Unlike the famous Woody Allen quote, you cannot get 80% of success at trade shows by just showing up. Trade shows and conferences bustle with eye-catching distractions and highly-caffeinated attendees. They are hyper competitive arenas for attention. Marketers need more than the cookie-cutter booths and ubiquitous keychain giveaways to get - and keep - the attention of attendees and press at events today.
Creativity and planning are key, but marketers don’t need a big budget to deliver ROI. Try these 5 proven tactics at your next trade show or conference. You will win more leads and brand advocates.
1) Host a side event
Pick a restaurant nearby the venue and invite customers, partners and social media followers to a semi-private networking event. Use a custom hashtag and a social event ticketing platform like Meetup so attendees can check out the guest-list and connect beforehand. Then invite prospects and press so they can talk to current customers. Marc Benioff has said this was Salesforce’s most effective tactic for acquiring new customers.
If you’re already spending big on exhibiting at an event, invest a little bit extra to put a creative spin on your presence and giveaways. For example, InVision brings along an artisanal pour-over coffee station and potted orchids, along with the standard booth backdrop and tablecloth. The net effect is that attendees lingered for conversation, whereas another booth with a cafeteria-style coffee dispenser sat ignored. Thoughtful extras like these don’t cost much, but make a world of difference.
3) Create a memorable hashtag
Come up with a short, memorable hashtag for your brand and use it frequently alongside the main event hashtag to share news, photos, and contests. Home Depot runs a contest for best college football tailgate photos with the hashtag #HDGameDay that has over 10,000 mentions. For b2b, think integration, like printing your hashtag on stickers and t-shirts, for extra discoverability.
4) Run a targeted ad campaign
Ahead of the event, target Facebook event RSVPs and event page fans, LinkedIn event group members and Twitter event hashtags, which you can do with any size budget. Offer content related to the event and ask for emails in exchange. Co-brand with the event if possible, using the event logos prominently in creative, and create a dedicated landing page. When GETONIC, an ecommerce startup, tried this strategy, they reached thousands of event attendees.
5) Up-cycle Your Content
When the event wraps up, your content marketing just gets going. Collect all your photos, videos, and social media mentions for a wrap-up blog post and thank you email to send to attendees. Repackage the standout presentations from speakers or major discussion themes into blog posts and thought leadership for your team.
Marketers keep coming back to trade shows and conferences year after year, despite the noise and clutter, because they know they'll find a large groups of target customers. All it takes is a little planning and creative ingenuity and you too can stand out from the crowd.