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Mastering Tradeshow Marketing: Strategies for Success and Growth

Working Your Tradeshow Marketing Plan to Communicate Effectively

A lot has been written about how to plan and execute a tradeshow event as an exhibitor, and many conferences even offer exhibitor workshops as a resource – as was the case with our recent participation in DMA2013.

But rather than your usual how-to, I thought we’d share the steps we took in planning for our participation as a personal case study in tradeshow marketing. While we’re not perfect and there is always room to build on it further, we hope this gives you an in the trenches perspective to inspire and guide your next tradeshow (ad)venture.

Planning & Goals Matter

A tradeshow is so much more than just showing up. Given the money and time you’ll be spending, it’s important to have a plan to get the most out of it you can. For us this started with a little mind mapping – to help make sure we had all the different areas covered and our goals defined.

We defined what our team wanted to achieve, including things like leads (of course), but also less tangible things like gaining industry knowledge through attending sessions, meeting the media, and learning from other exhibitors. Our plan also included a breakdown of the tasks to complete – and yes, this resulted in a multiple page task list.

Overall though, if I had to identify just one overarching goal it was this: To initiate relationships that would allow us to communicate one-to-one going forward. We all know direct marketing works best when it is relevant and personal; that goes both for us and our clients.

With Tradeshow Marketing, Communication is Key

Since we are a direct marketing company, this part of the planning was of special importance to us. A tradeshow is an opportunity to build awareness around your brand, so taking advantage of any chance for proactive outreach communication is important.

Personalized Pre Tradeshow Direct Mail Postcard

Introducing the Brand

Direct mail is still a very effective way to get your message in the hands of attendees, so we took advantage of the pre-show attendee list to send a basic 6”x11” postcard. We know this ended up on hundreds of desks across the country along with dozens from other exhibitors each set of eyes on the piece was a new potential relationship. We also promoted our participation in the show through emails to our own house list and on our website home page to extend the branding, using the same graphic as the postcard.

Making It Personal

While the potential brand exposure from the initial mailing was important in itself, we wanted to begin building relationships that extended beyond a one-time mailing, to allow us to focus on more valuable one-to-one communication. Our relatively passive call-to-action (CTA) on the pre-show postcard was to “pre-register” at our site to get

Personalized Tradeshow Booth Gift Package

a special gift at our booth. Our postcard mailing had a very respectable 1% response rate. Respondents were greeted at the booth with a personalized package including a notebook with variable data name and company, pen, earbuds, and a gift card for coffee.

After the Show

With the rush of the show over, we take our time a bit more with the post-show followup, knowing that all the attendees need time to absorb all the information they took in, and to get caught up with the day-to-day.For contacts made at the show, we now have full contact information, so we first thank them for meeting us via an email which includes our latest email newsletter.

Next, we reach out to those booth visitors who showed particular interest in what we could offer their businesses by mailing out personalized packages, again including a notebook printed just for them. We included direct contact information for a specific rep and reps inserted handwritten notes as well.

Tradeshow Communication Should Be About Them, Not Us

Our followup is not done yet. In the spirit of using every opportunity to make a connection with future customers, we’re in the process of reviewing the post-show attendee list to send out a final mailing. But in case you didn’t notice, our emphasis is on forming relationships through communication, not blasting out a message. This means for those people we didn’t meet, we need to deliver a message that speaks to them as directly as possible.

Putting in the time up front to craft a relevant message that goes to the right people will get them closer to finding a solution that meets their needs – and if all goes well it will be through a long-term one-to-one relationship with us.

This post was written by Karen Renzi, a former Compu-Mail employee.