Industry events are excellent for bringing an engaged audience together. And when you’re well prepared for these events, you can make a big impact on potential customers.
That’s why trade show marketing is one of the best lead generation strategies you can adopt.
What Is a Trade Show?
A trade show is an event that centers around an industry or a specific product or service. They’re great for brands looking to display their products or services and promote them in a personal way to interested potential buyers.
These are not the same as conferences. On the one hand, conferences are open to the public, and trade shows are typically open to specific audiences.
Who Attends Trade Shows?
Attendees at trade shows are typically representatives from companies within a specific industry, qualified buyers, and salespeople who work within the industry.
Some of the most popular trade shows include:
- CES: Consumer Electronics Show
- Comic Con International
- South By Southwest (aka SXSW)
Depending on your industry, trade shows can pave the road for big wins for your marketing team.
The Trade Show Experience
From a marketing perspective, the trade show experience can vary depending on the event. Generally speaking, companies are able to set up exhibits in a booth, host presentations, conduct workshops, network with competitors and potential partners, and engage with media outlets.
As an exhibitor, you’re hoping to connect with eager leads who can become customers as well as build relationships with influencers in your space.
Attendees are coming to a trade show in hopes of learning about your products and services and gaining a better understanding of the industry as a whole. If your industry hosts a big trade show, setting up a booth is a no brainer for many reasons.
The Benefits of Trade Shows for Your Business
When it comes to trade show marketing, your marketing team can enjoy many advantages.
You Can Conduct Market Research.
These events are some of the best methods for gathering intelligence about the industry, specifically what your competitors are doing. This is why it’s important to build some time in the day of the event to walk around the event space.
By visiting competitors’ booths, you’re able to get a closer look at how their products or services stand out. You can identify how they compare to your products or services.
You Can Test New Products or Services.
Rolling out a new product or service offering? You can gather real time feedback by presenting it to your booth visitors. You can hear straight from the horse’s mouth.
Potential customers will explore your new offerings and voice their concerns and share what they’re excited about too. This instant feedback is crucial because it can shape how you update your offerings and how you position your messaging for future campaigns centered around these new products or services.
You Gain Direct Access to Buyers.
Digital marketing consists of a lot of back and forth via the internet, obviously. Sure, you’ll have some phone calls and video chats, but nothing beats in-person interaction.
And with trade show marketing, you have direct, face to face access to interested parties. By engaging with them in person, you’re well equipped to establish a human connection that can lead to a meaningful relationship, which is the start of potentially closing new customers.
You Can Shorten the Sales Cycle.
Depending on your industry, you might be subjected to an extended buying cycle. This is especially true for B2B buyers.
But at trade shows, you’re in a position where you can impress leads instantly. Plus, you can run specials, like discounts or exclusive freebies, to encourage immediate purchase decisions.
You’re Driving Brand Awareness.
Nothing beats making a big splash at an industry event. And with the right trade show marketing strategy, you can get your target audience excited about visiting you in your booth.
This is why booth design and pre-show planning is so important. You can leverage your contact database to directly invite your current leads to visit you, and you can also capture the attention of passersbys with eye-catching branded visuals.
With the right plan in place, you will wow people on the day of the event and stick in their mind for months after.
16 Trade Show Marketing Ideas Worth Trying
Trade show marketing is a subtopic associated with event marketing. It refers to the process of showcasing your company and your offerings at a trade show.
This marketing channel is especially beneficial because you’re interacting with people who actively registered to attend. In other words, they’re already engaged in their personal buyer journey seeking out brands and solutions.
To make the most of a trade show, you need a comprehensive trade show marketing strategy. Here are some tips and ideas for preparing for the show, hosting visitors at your booth, and following up with new leads and customers after the event.
Before the Trade Show
- Conduct research on upcoming trade shows and prioritize which ones are the best to properly showcase your brand.
- Set a budget to cover the costs of exhibiting, traveling, lodging, setting up, and transporting the right materials to make the most of this investment of time.
- Establish clear goals for the trade show, then get your team pumped up by encouraging them to reach out to their personal network with invites and updates on what you’ll be offering at your booth.
- Promote your attendance to your existing leads through a company newsletter, including details on where you will be at the event, who on your team will be there, and what you will have to offer.
- Consider co-marketing with another company in your industry to offset some costs while raising brand awareness with their existing audience.
- Develop a high value content offer with a unique, trade-show-specific landing page that encourages leads to visit you (e.g., an ebook that centers on the theme of your booth).
During the Trade Show
- Host giveaways and contests with high value incentives, and hand out freebies, including branded swag like shirts, hats, and mugs, because who doesn’t love free stuff?
- Incentivize social media shares, like giving away prizes for every visitor who posts a photo or shares details about your booth.
- Provide a space for games and other interactive activities, which can be especially impactful if these interactive elements are tied to your products or services.
- Use live video streaming on your company’s social media profiles while you’re hosting your demos or workshops.
- Make it easy for booth visitors to subscribe to your company’s newsletter so you can convert them as leads to follow up with after the show.
After the Trade Show
- Host an internal marketing and sales meeting to score leads acquired from the show, then segment them to prioritize outreach and tailor messaging.
- Enroll leads in a drip campaign that speaks to their unique pain points and areas of interest.
- Thank booth visitors publicly on your social media platforms to express appreciation and recognize them for spending their limited time with you.
- Create content about your trade show experience, like a blog post that recaps all the cool things you learned about your industry.
- Conduct another debriefing following your sales team’s outreach to review all the metrics and determine the true ROI of your trade show marketing strategy.
Trade Show Marketing Examples
No matter the industry, marketers get creative with their trade show displays. Here are some of the best trade show marketing examples.
Lexus – Ride the SLIDE
The LA Auto Show is a big event for automobile companies, and Lexus made a big impact by showcasing their hoverboard, which is called SLIDE. To promote their new product, they created an immersive experience.
Visitors were able to give SLIDE a test drive through a 3D video game modeled after a Barcelona skateboard.
Then, they were encouraging to share their recording hoverboard ride and share it on social media. This is a great way to stoke FOMO with audiences in a fun, interactive way.
Alienware – #Alphatour
To stand out at ComicCon, the computer hardware company Alienware installed an Instagram photo wall in their booth.
Visitors walked by a wall and found an opportunities to take photos on the social media juggernaut, using a branded hashtag. They did a great job of incentivizing social media engagement.
SplashTacular – Water Slide Booth
As a leading name in water slide manufacturing, SplashTacular made a splash (sorry for the terrible pun) at the World Waterpark Association (WWA) Symposium & Trade Show. They created a booth to mimic the experience of going through a water slide, which really grabbed the attention of attendees.
LED projectors simulated the reflections of water on cylindrical structures, which created the illusion of going through a water slide. Overall, this is a great way to build brand awareness and make a memorable impression on attendees.
Is Trade Show Marketing Right for You?
Conduct research in your industry to see if trade show marketing makes sense for your company. If you have an event where highly qualified leads are getting together, jump at that opportunity!