Why taking a 360 approach to your exhibition marketing will deliver results

We know that three-quarters of visitors to an exhibition arrive with a fixed agenda; they know who they want to see and why. We also know that visitors want to be engaged, educated and inspired. Anyone who makes the effort to go to the show is telling you they are looking for something; a challenge to solve, a deadline to meet, a new supplier to find. And, many of these active buyers will be the same people that you market to throughout the year.

Exhibitions provide the platform to change mindsets – about the perception of a brand, a product or service, or about what’s available, how to do something or what’s new that they had no clue about previously.  So, get your exhibition marketing machine moving!

Is your exhibition part of your bigger marketing picture? Does it pro-actively add to the sales pipeline? Or is it a one-off event that just happens, you rock up on the day and use your charm and charisma to get through it?

Your exhibition marketing needs to be an integral part of your overall marketing, that is evolving and moving forward. Embracing a 360 approach means not only will your clients and key prospects visit you, but you’ll also benefit from meeting people and businesses that your company has never met or dealt with before. So, how do you achieve this?

With a well-thought through and solid 360 marketing plan that consists of and extends through the Pre-show, At-show, Post-show and Review/Reset stages:

  • Set a series of SMART objectives, eg, number of leads and number of customers met.
  • Identify your target audience (who do you want to talk to).
  • Add your key sales and marketing messages (why are you different, what makes you better, why should they talk to you).
  • Decide how to communicate these messages before the event, on the stand, around the whole event and after the show (marketing materials, stand design, engagement activities and follow up communications)
  • Put in place measurement and tracking of leads and customer relationships

And, now you have the basis of a marketing programme…

It’s hard to get in front of people. An exhibition is an ideal opportunity to make those face to face conversations happen – especially if your contact is intending to visit anyhow! Ideally, your marketing needs to start when last year’s show closed the doors. If you’re new to the show it should start when you booked your stand space.

Everything you do for marketing your show presence needs to include compelling reasons why the visitor should come and talk to you. Think about how each activity helps deliver your objectives whether SMART or softer. With that in mind, consider the following:

Contact your CRM database – segmented into customers, lapsed clients and prospects. Who do you want to see? Don’t assume that just because the organiser may have invited your customers and prospects to the show, that they will come to see you. It’s the exhibitors’ responsibility to get these attendees onto their stand. Send them personal invitations to come and meet with you. Tie it into an appointment making system if you can.

Email campaigns – at least 3 emails as part of a campaign that is consistent in styling, branding and messaging as well as with the overall look and feel of your stand. Perhaps tie it in with a promotion or a competition whereby the recipient brings something to the stand in exchange for something else.

Direct mail – print provides cut-through in a saturated email world. Postcard mailers are effective both in terms of cost and impact. Maybe use these for VIPs within your target audience?

LinkedIn – send personal invitations to your contacts. Can you make appointments with them? – tell them what you want to talk to them about. Do they know all they can about the products and services you can offer?

Social media – join in the conversation using the official event hashtags and you’ll likely get more social engagement with a dedicated audience. It’s not enough to simply say “We’re exhibiting!”. Tell them why you should be on their agenda. Use the social platforms to promote activities on your stand. Schedule your posts across the channels in management platforms such as HootSuite. Tie in your social activity with your email and direct marketing activities so you get a triple whammy as part of an integrated approach. Keep this going throughout the open time of the event and in the months afterwards.

Email signatures, websites, blogs – make use of the banners and logos provided by the organisers and use them on email signatures, website pages and email campaigns that are clickable direct to the registration page. Make sure your exhibitor profile on the event website is fully completed. Write a post-event review and post it on your blog page.

Sponsorship and advertising – Bags, inserts, wayfinders, lanyards, hospitality areas – There’s usually something to suit most budgets. What would you choose to help send visitors to your stand, promote your brand around the event, gain wider exposure for longer, online?

Promotional items – so many things to choose so, make sure it carries your brand, a contact method and is somehow useful to the recipient.

Literature – 90% of literature goes in the bin! Consider producing a low-cost leaflet for visitors and follow up with an e-brochure or take a brochure to the post-show meeting!

Keep the conversation going – you now have a ready-made database with which to follow up and market to over the coming months. Know in advance how you will manage these, with what and when. Integrate your show results into your overall marketing.

So, don’t leave your exhibition marketing as an after-thought. Integrate it into your overall marketing strategy, create an evolving plan that extends over a full 12 months, and max-out on telling the world you’re there and why you’re worth visiting – if you don’t, how will they know?


This post was first published by CHS Group (https://www.chsgroupuk.com) in support of their exhibitors at the Conference & Hospitality Show in Leeds, 24th April 2018

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