Trade Show Marketing: How to Make the Most of Your Next Big Event

By Chelsie Woods
National and regional trade shows often provide a unique opportunity for companies to meet face to face with customers and to showcase their latest products and solutions. Just as companies invest time and money to select the right trade show booth location and design, so too is it important to recognize the value in investing in a communications plan to strategically deliver your message for the show.

With a communications plan in place, you can help drive traffic to your tradeshow booth, develop content to interact with current customers – both pre and post show – and formulate a strategy for media outreach and meetings.

Here are a few tips and tricks that can lay the groundwork so you can make the most out of your next big trade show event.

Tip 1: Plan Ahead
It’s important to remember that putting together a communications strategy takes time, and includes many smaller projects such as distributing a press release or social media posting. These items, and others, such as developing new content, should be initiated several months before the actual trade show takes place, not a few weeks. Put together a plan that includes all of the communications activities that are important to your business – blogs, press releases, byline articles, social media posts – and then map out a list of topics and deadlines associated with each activity. In general, plan development should begin no later than three months prior to the actual event, giving you two months to put your plan into action before the big event.

Tip 2: Create New Content
If your company is exhibiting at a tradeshow, you must have something new to show or say to customers. Maximize your reach by creating new content in support of this messaging. Your new content could be as simple as a 400-word blog posted on your website that educates your customers about a new technology trend in the market and then directs customers to learn more about how your specific technology corresponds to that trend. Or, it could be a larger article placed with an online publication just prior to the tradeshow, which then enables you to direct customers to the article to learn more about your business. Content can be repurposed in many different ways and will provide long-term value and opportunities.

Tip 3: Interact with Your Customers
Engaging with your customers is Sales 101, but how frequently does your marketing department support customer interaction prior to a trade show? Create a plan that includes regular contact with your customers through a digital marketing program. This can be as simple and cost effective as developing a newsletter to send out to a customer prior to the trade show containing fresh information such as your latest blog, an update on your new product that you will showcase in your booth, and a highlight about your business in the news. Regular interaction with the right content will help drive customers to your booth and website and position your business as an informative resource.

Tip 4: Meet with the Media
Trade shows provide a great opportunity to directly meet with writers and editors face to face, which in today’s digital world is extremely valuable. Before heading off to a trade show reach out to the media to find out who will be in attendance and to schedule personal meetings. Keep in mind that most editors have limited availability so it is important to deliver the type of information and subject matter experts that are important to readers. Most importantly, be considerate of their time. A successful meeting with the media can open the door to future editorial opportunities.

Tip 5: Leverage Resources and Opportunities Provided by the Trade Show
Many trade shows offer exhibitors free resources to support their marketing plans for the event. This can be as simple as making available a list of media who have pre-registered to attend the event to offering a press room with A/V support for a press briefing or to meet with the media. Some will also include your news as part of a media briefing package provided to the press.

By planning ahead, you can create a communications plan that helps to improve your interaction with customers and the media, all the while driving traffic to your booth and web site.

— Chelsie Woods is one of two founding owners of Eclipse Media Group. She has nearly two decades of public relations and writing experience in the technology and security industries and worked as a reporter for three newspapers in Maine.