By Heather Quitos

In an increasingly digital world, investment in tradeshows may seem like less of a priority for marketing teams. But for many businesses, tradeshows are still a lucrative opportunity. In the B2B world, the show may be the only opportunity to get some face-to-face time with key prospects and reach out to valued customers. Many attendees also use industry tradeshows as a way to complete continuing education and certification credits.

Although it may seem outdated, the tradeshow market is still a huge sector and brings in $80 billion annually in the U.S. Clearly, these large-scale events still make an impact on businesses and marketers.    

For smaller companies, tradeshows can seem like daunting endeavors. Although your target markets may be attending the shows, there are many upfront costs—registration, exhibition, marketing, employee travel—balanced against an unknown return on the investment. For many marketers, attending or exhibiting at a tradeshow is just too high of a budget risk.

The good news is, times have changed. With the power of social media, you can leverage the online conversations happening around a show or event without being there in person. With careful planning, content creation, and social monitoring, you can stay in your office while building your brand, developing relationships, and generating leads through the tradeshow.

Start with Planning

Even though you’re not attending the tradeshow in person, you should still take time to plan your marketing strategy. If you’ve done your buyer persona research, you may already know which associations or events are important. Talk to your current customers and prospects to figure out which shows and events are high priorities for them.

Once you have a show in mind, do your research: What topics covered are relevant to your business? What is the show-specific hashtag? Are there any particular journalists or influencers of that industry that you should be following?

Then, it’s important to set goals similar to those you would set if you were attending: Do you want to create awareness for your company? Generate leads for your sales team? Conduct market research based on the conversations happening?

Create Content Tailored to the Show

After researching the topics that will be discussed at the show and the pain points of your buyer personas in attendance, you can create branded content to specifically address your personas’ needs.

You can create landing pages and blog posts with messaging that speaks to the attendees’ motivations for going to the show. If you’re unsure of what priorities the attendees have, your sales team should have a good pulse on trending topics and discussions. They can be a great resource for developing relevant messaging.

Some other considerations when you’re creating content:

  • For blog posts, share how your business relates to the topics covered in the keynote speeches or show theme.
  • With landing pages, offer a free consultation for attendees of the show if you’re able.
  • If you know that the tradeshow is a marquee event for many of your prospects, consider developing a long-form premium content offer, such as a guide or checklist for those attending the show or event.
  • Visual content will be key for building social engagement. Plan on creating infographics, short videos, and company-branded images for the show.

What can you do before the show? If you know that many of your contacts will be at the show, send them an email prior to the show with recommendations for educational sessions or other must-see events during the show. Start utilizing the show’s hashtag on social posts to draw attention to the content you’ve created.  Trying to predict how many conversions you will get and at what CPA for a paid  campaign can be difficult. Let us help with this worksheet.

   

Monitor Show Discussions and Ensure Timely Follow-Up

During the show, social monitoring will be a key component of driving demand. Keep these tips in mind when you’re planning your social strategy for the show:

  • Plan to block off times during the day to monitor the conversations happening at the show and engage where appropriate.
  • It’s not necessary to flood the show hashtag every minute, but plan to schedule social posts regularly throughout the day.
  • These posts should include a mix of content promotion, interactions with other users, and industry articles covering the show.

After the show, be sure to follow up with leads that converted on your landing pages within a couple of days. The timeliness of the show wears off quickly, but if you follow up quickly, you can have a relevant conversation about their experience at the show. Creating automated lead nurturing emails is a great way to ensure that you are following up in a timely manner.

It may seem like a lot of work, but tradeshow attendees are highly targeted audiences that you can reach if you address them with the right content. If it’s not in the cards for your team to attend tradeshows, stay relevant by utilizing the social media storm around them!

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Heather Quitos

About the author

Heather Quitos is a Marketing Consultant at SmartBug Media. She is dedicated to crafting persona-driven campaigns with career experience in B2B and software sectors. She has an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and received her master's in business administration from Marquette University. In her free time, you can find her trying new recipes in the kitchen. Read more articles by Heather Quitos.

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