Whether you have years of trade show experience under your belt or you’re exhibiting for the first time, one thing that is clear is the demand for a positive return on investment (ROI). But generating that return on top of the investment of time, hard work, and dollars that go into exhibiting requires a well-thought-out plan (one that would ideally be prepared prior to the show).
The most critical part of the trade show second to the direct conversations had by your sales team, is the follow-up communication after you’ve taken down your booth. Once you’ve received that full list of attendees and exhibitors, how do you capture their attention? Here are a few trade show strategy tips that we’ve learned over the years.
1. Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams
Getting your Sales and Marketing teams working together is one of the most beneficial trade show strategies you can use. This means more than Marketing providing Sales with print collateral. A well-oiled Sales and Marketing team knows what every person’s role and responsibilities will be and holds each of them accountable. Although organizations can be structured differently, it’s primarily the responsibility of Sales to anticipate any collateral they may need from marketing (emails, videos, print materials, whitepapers, case studies, etc.). On the other hand, it is Marketing’s role to attract visitors to your booth and to assist in post-trade show lead nurturing. Working together and understanding the next flow of events will streamline your trade show follow-up process.
2. Segment Your Contacts
Once you’ve received the trade show list of attendees and exhibitors, you might feel the need to put every contact into your CRM. The more people you can reach, the better – right? Quite the opposite! A segmented list will help with future conversations, lead nurturing, and personalization. You will need to spend the time removing contacts that are unqualified or that wouldn’t connect you with decision-makers. To go a step further, you can categorize your remaining contacts by industry, location, business size, or even sale probability.
3. Trade Show Follow-Up Conversations
Following the trade show, you’ll likely have a stack of business cards you received from the direct conversations at your booth.
*Pro Tip: Keep a running spreadsheet during the show to jot down notes from conversations while they are still fresh in your mind.
Your next steps should be reaching out via email and/or LinkedIn, keeping in mind if they mentioned their upcoming schedule (e.g. they will be out for the next few weeks at trade shows). Either channel of communication should come directly from the sales rep that spoke with them. Personalize your message by using your email and not “sales@” or “info@”, and mention specifics from your conversation at the show. It may also be beneficial to provide resources for pain points they mentioned with content like online catalogs, case studies, a blog, etc.
4. Generate Something of Value
As another example of something to use in your follow-up conversations, your trade show marketing strategy should include the creation of a new and valuable content piece, offer, or event specifically for your new list of contacts. Intrigue your contacts by promoting it as exclusive – something that only trade show attendees or exhibitors have access to.
5. Nurture vs. Nature
It’s a natural instinct to reach out to your trade show leads and request to set up a meeting. But your first several communications should not focus on your business and all the wonderful things that you do.
Gary Vaynerchuk explains it best in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. Although it’s geared towards social media, the same principle applies: “When managers and marketers outline their strategies, they plan for the “right hook”—their next sale or campaign that’s going to knock out the competition. Even companies committed to jabbing […] want to land the punch that will take down their opponent or their customer’s resistance in one blow. Right hooks convert sales and easily show results. Except when they don’t.”
Have you ever test-driven a car at a dealership and by the time you get home they’re texting you, asking for your business? Annoying, right?! Instead of going with your natural instincts, your focus first needs to be nurturing those trade show leads, gaining their trust, and proving yourself as an industry leader.
6. Target With LinkedIn Ads
LinkedIn advertising gives marketers the ability to use their trade show list to target ads based on the email addresses or company. This is an ideal pay-per-click (PPC) method that pinpoints your exact target audience on LinkedIn. Using Matched Audience, you simply upload your list of trade show contacts (min. of 300) into LinkedIn to begin targeting.
*Pro Tip: You can also use contacts as exclusions in your targeting, such as accounts that have signed or that are no longer a lead.
7. Utilize Email Drip Campaigns
Let’s face it – many of your new contacts just won’t be ready to have sales conversations with you, and that’s okay. This is when you can utilize email drip campaigns to continue nurturing your trade show leads. The beauty of these drip campaigns is that they are automated, and send the next several marketing emails on your behalf. Simply put, drip campaigns are an easy way to stay in contact with your leads and remain top of mind.
Getting the Most From Your Trade Show Investment
Using any or all of the digital marketing techniques outlined here will help increase your returns on your trade show investment. Rather than settling for the initial one or two big sales from the show, you can begin the process of creating a relationship with each company.
Let’s talk trade show strategy. With so many different strategies to choose from, a reputable agency will be able to maximize your marketing budget no matter how many dollars you have leftover after exhibiting at the show.