A successful pre-show marketing strategy will mean you have a more successful exhibition. To achieve this you must identify your target audience and give them a reason to visit your booth.
The more people visiting your exhibition stand the more deals you will close… what are you waiting for?
If you’ve got an upcoming exhibition, this pre-show marketing calendar is essential. Download it for free today and work your way through these marketing tactics to increase your ROI!
This exhibiting guide tells you everything you need to know about pre-show marketing. From identifying your USP and reaching the right audience to choosing the right social media platform for your business. We’ll also guide you through offering incentives that will increase engagement and drive traffic to your exhibition stand.
Following the steps in this guide and making use of the free resource on offer is key to implementing a successful pre-show marketing strategy.
How to Win with your Pre-Exhibition Marketing Strategy
Exhibiting at a trade show is the best way to generate leads and close deals! You are in a room surrounded by your target audience. Yet still, time and time again, hundreds of exhibitors make this mistake.
It doesn’t matter how big your company is or how many times you have exhibited at a particular event. Failure to implement a proper pre-show marketing strategy will cost you valuable ROI.
As soon as you have booked your floor space and organised your exhibition stand you should be thinking about pre-show marketing. A strong marketing strategy will let your customers and prospects know that you are attending a particular event.
Maybe, they will arrange one-to-one meetings with your team. Perhaps your pre-show marketing will encourage others to attend. You might even reach an entirely new audience that is interested in your product. A strong pre-show marketing strategy can increase footfall and engagement on your exhibition stand.
Why should you utilise Pre-Trade Show Marketing
If you’ve had a look at our exhibition planning template, budgeting tool or last-minute checklist then you’ll have seen us mention pre-show marketing. It is important. If you’re going to put yourself through the trouble of exhibiting, do not avoid it.
Pre-show marketing is essential to attracting footfall, engagement and business inquiries. If you get it right you can reach a huge audience of potential customers. Remember, trade shows are a great place to arrange those one-to-one meetings with clients and prospects.
In this exhibiting guide we will cover:
- defining your trade show target audience
- identifying your USP and selling yourself
- choosing the right marketing channels for your pre-show marketing
- Increasing footfall and engagement on your exhibition stand
By the time you reach the end of the guide, you’ll be a pre-show marketing expert. Let’s jump into it.
Defining your Trade Show Target Audience
If you’re running a successful business then you probably have a good grasp on who your target audience is. This doesn’t mean you should ignore this step.
Defining and profiling your target audience will help you improve your messaging across the tactics we will cover in this guide. There are several things that you need to consider before you do this.
Are you building relationships or generating leads?
First things first, who are your target audience? Think about what you want to achieve at the exhibition. Do you want to generate leads or increase brand awareness? If yes, then targeting your current customer base is a waste of time.
That being said, many businesses choose to exhibit to take advantage of the low-cost meetings they can arrange and build relationships with their customers. If that sounds like you then letting your customers know what show you’re going to is the first step.
Use your exhibition objectives to identify whether you are targeting your customers or potential leads.
Now it is time to start building a profile. This is important as it can help you establish the right marketing strategy at the beginning, saving you time and money. Most people think of their target audience as a demographic. This can be age, gender, income, life stage, location and more. A profile builds on this concept.
Rather than targeting individuals based on a set of data, you aim to develop a character who would love your product. By doing this you can begin to understand how that person interacts with your brand. This helps you implement tactics that target the right people.
Here is an example of our target audience profile:
Claire is the marketing manager of a medium-sized eCommerce company which provides businesses with office supplies. She spends the majority of her day dealing with digital marketing and the website, but the owner of the company has asked her to showcase their product at B2B events. Claire has a lot on her plate but is keen to make this exhibition a success and show her boss how well she works under pressure. She wants to make trade show marketing part of the business’s overall strategy.
