In a past blog post, I discussed how to have an effective trade show duringthe show, but the success of any trade show begins long before the show itself. Before you can demonstrate your superior products and before you can close any sales, you have to draw potential clients to your trade show booth.
In order to do that, you need to create excitement before the event. This is where a well-thought-out advertising campaign comes into play, one that will capture your target audience’s attention well ahead of the actual event. You can generate this positive anticipation with a targeted email campaign in which you refer to promotional items or giveaways that you intend to offer attendees, along with planned trade-show activities. These things create a call to action, drawing customers to your booth.
If that seems overwhelming, stay with me. I’m going to lay out exactly what you need to do in order to have the best possible trade show engagement.
Have (and Use) a Consistent Theme
If you recall my prior blog post regarding how to have an effective trade show, you’ll remember that I strongly recommend choosing a distinct theme for each trade show. This sets your company apart from the others and it makes the experience more fun and more memorable for attendees - two things that are crucial in driving future sales.
The theme should relate to your industry and what you are trying to accomplish. It also can, and often should, be relevant to the trade show location and the season of the event. For example, if you’re selling a new home security system and the trade show is in Buffalo, in February, what would you choose? There are any number of options, but of course winter-themed ones make sense. How about a trade show booth that’s designed as an ice castle, but with loads of futuristic technology? Picture the Ice Hotel in Sweden, with blue LED lights, a built-in security system that can be demonstrated (or large screens on which you can show product demonstrations) and mocktails. Notice that this choice is consistent with a streamlined, elegant technological solution, it’s season- and location- appropriate, and it’s fun. That combination is the goal.
Once you have your event theme, you should use that theme in both your email campaign and your giveaways, or promotional items, which we’ll discuss in a moment. For now though, hold onto that thought: thatit’s important to maintain a uniform theme throughout all of your trade show planning, design, advertising and promotions.
Plan Your Giveaways & Activities
Next, you’ll need to determine what promotional items you’ll offer attendees and what activities you’ll have at your booth in order to engage with your audience. One option is a raffle. Raffles help people remember you in that they have to hold onto the raffle ticket and check back with you at the prescribed time in order to see if they have won the drawing. This repeat encounter does two things. First, it makes your brand more memorable. Second, if you use business cards for raffle entries, you can follow up with these contacts after the trade show. They are all potential sales leads.
You have other options than raffles though. Suppose your trade show is in Florida in the summer. You may want to have a golf-based giveaway. If it is a local conference for southern residents in the state, offering a free day of golfing at a prestigious course would be of great interest to many in that region. Companies that use this kind of promotion will often have putting greens at their booth in order to make interacting and networking a lot more engaging and fun.
If you’re presenting at a new emerging-technology conference in Nevada in the fall, offering attendees the ability to test a new tech gadget that is popular in the mainstream market may entice them to come. Having samples that the potential customers can play with, along with demonstration videos helps visitors understand the advantages of the product.
Perhaps you also offer people a free one-year subscription to a new software. Free offers generate a lot of attention. This can be beneficial for all types of companies, but especially for those looking to build more brand awareness. With the free offer, you can build both brand loyalty and free marketing through word-of-mouth. You want people to love your products and you want them to tell others. If they do so, that free subscription will result in future sales.
Execute Your Email Campaign
Once you’ve determined your theme and what promotional items and activities you intend to use, you are ready to launch an email campaign.
First, the timing. In the marketing/ design world, we refer to these as “teasers.” You are enticing your potential customers with the exciting prospects that they will encounter at your booth, making them increasingly determined to visit. Naturally, you will need to send more than one teaser email before the show in order to accomplish this.
Plan ahead. About a month before a trade show, I send an email to my audience introducing myself and the fact that I will be in attendance at the show. Then, approximately two weeks later, I send another one to remind them. Finally, about two days before the show, I send one last one.
Second, what should you include in the email? The design of the email should be consistent with your theme but it should also create a sense of wonder. By that I mean, let them know that there’s more to come. Convey that your booth will be exciting and, if applicable, that it will reveal new products or features that you haven’t yet unveiled.
In addition to this, your emails should always include your:
Booth number at the show (Make sure to include the show name, the city and the dates of the conference.)
And, a short paragraph regarding what your company does and why attendees should come to your booth. (These reasons will include potential raffles, promotional items that you will be giving away and any activities that you will host at the booth. For promotional items, include a photo. Modern society is particularly image-driven and people’s attention spans are very short. Photos solidify your offer in their minds.)
Third, you need a list of people to email. If you don’t already have an email lead list, you can request a list of attendees’ emails from the conference organizer.
To illustrate these concepts, I’ll explain how I managed a past trade show campaign. In my prior trade show blog post, I mentioned that I used to work with a Desalination (water purifying) Company. As part of my role, I was scheduled to attend a conference in San Diego, CA in the month of July.
We decided not to use our usual booth and instead created one based on the show’s locale. Because surfing is a popular sport in San Diego, particularly in July, and because of our industry, we chose to use a surfing/ water theme. Thus, we designed a booth complete with a palm tree, surf board, and a chalk board sign that said BYOW (Bring Your Own Water). This was a reference to the fact that our company can take in any type of water and purify it for drinking. We planned ahead which is imperative as the design and manufacturing time for trade show booths can be lengthy.
Next, we launched our advertising teaser campaign. We already had a large email lead list, which we used as opposed to requesting the list of attendees. I designed an Aloha-themed email, with hibiscus flowers as part of the design. This would tie into the booth, which I’ll explain in a moment. In the email, we also used the BYOW acronym. We teased the audience that we had a big surprise and that they should come to our booth to check it out. Attendees were intrigued.
Not only did we have the most unique booth at the show (as opposed to the run-of-the-mill corporate ones that attendees had seen at countless trade shows), we also handed out Hawaiian Leis. Each lei came with a custom tag: a hibiscus flower that we had displayed in the email, and our logo. The big surprise was the launch of six new innovative products. The show was a huge success and it offered attendees a great experience.
As you can see, with planning and the right knowledge, it’s possible to create excitement and positive anticipation in your trade show’s attendees. You can increase the traffic to your booth, open the door for increased brand awareness and loyalty and build company sales. And all of that begins with something you have right at your fingertips: a smart and strategic email campaign.