Content Marketing’s Role at Trade Shows

The trade show marketing mania

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re planning to go to a trade show, get ready for what is often an overwhelming sensory experience. Surrounded by blinking lights, colors, unfamiliar sounds and some unique (and often odd) booths, it can be hard to get your bearings.

Once you begin collecting brochures and people start asking if you want a margarita, or to enter a drawing to win an Apple Watch or the latest micro-thin tablet, you might start losing sight of the focus of the trade show. After all, aren’t you supposed to be there on business?

With so many companies trying to stand out and capture your attention, many trade shows resemble something like Comic-con rather than a showcase of an industry’s latest trends and developments. Not that there’s anything wrong with mixing some entertainment in with business. After all, it’s the job of marketers to continually think up creative and exciting ways to tell people about their company’s offerings. Somehow, you have to get your message through the din.

Now picture yourself inside the booth at a trade show. What are some of the things you and your team could do to stand out? Yes, it’s a big question. Even if you were in that dream position of having an unlimited marketing budget (say you’re going to do a drawing for five Maserati GranTurismos), you have to ask yourself if such measures would really be effective?

Trade show marketing ideas: The good and the bad

While companies with smaller marketing budgets often worry about being able to stand out at trade shows, even those companies that can afford the extravagant displays and free prizes should be concerned about targeting the right people.

“Just because you have people lining up outside your booth doesn’t mean they’re going to be good business contacts,” says Todd DeLong, director of sales at Brandpoint.  “A lot of people go from booth to booth collecting giveaways and entering contests, and that’s not necessarily the best way to form a relationship.”

The point is, even if you’re able to use truly extravagant measures to get people to visit your booth (say, Wolfgang Puck is cooking up food to order), it doesn’t follow that you’ll make valuable business contacts.

No matter what your budget is, you need to be sure you attract the right people – and content marketing is a cost-effective solution that can help you do that.

How content marketing can work for your company

While every company has its own unique goals and strategies, an effective content marketing strategy that will help bring people to your booth at the next trade show looks like this:

Ramp up your blogs. The primary purpose of energizing your blogging effort is to demonstrate thought leadership, make readers want to know more about you and to provide a clear call to action that your company will be at the xyz trade show in June (or whenever the show is held). The first step in creating these blogs is to develop an overall strategy about the messages you want to convey and a timeline that lists all the blog topics necessary to execute your strategy.

Email campaign. Once you’ve posted several blogs and have more in the pipeline, you want to craft several emails as part of your ongoing email campaign to your current contacts. The underlying purpose of these emails is to 1) let your audience know that you’re attending the  trade show, and 2) direct them to the blog. Follow-up emails can be more specific and target individual companies and people.

Push it out on social media. In order to reach beyond your email list, publish your blog posts on social media and let others in the industry know you’ll be at the upcoming trade show and give some reasons why people should stop by your booth. This can be done on the normal channels — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter — but you should also get creative and visit discussion boards on Reddit or other industry websites to generate buzz about the trade show and your involvement.

With some strategic planning and smart, energetic writing, content marketing can be a cost-effective way to bring foot traffic to your booth and generate buzz before and after the trade show.

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