Are you making a common mistake when preparing your destination for a trade show? While plenty of time is spent on creating and planning your destination’s booth and collateral materials, many DMOs overlook one of the most important aspects of pre-show preparation: pre-marketing their trade show presence. Selling your destination to attendees is the main goal during the trade show, and follow-up is crucial after the event is over. But frequently pre-show marketing is neglected or forgotten entirely. A well-rounded marketing plan begins pre-show, with the promotion of your presence at the event. It then continues on during the event, where the goal is to interact with as many people and gather as many leads as possible. Finally, post-event marketing focuses on following up with all the leads generated at the show and moving them closer to a site visit. The more effort that is put into pre-event marketing, the more potential attendees will visit your destination’s trade show booth and the more successful your follow-up will be. Neglecting pre-show marketing immediately impacts how successful your trade show efforts will be. There are two different audiences to focus on during pre-show marketing. The first is your list of existing contacts – these are all people to alert with a pre-show marketing effort. You don’t need to identify who is attending and who isn’t. Just let them know you are going to be at the show and that they should consider attending. Your second audience is the event pre-show registration list. If you don’t receive this information from the show organizers, contact them about receiving or buying it. The registration list is an essential source of information for your pre-show marketing efforts.
Here are some of the most practical ways for you to promote your DMO’s trade show presence this year:
1. Create a landing page
Digital marketing is one of the best ways to maximize the impact of a limited trade show budget. Consider setting up a centralized online location where attendees can view all the information about your show presence in one place - including booth location, any sponsorships or functions your destination is hosting and if someone from your DMO will be speaking at breakout sessions. You can structure your destination’s landing page like an invitation and tie in your theme. Link the conference website to your landing page. You could also provide page visitors with the opportunity to sign up for an appointment at your booth directly through the landing page. Read more on landing page essentials here.
With over 181 million daily active users in the US in March 2017, Facebook is the first spot you should be promoting your trade show participation. You can start with a Facebook event, which can be created from your destination’s business page. Events posted through a business page have extra insights and perks, including the ability to boost or advertise the post, an option for users to be “interested” in the event, (which then shares it with their audience = even more exposure), and insights into the reach and demographic of your event. Most likely the event you are attending will have a Facebook page, and you can tag it in your description for even more exposure. You can share updates leading up to the event through the “wall” of your event page, but keep in mind that half of Facebook users are “mobile-only”, so keep any updates mobile-friendly and stay away from sharing large files or PDFs that may be difficult to open or view on a mobile device. Consider pinning important event information to the top of your event wall so that users can quickly find the event details they are looking for.
This micro-text social media platform is a great way to connect visitors to the event before the doors open. Most shows have an official or unofficial hashtag, or keyword, that connects anyone communicating about the event. By following the hashtag on Twitter, you will discover a brand new audience to follow and possibly start a dialogue with. Share your own updates as well, including the hashtag in your message so it will be shared with the niche audience. Twitter is ideal for personally inviting participants to visit your booth the day of the event, which may set you apart from the masses, and lead to increased foot traffic from Twitter users who may seek you out when they arrive.
Known mostly in professional circles, LinkedIn is an often-overlooked tool for promoting your event. With LinkedIn, you can leverage your professional connections and your DMO’s business page to get the message out about your trade show presence. First, share a status update to spread the news with LinkedIn users who are part of your DMO’s business page group. You can also pin this update to the top of your business page, encourage others to like and comment, and even pay to sponsor or advertise to target followers. Individuals within your DMO can also share individual status updates about their role in the trade show and target specific first-level connections with a direct message that will be delivered to the individual’s email account and LinkedIn inbox.
5. Email campaigns
There’s a good reason email marketing has been around for more than a quarter-century: it works. Although there’s a fine line between informing enough and informing too much, a solid email marketing plan can do wonders for your destination’s pre-event promotions. There are a few keys to success when it comes to email marketing. Your e-blasts should provide added value or a value proposition, which is a short statement that explains why he or she should visit your booth. Your list should be highly targeted; email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact give users both the option to target segments of an email list according to conversations or past email engagement, so you reach the most important people on your list. If you are able to purchase the attendee list from the show organizer, you can email them to make your presence known. Finally, email marketing should give all the details of the event, such as booth location and time, and a link to your destination’s landing page for the show. Send out a few emails with similar information no more than a month before the event and at least once a week until the event. This will help your destination stay top-of-mind for the event attendees.
6. Enlist your sales team
Your destination experts interact with groups and potential businesses on a regular basis, so why not take advantage of those interactions? Get your team on board with event messaging and encourage them to mention your trade show presence during calls with clients and prospects, and to include a footer in their emails with a link to your landing page and a “heads up” that your destination will be at the show. Using these six budget-friendly strategies will help increase awareness for your destination (even if with recipients who do not attend the show), help drives a more impactful trade show presence and maximize your destination’s trade show investment.