When she leaves the office it is family time and she wants to put the upcoming exhibition to the back of her mind, trusting that everything is being taken care of. She spends her weekends with family and friends but can still get caught up in articles about the latest sales techniques or digital marketing hack. Claire wants to excel in her career whilst maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
With this profile, we can get into the mind of Claire – our target audience. We know she doesn’t want to be bothered too much as she has a lot to keep on top of. We also know that Monday mornings aren’t the best time to reach her as she has stuff to catch up on after a family orientated weekend.
However, we do know that she likes reading relevant content and articles that can help her to excel in her career. Just like this one, hi Claire!
Creating a profile will help you choose the right marketing tactics as you develop a better understanding of your target audience. You’ll be able to use well-targeted, tactical messaging to encourage footfall and engagement on your exhibition stand. In other words, you’ll become much better at selling yourself.
Selling Yourself BEFORE your Exhibition
You’ve heard marketing guru’s bang on about USP too many times. I’m not going to bore you with it (but you do need to know what yours is).
Your unique selling point is why people choose you over your competitors. It should become the strapline of your marketing message.
It is the first thing that a potential customer should know about you, whether they are looking at your exhibition stand, website, social media post, or email. If you don’t know yours yet, here’s how to work it out.
Start with a list…
List the features and benefits that your product or service offers. Then do a Google search to identify which of these features is unique to your brand. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, go back to your customer profile. Put yourself in their shoes.
Look at the remaining features and ask yourself “what’s in it for me?”. From our customer profile, we know that Claire is busy and doesn’t have time to project manage her exhibition stand, so we include that service as part of the package.
Just like that, we’ve found a USP that means our product offering is more suitable for Claire than our competitors is. Now we just need to understand how to get this message across.
Brand messaging that resonates
Now you need to work on your messaging. To put it simply, you need to communicate your USP in such a way that resonates with your target audience and makes them want to visit your exhibition stand.
There are two important factors to consider when crafting your message. Firstly, it has to be clear and concise. Your message needs to tell anyone who reads it exactly who you are, what you do, and why they should use your product.
The second factor you need to take into consideration is consistency. You want to replicate the same message across all of your touchpoints as best as you can. Your touchpoints are the places where your target audience interact with you. Think face-to-face interactions on your exhibition stand as well as email correspondence and social media engagement.
By identifying your target audience, USP and creating clear and consistent messaging you are on your way to implementing a successful pre-show marketing strategy that will maximise your exhibition ROI. But why should they visit your stand and not your competitors?
Give them a reason
It’s great that you know who you’re targeting and have a clear USP, but why should they visit your stand? This is where you need to think about incentives. If you don’t encourage them to visit your exhibition stand, what is stopping them engaging with you through your website?
Decide whether or not you want to offer a discount. Discounts will motivate any delegate interested in your product to take a trip to your stand. Free trials can work similarly.
The other thing you can do is run a competition with a prize worth winning. If people see your pre-show marketing strategy that says “come and find us on stand D34 for your chance to win a brand new iPhone 11” they will likely come and engage with your booth.
Give people a reason to come to your stand, whether it be a discount, free trial or chance to win a great prize. Without a good incentive, your pre-show marketing efforts could be a flop.
What Platforms are Best for your Pre-Show Marketing?
A common mistake that exhibitors make when implementing a pre-show marketing strategy is utilising too many platforms. You don’t need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, local radio, national news, bus stops and the rest…
The only place that you need to be is wherever your target audience is.
If you take on too much, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll be off to a great start but quickly run out of steam when you realise you can’t maintain fifteen platforms alongside your other responsibilities. Or you’ll get through your entire pre-show marketing campaign but reap little reward as the content you have been putting out there is mediocre at best.
It’s great that you have decided to exhibit at a trade show. And it’s even better if you’re already thinking about pre-show marketing. You don’t need to be an expert to implement these tactics because you’ll learn as you go. However, don’t give yourself too much to learn.
Choose two or three platforms that you know your target audience use. Spend some time learning the best practice. Instead of trying to become a jack-of-all-trades, become a master of one (or a few) of these. You’ll achieve more this way.
