Sheryl is VP of Marketing & Comms at Plus One Robotics. She’s won many industry awards and was named ‘Global Best Partner’ while at Apple.
According to research firm APCO Insight (via Meeting Spotlight), about 8 in 10 U.S. professionals who attended in-person meetings and conventions before the pandemic say they miss attending them. It seems like trade shows are back on the agenda. But while securing a strategic booth location is a marketer’s dream, it can be costly. Shrinking budgets can mean that the expectations for the return on investment on a trade show are much higher. That means it’s time to get creative. Here are five key strategies to build brand awareness and maximize your trade show presence.
1. Host A Reception
There’s a reason that happy hours and cocktail events are popular—they work. Whether you secure a hotel suite or host a VIP cocktail reception on a rooftop terrace, location is key. See what options are available that may be a little outside the box. For example, I once booked a suite at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas to hold meetings, product demonstrations and press briefings. To really stand out, host a pop-up office opposite a competitor’s event. Once you find a venue, create branding, signage and swag to complement the event, just like you would for a booth. That way, you can use the marketing materials in your meetings.
2. Demonstrate At Someone Else’s Booth
Look for companies with products that complement yours. These could be your customers, partners, suppliers or another company. Then see if you can partner with them at their booth to show how your product or service works with theirs. For example, if you’re a video game developer, you could demonstrate your new product at a flat-screen TV manufacturer’s booth, which becomes a win-win.
3. Be A Speaker
Many larger trade shows have comprehensive seminar programs. You can show off your brand and expertise by participating in a panel or a technical discussion. That way, you can interact with potential customers after the speech and be available for questions and conversation.
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4. Use Geotargeting
Digital marketing should be an essential piece of any trade show event. One way to optimize your marketing spend is with location-based targeting. A 2018 Deloitte study (via CNET) found that, on average, people in the U.S. across all age groups check their phones 52 times a day. That makes event-goers a very captive audience. By targeting the event location during a particular time, you can capture the active devices of attendees and target potential customers with ads. In addition, you can collect data to market to that audience post-event. Geotargeting can even go beyond the event itself. For example, let’s say your trade show is in Chicago and you have prospects that aren’t attending the event. Use the opportunity of having your executives in town to set up meetings with partners and customers that might not attend the event. You can even invite them to your cocktail reception.
5. Try Guerilla Marketing
If you’re looking for an innovative way to promote your event, a guerrilla marketing campaign can help amplify your exposure to attendees. Guerrilla marketing tactics are out-of-the-box experiential methods of advertising that can build brand awareness. Here are some fun ideas to get you started:
• Pop-up events: A pop-up event is a budget-friendly, low-risk way to generate awareness and introduce your brand. Research your target audience to find the best location.
• Temporary street art: Partner with a local artist to create a mural or graffiti. Make sure to choose a high-traffic area where many attendees will see it. Of course, check with the city or business owner to ensure that you are compliant with local laws.
• Skywriting: Skywriting is a creative way to get your brand in front of the right audience, especially if the event is outdoors. While skywriting only lasts for a short time, you can help spread the word through social media channels.
• Outdoor advertising: I’ve seen interactive and experiential out-of-home (OOH) advertising boom lately. From Reebok’s ad challenging people to a human speed test to the BBC creating the illusion of a burning billboard in support of the planet, OOH is a massive marketing opportunity.
Remember that execution is of the utmost importance when it comes to guerilla marketing. If done correctly, it can be a low-cost, unconventional and effective option that makes a bold statement. Don’t be afraid to think big and test the limits of your creativity.
Ultimately, I believe in-person interaction is the best way to create meaningful relationships with prospects. By preplanning and developing a solid strategy in advance, you should be able to make a significant impact—even without your own booth.