
You must know your audience and what they like. For other enticing booth design ideas, check out our blog post “13 Ideas for Your Next Trade Show.”
Step 5. Attract with compelling content.
So how do you get visitors to your incredible booth? Create excitement with these fun trade show lead-generation ideas below.
First, create interest with customized content, including fun videos, blog posts, slide shows, emails, press announcements, and more. Engage on social media, too. Showcase exhibit photos, videos, and product demos. Encourage attendees to share their experiences as well using a branded hashtag.
Schedule appointments for your onsite sales team in the weeks leading up to the show. Use an appointment-setting tool and consistent process so everyone stays on the same page. Also, ask your event organizer for a list of journalists attending the show. Identify a senior executive as the company spokesperson. Media interviews are a great way to amplify brand reach.
Finally, promote exciting booth happenings, such as giveaways, demos, contests, entertainment, Q&A sessions with the CEO, and activations like entertainment or a happy hour.
These trade show success strategies not only encourage booth visits. They also generate web traffic and leads from people who don’t attend the show.
Step 6: Drive conversions.
At this point, you have your goals, booth design, and content mapped out. So now, your trade show marketing plan is done, right?
Trade show success strategies are about more than lead generation. You also need effective follow-up to convert leads into customers. Make the most of this step! Or you risk losing valuable business to competitors.
The good news: new technologies make follow-up easier and more precise than ever.
With real-time trade show technology, you can follow up with your best leads during the event. Let’s say two attendees meet at the opening celebration. They can use the event app and arrange to reconnect over coffee before the show ends.
Post-event, reach out immediately and show prospects you heard what they had to say.
A robust lead retrieval tool with qualifying questions is essential. These questions can tell you about a person’s awareness of your brand, budget, and readiness to buy. Driving conversions comes down to understanding the prospect’s business need, so you can help them find the best solutions.
To that end, choose an event management software that integrates with your CRM and marketing automation systems. You’ll ensure leads aren’t lost and everything works together seamlessly for fast, effective follow-up.
Boost trade show marketing success. Now you have your trade show strategy template. Use it to create:
- Measurable goals to prove return on investment
- A design that encourages attendees to make a beeline to your booth
- Irresistible content
- Tactics to send leads and conversions through the roof
To learn more about how to enhance your trade show to the next level, download our ebook: “Trade Show Planning from A to Z: The Ultimate Guide for Organizers.”