Thought Leadership Monday Mashup: Inbound Marketing at Trade Shows

monday-mashup-inbound-marketing-at-trade-shows_1000x576.jpgThere's a lot of hype around trade shows, and for good reason. Trade shows—also known as trade fairs, exhibitions, and expos—are typically hosted in massive convention centers so that every company involved can have the space to showcase their new product and/or service lineup. Here, the business can create new sales leads to interested customers, as well as B2B market to other businesses working in the same industry.

Today's trade shows transcend the folding chairs, cheap popcorn and overly slick elevator pitches of yesteryear's exhibitions. These days you can expect to find engaging multimedia presentations, optimized mobile CTAs, fun contests, promotional giveaways, and roped-off areas where deals can get done. All of this, alas, doesn't appear by magic: For trade shows to come off, it takes months of online (and in-person) promotions and giveaways to create a crescendoing of excitement all working towards the big day. 

Inbound Marketing Your Trade Shows

As you may have guessed by now, trade shows need an inbound marketing approach—with all the preparation, build-up and strategy that it entails—to work. Just like blogs, video marketing, whitepapers, infographics and other forms of content marketing—it all relates back to a business strategy and overall branding image. Everything you do in preparation for your trade shows should be a unifying set of marketing goals that has a reason behind it.  

Develop a Marketing Strategy and Trackable Metrics

Most companies wouldn't think of launching an email marketing campaign or diving into video marketing without having a clear set of goals. It's surprising, then, that so many companies go to trade shows without a definable strategy, let alone the metrics that would tell you whether you had met (or exceeded) your goals. If you're left scratching your head or fielding questions about the success of a recent trade show - "It went pretty well, I think" - then you need a clear strategy and marketing metrics to keep your trade show marketing on the rails.

Trackable Marketing Metrics

Right off the bat, we know that trade shows are an excellent way to significantly increase your widespread exposure and drive direct traffic to your website. Trade shows are also a way of shoring up more social media followers, regular subscribers to your blog, email marketing campaigns, and (perhaps most importantly) placing more enthusiastic sales qualified leads right into your pocket.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help you get a tighter handle on, for instance, trade show lead generation and ROI. The important thing to remember is that you need to prioritize the most important marketing metrics upfront—i.e., months before your trade show appearance—so that you can determine whether your goals are being met or whether you need a marketing reshuffle. 

Find Your Purpose Early 

Your B2B and B2C goals going into the trade show will inform not only the most relevant marketing metrics and the approach that you need to take—they might well determine the type of trade show that you need to attend to make it happen. An electronics company looking to get the word out and increase their sales leads might be better served going to a consumer electronics trade show than an expo geared more towards intra-industry connections and B2B marketing opportunities. This is why it's so important to crystallize a plan early, stick to it, and measure your results throughout.  

Develop a Unifying Call to Action and Share It 

By setting your marketing strategy and goals early on, you've got the ball rolling. Now, to ensure that people don't hear your message and fail to take action, you need a unifying call to action (CTA) to tie all of your trade show material together and put your audience in second gear. Your call to action should relate to the goals that you've already laid out and get customers working towards those objectives. 

Remember to Say Thanks 

Emblazoned on your booth, promotional giveaways, and handouts—you could encourage your audience to subscribe to your blog or follow you on social media if one of your business goals is creating a larger following. Offering a kind of quid pro quo for people who heed your call to action—e.g., offering a free demo for signing up for your newsletter—is an excellent way to say thanks and encourage more sharing from your follows as well. Creating a unique landing page tied to your CTA makes things even easier for your customers..

Offering a kind of quid pro quo for people who heed your call to action - e.g., offering a free demo for signing up for your newsletter - is an excellent way to say thanks and encourage more sharing from your follows as well. Creating a unique landing page tied to your CTA makes things even easier for your customers.

Cater to Mobile Customers

After you've tied in all of your trade show marketing materials to a particular landing page and call to action, try putting scannable QR coding into all of your marketing collateral so that customers with their smartphones at the ready can sign up then and there. Memorable, fun hashtags on your handouts and promo gear is another way to stay fresh in customers' minds and inspire action.

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