Trade shows offer a unique – but limited opportunity – to get your message out ahead of bigger, better-known companies. Contrary to common belief, size doesn’t matter.
So forget about size. You have just as much opportunity to achieve breakthrough success.
I’ll explain how you can literally leap ahead of the competition. You won’t have to climb Mount Everest, and you won’t break your budget. You simply need to take some proven, preliminary steps to adequately prepare yourself.
Market Your Trade Show Before the Trade Show
This means getting the word out before the trade show – not during or after. An advantage big companies have is name recognition and deep pockets. But as you know, for every advantage there’s a disadvantage. And you can also neutralize advantages.
To get you started, here are 10 ways to beat the competition and achieve breakthrough results.
1) Newsletters: They’re a value-added tool, a Killer App. Most companies have newsletters in digital or print and some employ both. Email is inexpensive, it reaches a targeted audience with regular frequency. Email also allows you to segment your audience: C-suite executives, operational managers, IT managers, etc. This ensures high readership.
2) Flyers: Flyers are short, focused and made for promoting one-time events like trade shows. They’re cost-effective and can go out in the mail or via email. Include the name of the trade show, the location, contact information and a call to action asking prospects to register. Send these out three months in advance on a consistent schedule. This ensures a high response rate.
3) Press Releases: A tried-and-true media channel, press releases simply get the job done. There’s nothing fancy or costly about them. You just get the word out. But do it three to six months prior to the trade show. This is not an advertisement. It’s a newsworthy item of information. Along with the basic information, highlight the event’s features and benefits.
4) Trade Publications: You can kill two birds with one stone. Submit an article to a popular trade pub about a special product or service you intend to feature. Give your audience a taste of what they can expect. Go beyond introducing your product. Focus on a something new that sets it apart from the competition. Finally, run a promotional advertisement three to six months prior to the event. It’s effective, inexpensive and reaches a captive audience.
5) Magazines: Broader in scope than trade pubs, magazines have a more generalized audience. They typically feature industry news and trends-setting ideas. Business Week, Fast Company, and Inc. come to mind. Pitch a new business process to the editor, and mention its timely unveiling at an upcoming trade show. Your trend-setting idea garners national recognition – free of charge.
6) Email: This one’s a no-brainer. It’s fast, effective and efficient. Besides your regular email going out to your house list, send a special email, targeted of course, that does a “close-up” of your upcoming trade show. Since this is a special email, make it distinctive. Don’t hold back. Give your readers what they’re looking for.
7) Internet: Banner ads and PPC Ads can also help boost attendance at events. This is pure advertising rather than educational. But it serves a purpose. Banner ads and Google AdWords have proven their worth. However, one caveat is in order. Set a budget and stick to it. With strategically placed and timed online ads, you can maximize attendance at a reasonable cost.
8) Website: It’s easy to overlook this one. Websites should be frequently updated as you know. You’ll increase traffic to your site when you add informative content about your event. To further increase traffic, add SEO copy and you’re in business. Don’t stop there. Add a dual-purpose landing page that announces your upcoming event and registers participants. This convenience will increase participation.
9) Social Media: I’m talking about serious business social media platforms: LinkedIn and Google+. Others might be appropriate for your business, but these two are tops when it comes to business, especially B2B. Engage your followers/circles with clear, concise and engaging content on various aspects of your trade show. Again, do this three to 6 months before the event.
10) Seminars: Live events can’t be dismissed. They’re time-intensive in terms of preparation, but the ROI speaks for itself. Nothing beats face-to-face engagements. So when you have a chance to speak at a live forum either individually or as a panel member, take it. This helps position you as an expert. You can promote your show and get free publicity with follow-up interviews.
Turn Your Trade Shows into a Reliable Lead Generation Machine
When you’re big, it’s easy to get complacent. Having previously represented a big company where we didn’t follow any of these steps, I can tell you the outcome was less than stellar.
As an industry insider who’s participated in numerous trade shows, I find that early and frequent preparation makes a difference. I consider the list of 10 steps I’ve outlined as lessons learned. Use them as a checklist. You’ll easily outmaneuver your competition, regardless of their size.