Trade shows are great venues for connecting with customers and prospects. They also can represent a significant marketing investment for your company. To optimize that investment, it’s important to approach your presence strategically.
Following are recommendations to help you get the most from trade shows:
Select shows that are best for business
With the seemingly endless number of trade shows throughout all industries including health IT, it is important to determine which work best for your specific needs. Evaluate those shows that can place you in front of your most valued customers and targeted prospects. Considerations should include:
- What do you receive from your initial trade show investment – booth placement in a heavily-trafficked, highly visible area? Speaking opportunities? Brand placement in high-value show communications vehicles?
- How much media coverage does the show usually receive? Do reporters from target media outlets attend or cover the event?
- Does the show attract big-name speakers?
- In addition to your target audience, who are the other attendees? What titles do they hold? Total number of attendees expected? What companies are exhibiting?
Promote your presence before the show begins
The best way to maximize your company’s visibility during a show is to create excitement for your presence beforehand. Some ways to do this:
- Reach out to customers and prospects via personalized emails and extend an invitation to your booth. Ideally, try scheduling private meetings, dinner or cocktails with your most valued contacts. You’ll want to work closely with sales to identify your mailing list and coordinate the scheduling of meetings.
- Create a landing page or microsite on your website dedicated to your presence at the show. Include information such as booth number, a schedule of booth activities, white papers or other content that support the key messages highlighted at your booth, special on-site promotions and/or contest drawings, etc.
- Schedule briefings with relevant company subject matter experts (SMEs) and media in attendance. Try securing a list of attending media from conference organizers. Otherwise, reach out to those reporters you normally work with to confirm their attendance.
- Issue a press release promoting your presence at the conference, including speakers at your booth, company reps participating in presentations and panel discussions, booth activities, promotional giveaways, etc. Also, tease any news from your company that will be breaking during the show.
- Build buzz via regularly scheduled social media posts.
- Reach out to industry analysts attending the show to determine their interest in on-site briefings with senior company leaders.
Stand out from the pack
At trade shows that host hundreds of exhibitors, you’ll want to stand out from all others – particularly, the competition.
- Invest in high-impact displays that boldly communicate who you are and your theme/messages. Add elements that further enhance your booth such as iPad kiosks, video displays and interactive touch screens.
- Schedule demos or presentations at your booth with prominent experts in the field, including company SMEs. Also, hold contests or raffles/drawings that require entry at the booth and communicate winners must be present at the booth to claim their prize.
- Establish a uniform of some kind (e.g. khakis with a branded team polo shirt) that clearly identifies staff working at your booth. Also, limit the number of employees in attendance so as not to inundate the booth and intimidate prospects.
Optimize media exposure/coverage
Trade shows can provide a unique venue and captive audience for announcing company news.
- Identify opportunities to secure coverage in the Trade Show Daily.
- Schedule interviews/briefings with key company execs/SMEs and media in attendance. Unfortunately, budget cuts have necessitated that some reporters not attend, but they still may be covering news from the show. In these cases, try scheduling interviews with these publications either prior to the show (and embargo important news), or phone interviews either at or post-show.
- Monitor the show’s hashtag and relevant keywords and tweet and post information regularly to social media. In addition, create a proprietary hashtag that aligns with the shows and tweet often throughout. Also, monitor Twitter regularly and join conversations as appropriate.
- Promote any show-related media coverage you receive via social media and on your webpage.
Evaluating ROI can help determine what worked and what didn’t; whether to increase/decrease your investment next year, and whether to continue maintaining a presence at the show or seek out others that may work better in attaining your goals. Your evaluation should include:
- Number of sales/leads generated
- Media coverage (pre-, during and post-show)
- Social media impact – increases in followers, engagement (comments), likes, etc.
- Increases in website traffic
By approaching your trade show presence strategically, you can optimize your investment, brand impact and achieve a healthy ROI.
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