5 Pre-Show Marketing Tips to Stand Out from the Crowd

Are you looking to get an edge for your upcoming show by advertising your presence beforehand? You’re not alone. In fact, according to EXHIBITOR’s 2017 Pre-Show Marketing Survey (The full report of which can be viewed HERE), 85% of participants used pre-show marketing tactics.

So how do you carve out an advantage in such a crowded field?

If your brand has enough recognition, you could employ contrarian techniques, like those utilized by Siemens Healthcare, in which their pre-show marketing centered around NOT divulging product details or blasting their newest innovation out to attendees, but rather around a secret “reveal” that attendees could come by and watch. However, if your brand isn’t part of an $88 billion corporation, or you don’t have a groundbreaking product to reveal, you should follow these tips to ensure your pre-show marketing efforts are a successful endeavor.

A little Money goes a long way

Many of the most popular pre-show tactics include some form of free promotion or engagement, such as email campaigns, or social media promotion. While these free strategies’ value and effectiveness is not to be overlooked, this makes way for an environment in which 33% of companies allocate less than 1% of their exhibit marketing budget to pre-show marketing. Additionally, only 20% of companies spent over 5% of their budget on pre-show marketing. Combine this with the growing consensus that pre-show marketing will increase in importance in companies’ future trade show strategies, and there is room to gain an advantage.

Spending even 5% of your budget on pre-show marketing puts you in the upper quartile of all companies, and allows you to better get the word out to drive traffic to your booth. Still, spending more money for the sake of spending more money doesn’t translate into more successful lead generation, so make sure you take the time to ensure that both your paid and unpaid pre-show campaigns are relevant, memorable, and reflect positively on your brand.

Make it Personal

How many times have you received an email that says “Dear valued customer” or “To whom it may concern” and clicked away immediately? If your leads feel as though they aren’t receiving your individual attention in an email campaign, they may come to believe your brand will not offer them the attention they need as a client. This may be as simple as including their name in the email greeting, or offering them the chance to set up a meeting time at your booth for individual attention. For more high-priority leads it might mean a personal phone call, meeting invitation, or sending a mailer package with some prize or reward to stop by your booth.

Some forms of marketing are more suited for personalization than others, as your Facebook ad would likely be too costly to advertise to each individual lead attending the conference. But you can still make sure that there is a landing page giving them the opportunity to get information, or schedule a meeting time, and then be thanked with a personalized email or call.  This isn’t just to ensure your leads feel appreciated either. 44% of companies that personalized their pre-show content saw higher returns than their non-personalized campaigns. That’s a high ROI that takes little effort to generate.

Track your effectiveness

The only way to know if your tactics are working with your target audience is if you are able to analyze and compare the results. Surprisingly, only 40% of companies using pre-show marketing strategies tracked any metrics or response rates for those tactics. If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve with pre-show marketing, or if you are achieving it, how can you improve in the future? The simple process of setting goals, such as increased booth traffic, or heightened ROI, and then analyzing how your campaign influenced the achievement of those goals (with measures like pre-scheduled meetings, or response rates) can set your brand up for success, and give meaningful insight on how to improve for future events.

Early and Often

In order to generate buzz about your booth and make sure that people have enough time to research your company and organically come to the decision that they’d like to stop by your booth, pre-schedule a meeting, or buy your products/services, you need to get the word out early enough.

According to Pre-Show marketing survey results, 50% of all firms began pre-show marketing at least 3-4 weeks before the show if not longer.

This does not however, mean you should do one email campaign a month before and never re-contact leads. You should consistently be in contact, through email, social media, paid advertisements, and other marketing tools, while making sure to offer helpful information and not be invasive. Ensuring the leads genuinely are interested in stopping by your booth, and don’t feel like they’re being pressured to buy anything is equally important as remaining relevant in their minds.

Don’t Be afraid to be creative

In a trade show crowded by booths handing out pens, sunglasses, keychains, and other items unlikely to make an impression, or even make it home with most attendees, don’t be afraid to be different. Coupling effective pre-show marketing with a unique and enticing branded item can help drive traffic to your booth and make your name stand out in your leads’ memories of the event. A good example of this is from 2014 VMworld conference where Micron Technology mailed punch cards, asking attendees to stop by each of their 3 demo kiosks in order to receive a bacon-scented t-shirt. Setting themselves apart with a unique and memorable item that people would actually bring home with them, as well as having an effective pre-show promotion of this helped them stand out in a crowded field of competitors. See more about Micron’s example HERE.

In the arena of trade shows with companies competing for the attention of attendees, it is no longer enough to have an interesting and informative booth. You must make sure they are aware of your presence long before they hit the convention floor. An effective and targeted pre-show marketing strategy can help set your company apart from the pack, and ensure you stand out in your target audience’s minds long after they’ve left the sea of booths and kiosks. Ensuring you don’t overlook pre-show marketing can help originate and solidify new relationships that are potentially prosperous and beneficial for years to come.