7 Tips for Pre-Trade Show Marketing Success

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

By Jennifer Bowman

Marketing strategy

The months leading up to a conference or trade show are undoubtedly hectic.

Plans are in their infancy stages and trade show day is far enough out that it doesn’t quite feel urgent yet. As we’ve touched on before, pre-trade show planning is crucial for maximizing your conference and trade show ROI. The goal-setting, strategy and execution of pre-trade show marketing is so important that it’s really considered a beast born of the same goal. In this sense, it deserves the same amount of attention as the day-of-event plans.

Focus your pre-trade show marketing efforts with these key tactics to inspire dedication and execution in your team to increase your potential for a stellar conference or trade show ROI.

1. Get Your Goals Straight

Action without direction is just chaos, so make sure your goals are clear to the entire team. The most unsuccessful pre-trade show marketing efforts will be rigidly focused broad goals that attempt to attract everyone typically end up attracting no one. So keep your target audience and execution laser focused.

General goal: To book a bunch of one-to-one meetings.

Specific goal: To book 40 meetings between ten sales team members with 32 new prospects and eight current clients for a total revenue opportunity of $475,000.

Goals represent the direction of success you are looking to achieve, so the more specific the better. In this example, you can use the specific goal to work backwards and identify the pre-trade show marketing tactics that will help you achieve it. Whatever your goals, make sure the systems pushing the black-and-white tasks forward are concrete, so you can allocate more brain power to big grey-area decisions when they arise along the way.

By developing systems your team will stay focused, which will be especially important as trade show day approaches. This will also give you opportunities to reflect on goals during the process and ask “are these efforts impacting that goal?” and if yes, keep going.

2. Secure Your Pre-Trade Show Advertising Budget

When planning for a conference or trade show, don’t forget to include a budget for getting the word out before the big day. Many folks are so caught up in how much they’re spending at the actual event itself, they overlook the huge opportunity for pre-trade show advertising until the last minute. If you have an overall budget for the trade show, we believe roughly a quarter of that budget should be allocated to pre-trade show advertising. A budget helps to keep focus, and purchase outside of the budget is merely a distraction. The goal here is to make money, not spend a bunch of it.

3. Understand Your Pre-Trade Show Advertising Tactics

Once you know your goals and have your budget for pre-trade show marketing efforts, decide which tactics will best help your team reach those goals. There are a ton of marketing tactics to use in pre-trade show advertising, which can be categorized as paid, earned, or owned media:

Paid: Any online paid marketing tools including social media ads, SEM (PPC), content discovery tools like Outbrain, and paid social

Earned: Word of mouth, SEO

Owned: Content marketing, email marketing, direct mail, organic social media, corporate website, and landing pages.

All of your tactics need to be consistent with each other, your brand, and your event presence. Make sure your team knows of any messaging experiments. Are you A/B testing for an updated slogan? Are you focused on getting demos for your new product? All of this feeds into your overall pre-trade show advertising strategy.

4. Call a Team Meeting

Meet with every single person who has their hands on your pre-trade show advertising. This includes designers, copywriters, digital advertising team, project managers,  social media managers, and last, but definitely not least, your sales team. Get them all in a room and lay out your plan. For an effective meeting, relay the agenda to the team beforehand. Assign a team member to take notes and another team member to keep the meeting on track. Make sure every individual has clear objectives and deadlines before they leave that room.

NOTE: Maybe the whole team doesn’t need to be there, but checking in daily ensures that the team understands this project is time-sensitive and deserving of impeccable execution.

5. Write it All Down

You’ve seen them: the seasoned trade show marketers with their binders full of every possible detail needed throughout the event. Nothing gets by them. That’s the kind of mentality you want to adopt for your pre-trade show advertising strategy. Write down everything, from your passing thoughts to the half-realized suggestions provided by the intern at the strategy meeting. With your team all on the same page, there’s a lot to derive from the hive mind—just make sure you have a place to document it all.

6. Stay on Track

Distraction is inevitable, other projects come up and claim urgency, but it’s crucial the team stays on track. This is where your organizational systems come into play:

  • Communicate the overall goal to your team members as often as possible.
  • Prioritize the pre-trade show efforts by scheduling this work at the beginning of each work day.
  • As the event gets closer, be sure to compartmentalize the pre-trade show efforts and day-of efforts. Don’t let your pre-trade show advertising fall behind because you’re suddenly busy prepping for the event itself (ideally, there should be two project leads who communicate daily. This will help to keep things separate but equal).
  • Remember that every minute you invest in pre-trade show advertising is probably a minute you won’t have to spend pulling irrelevant attendees off the trade show floor into your booth.

7. Measure Your Success

Whether it’s the day before an event or on your plane ride there, make sure you analyze the results of all your pre-trade show advertising efforts. This way you will have a firm grasp of what worked and what didn’t before you arrive. Know whether your campaign helped the team secure your goal number of meetings.

If the results didn’t hit the goals you set for yourself, acknowledge all improvements. Even subtle improvements contribute to compound success over the long term. Among the small improvements you will also find some flubs, do not discount them. Use these as key talking points during the strategy for next time. You won’t see the full fruition of your work until after the event, so while it is pertinent to review before the event, your team should do another post-show analysis.

Amplifying Your Pre-Trade Show Marketing = Success

We’re working on a study with DemandMetric highlighting the effect focusing on pre-trade show marketing has on the potential success. We truly believe that by focusing on inbound prospecting before conferences and trade shows, teams will find success (we and our clients sure have!).

Free Ebook: Drive More Revenue at Conferences and Trade Shows

Learn how to book more and better meetings with the right prospects, so you can close more sales at the show and maximize your event ROI.