First things first, once you’ve booked your floor space you should update your email signature. This means that everyone you contact over the coming weeks will know what exhibition you’re going to. Maybe they’ll even organise a meeting or book their tickets.
Social media might be the bane of your life, but you’re going to have to suck it up for the sake of your pre-show marketing. The platforms allow you to interact with a new audience as well as maintaining a relationship with your current customer base. It’s the most cost-effective way to increase engagement on your exhibition stand.
Use the free tools available, or utilise low-cost sponsored post options, to portray your branded messaging and incentivise your audience to visit your exhibition stand. We suggest one post a week for the six weeks leading up to your show. If you don’t have a large following or are targeting a new audience then you will probably be interested in sponsored posts.
A paid social media campaign (or sponsored post) allows you to target a niche audience that aren’t following or engaging with your posts. You set a daily budget which can be as low as 78p on Facebook and Instagram. Then you choose the audience you wish to target. You can filter by location, age, gender, job title, interests, conversational topics and more so don’t hold back! Think about your target profile and set up a successful pre-show marketing strategy on social media.
Social media platforms have target audiences of their own. There are written rules about what you can say and post and unwritten rules such as the best time of day to post and what hashtags to use. Don’t try and do it all at once. Choose one or two of these to get you started:
Share status updates, images, articles and video content with a predominantly female audience aged between 25 and 34.
Share images, videos and stories with an 18-24-year-old audience. 90% of Instagram users already follow a business account – could you be next?
Share images, videos, articles and updates (under 280 characters) to a predominantly male audience over 18 years old.
And just because we’re the best, here are some personalised custom tweets to promote your upcoming show:
So excited to announce that we will be exhibiting at @*YourShow* in *Month*! #*EventHashtag
Who’s excited for @*YourShow*!? Can’t wait to see you all at @*YourVenue* in *Month* #*EventHashtag
Less than one month to go until @*YourShow*! Are we going to see you there? Let us know #*EventHashtag
We can’t wait to reveal our brand new #ExhibitionStand by @Quadrant2Design at @*YourShow*! #*EventHashtag
Less than two weeks until @*YourShow*. Grab your tickets now! Trust us, we’ve got offers you won’t want to miss #*EventHashtag
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to at @*YourShow* in a few weeks, who else is coming? #*EventHashtag
Final day of prep before we see you all at @*YourShow*, have you got your ticket yet? #*EventHashtag
On our way to @*YourVenue* for @*YourShow* tomorrow… Come and see us on stand number [insert stand number] #*EventHashtag
Share post updates, including images, articles and video content, to a predominantly business-minded audience. LinkedIn is the leading social platform for B2B marketers, 97% utilise the platform for their content marketing efforts.
Share images and stories for 24 hours with a younger audience demographic of 13 to 29 years.
Share design ideas, images and articles with a predominantly female, 18-64-year-old audience. Pinterest has the highest percentage of high-income earners out of all the social channels.
These seven platforms are a good place to start, but you can see what I mean about finding the right platform for your audience. You are wasting time, effort and money by placing your brand message on irrelevant channels.
For example, our customer profile, Claire, is unlikely to use TikTok and Snapchat. However, she is likely to use LinkedIn and Pinterest. We focus most of our social media marketing efforts on those sites, making sure we keep a consistent message across both. Are you following Quadrant2Design on LinkedIn? You should be.
You must be wondering how you are supposed to keep up with this pre-show marketing whilst planning your exhibition and keeping on top of your responsibilities. Before we move on to the next marketing tactic, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Free Social Media Schedulers
This social media overview and the free pre-show marketing calendar at the top of this exhibiting guide is daunting, we know! We suggest sharing content about your upcoming exhibition at least once a week, maybe more depending on what platforms you make use of.
That doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours each day planning and updating your social media. Just use a free content scheduler as soon as you know your show date. Set aside a day to update your email signature and schedule your social media posts once you’ve booked your floor space.
Content marketing is the buzz word of 2020. The majority of businesses have implemented some sort of content strategy (and most of them won’t stop going on about it on LinkedIn).
