Simple Trade Show Promotions to Boost Your ROI

Trade Show Promotions

I just read a report that, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), trade show activity was up 3.8% in the 4th quarter of last year when compared with Q4 of 2010.  In fact, growth was seen in all four areas of CEIR’s Index: net square feet (+4.2%), number of exhibiting companies (+2.4%), attendance (+3.6%), and revenue (+5.1%).  Overall, the CEIR Index was up 2.7% for the whole of 2011.

I guess these numbers aren’t surprising.  I don’t get out to a lot of shows, but those I’ve attended recently have been bustling with activity.  Quite a difference from a few years back when aisles were empty and exhibitors were slashing their schedules.  The fact that trade shows are back was also seen in BtoB Magazine’s Marketing Outlook study with 41% of the respondents indicating they will make significant increases to their events budget.  This is likely being fueled by the fact that 75% indicated that customer acquisition is their top goal for 2012. Brand awareness placed a distant second at just 15%.

With all this show activity planned, I though I’d assemble a list of trade show promotions and activities that can help you increase your event presence, generate more lead activity and boost your ROI.

Pre-show Activities

It all starts here.  Before you do anything else, establish your show objectives. Afterall, if you can’t define why you’re exhibiting at a show, how will you evaluate the return you got on the investment you made?

Determine what you want to promote at the show and develop solid messaging around each element.  Don’t settle for platitudes.  Focus on what will make you unique and relevant in the eyes of your customers and then communicate these themes consistently across all your trade show promotions.

Consider giving a technical presentation at the show conference.  This is a great way to position your organization as a thought leader.  Applications for presentations need to be submitted early, so don’t delay.

Develop a quick show guide for your team to communicate your objectives and provide key talking points that support your messaging.

Evaluate how well your exhibit conveys your messaging and engages attendees.  Are your graphics appropriate or do they need to be updated or expanded?  Would the use of video or product demonstrations enhance the booth experience and make it more interactive?  How about simply including QR Codes in your graphics as a means of engaging the attendee who might otherwise be a passer-by? 

Show Promotion

Whether you have a formal promo budget for the show or not, there have never been more ways to promote your participation at a show so you should take advantage of as many of the as possible.

Start by checking with the show management to see what free and paid opportunities they offer.  At a minimum, make sure you are taking full advantage of show guide listings and free product promotions.  If you have the budget, evaluate paid promotions and how they might support your show objectives.

Be sure to promote your upcoming shows on your website, on your blog, in company newsletters and via direct mail or e-mail.  Once again, provide a compelling reason for people to stop by your booth.

Social media is a great tool for promoting show activities before, during and after the event.  Tap into the show’s official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn pages in the days and weeks leading up to the event.  Post “live” video updates from the show floor and invite attendees to you booth events and contests.  Be creative and experiment with new ways to engage your audience.

After the Show

All too often, we see marketers letting the leads they generate at their trade shows go cold because they don’t follow-up in a timely manner.  Ideally, you should have a lead nurturing program in place that will provide the lead with a stream of timely, relevant content.  If you don’t, a simple post-show e-mail campaign and follow-up call is still better than nothing. 

And finally, don’t forget to evaluate the show against your pre-show objectives.  Did the show meet your expectations in terms of attendance, audience profile, booth traffic and leads generated?  How qualified were the leads and what percentage represent real sales potential?  How did this show compare to others on your calendar, and how does it compare other your other promotional activities?

With a little planning and follow-up, these activities can improve your company’s show presence, engage your target customers more deeply and improve your overall ROI for the event.


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