The Why’s and How’s of Pre-Show Marketing

Tradeshows are an invaluable way to connect with your ideal clients, but today’s attendees no longer have the leisure, or inclination, to stop at every booth at a show, leaving businesses to face the double challenge of less time and more competition. Statistics show that on average attendees now spend one and a half fewer days at a tradeshow than they did previously. Couple that with the fact that they are stopping at far fewer exhibits–on average 26 to 31 out of possibly hundreds–and the need to incorporate pre-show marketing into your tradeshow strategy becomes all the more clear.

Marketing Strategist Michelle McNabb helps businesses stand out from the competition at tradeshows. She advises them to “create a nurture process to educate and build relationships with attendees to show them why they should make it a priority to meet you in person and to optimize their experience at the event.” 

Michelle also addresses the fact that an estimated 76% of attendees arrive at tradeshows with their agenda already planned out. The key here, she says, is to get yourself on their agenda before the show starts. “It may be easier to invite people who already know you to come to your booth than to rely solely on attracting a crowd who isn’t yet familiar with your brand.”

Pre-show marketing strategies

The following strategies can help get you on the right track for a successful tradeshow:

 1.  Well in advance of an event, establishing a rapport with your ideal audience through consistent and content-rich blog posts is an effective way to build a following and establish your credibility as the go-to expert in your field. As shows come up, you can feature them in your blog so your audience can make your booth one of their planned stops.

2.  About two to three months in advance of the event, start to implement social media posts promoting your attendance, and incorporate upcoming tradeshows into your newsletter. Inexpensive and effective, newsletters and social media have a wide reach that also allows for focused attention on specific demographics. 

“Make organic outreach messages on social media or your email list to past attendees you met and the exhibitors that are listed on the website,” Michelle suggests.

3.  As soon as you are able to, obtain a contact list for event attendees so that you can send brief introductory emails or postcards inviting them to stop by your booth. You can also connect with potentially interested individuals on social media, but be careful to avoid coming across as “salesy.”

“When connecting, don’t offer a pitch,” says Michelle. “Be genuine in your conversation. A couple of great questions to ask are what intrigued them to attend the event and what they’re hoping to gain or who they’re looking to meet.”

4.  As the event approaches, you can also consider placing ads with your local paper or TV station, or even whether event sponsorship may be a worthwhile investment. Make sure that your ads feature event details and your booth number so attendees can easily find you, as well as a call to action or special offer.

5.  Finally, have a plan in place before the show for how you will follow up on the leads and potential networking partners you will connect with, and make sure everyone on your event team is on the same page with how to nurture new connections.

Tradeshows offer businesses an unparalleled opportunity to interact with customers face to face, creating an experiential and emotional connection that can pay off in long lasting brand recognition and loyalty. But in the changing landscape of tradeshows and tradeshow attendee behavior, capitalizing on those opportunities means developing and implementing a multi-channel pre-show marketing strategy. 

Illustrated Designs, Inc. has been creating displays for memorable trade shows and corporate events for 30+ years. From concept to installation, their innovative design team develops comprehensive experiences including design, print, fabrication, and installation of signs, banners, decor, and 3-D displays.


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