Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ready, Trade Show, Aim?

It's springtime, which means it's open season for trade shows. With attendance down across the board at shows again this year, it's more important than ever to have a smart marketing plan in place that will help you reach attendees and also target prospects who cannot attend the show.

You read that correctly. A good trade show marketing plan also reaches out to people who aren't attending the show.

Just because prospects don't have the budget to attend trade shows this year doesn't mean they should be ignored in your trade show marketing. Involving them with clever strategies can help you hunt down leads and bag your best trade show ever.

Start early and often. Start early to build intrigue and excitement around your trade show booth through an email drip campaign about a month before the event. Send an email a week, each highlighting one aspect of your booth -- a new product introduction, sign-up to win promotion, free trial, etc. Send the emails to your opt-in contact list from the previous year and to anyone else who has opted in to receive such emails. Include your booth number in each email.

Stay in contact during the show. The trade show itself provides several opportunities to stay in touch with prospects. While you may want to have a fishbowl to collect business cards for a drawing or giveaway, make sure you ask contributors if they would like to opt in to your mailing list before they throw their card in. Have a special landing page set up onsite that will keep these email addresses separate from your general opt-in list. Make sure you send these prospects an email each night thanking them for stopping by your booth. Your immediate attention will set you apart from other show participants.

Keep current on what's happening elsewhere at the show and blog about it each day. Turn these blogs into an email campaign. These emails will remind your base to come see you, and will keep your other prospects updated on what's happening at the show.

Have a post-show plan. Before you leave for the show, have a post-show plan ready. The day you get back, pull the trigger. Trade show follow-up is the area where most marketers fall down, so your quick movement here will get noticed immediately.

Here's the plan we use that works great for us. We send out an email to everyone who visits our booth, thanking them and saying that they can expect three additional emails over the next two weeks with more information. We give them the option of opting out if they don't want any more information. Then, in our following emails, we send great information, such as a white paper, a video link, and an all-in-one PDF that includes everything we do. Each touch brings prospects along through our lead generation process, and each email is personalized with information from the person they met at the booth. We pepper the emails with photos of the booth, information about the winner of our contest, videos of people at the show and other details to boost their comfort level.

Internally, you can increase the success of your sales reps by giving them the click-through information from these emails. By seeing which links the prospects clicked on, and therefore were interested in, the reps have a conversation-starter and are not going into a call cold.

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