Now you have something to say. Let you customers know which show you are going to be exhibiting at, give them sneak peeks of your exhibition stand design, let them know about your amazing incentive and make sure they know the venue and your stand number.
A company update like this is perfect for sharing on social media. Take it a step further by putting a call to action within the article to encourage even more engagement. And don’t forget to give them a reason to visit you at that show!
In 2018, email marketing was ranked as the most effective marketing channel. Despite being decades old, marketers preferred it over SEO, social media and affiliate marketing. And it’s one of my favourite tactics when it comes to pre-show marketing.
If you think about it, people (AKA your target audience) are sitting at their computers and monitoring their emails all day. They aren’t scrolling through Twitter. Or at least they shouldn’t be.
Conduct an email marketing campaign to let prospects know which show you are going to and your stand number. Tell them about that discount, free trial or chance to win an amazing prize. And then just sit back and let the leads fall on your lap…
Like social media, there are options if you don’t have a large database to email market to. You can buy databases online that provide you with access to hundreds of relevant contacts in your niche. Look into the company first to ensure they are GDPR-compliant and don’t be spammy with your emails!
Writing a press release is a quick way to get your business covered in local and industry-specific publications. You can do this in-house. The web is full of guides that will help you. And distributing the story is just as easy. Reach out to journalists and editors with your news piece. If they like it they will publish it.
If your exhibiting objective is to increase brand awareness or generate leads then a press release is a great pre-show marketing tactic. This is because it lets people outside of your network know about your product and the incentive you are offering to visitors of your stand.
If this sounds like too much hassle for you then get in touch with our team on 01202 723 500. We love writing and distributing press releases when our customers have some exciting news to share.
Up until this point, the marketing tactics I have laid out have been free or low-cost options. We recommend allocating around 6% of your exhibiting budget on pre-show marketing and promotion.
One of the ways you can use this budget is traditional advertising. This allows you to get your brand, messaging and show information in print, radio, TV, or out of home platforms. You messaging could reach a large, new audience.
Some businesses find traditional advertising an effective tactic in their pre-show marketing, others don’t. The best way to tell if it is going to work for you is to speak to the media owner about their audience demographic. If your audience aligns with theirs then you’re on to a winner.
Digital advertising can help you reach a highly targeted audience. Using cookie data, your online adverts will reach the people who have expressed an interest in your business, industry or exhibition.
In that sense, digital advertising is the most effective way to target the right audience. As opposed to reaching a vast but irrelevant percentage of the population.
The problem with advertising is that it will come at a high-cost and is difficult to measure the success of this tactic when it comes to pre-show marketing. You can always ask people who visit your exhibition stand where they heard about you, but often you don’t have time.
If you’re new to the trade show floor or trying to save some budget, you can run an effective pre-show marketing campaign without traditional or digital advertising.
The only Pre-Show Marketing Strategy you’ll ever need!
If you’ve followed all the steps in this exhibiting guide then by now you will have:
- Defined your target audience and created a character profile
- Identified your unique selling point
- Curated the brand messaging that will enable your target audience to recognise your USP
- Given your audience a reason to visit your stand
- Educated yourself on some of the free and paid marketing platforms available to you
- Matched marketing platforms with your target audience profile
- Implemented a strategy using your brand messaging, chosen platforms and this free trade show marketing calendar
A strong pre-show marketing campaign will help drive traffic to your booth and land those key meetings that are crucial to closing deals. A good incentive will skyrocket your ROI. The best part is, most of the ideas I’ve laid out won’t cost anything. You’ll have more of your budget to spend on an amazing looking exhibition stand.
If you can master the art of combining a successful pre-show marketing strategy with an amazing exhibition stand then you’re on to a winner. Trust me, we’ve got years of experience on the trade show floor.
If you want to talk to us about your pre-show marketing for an upcoming exhibition then ping an email over to Design Team. If you’d rather give us a ring then call us on 01202 723 500.