Planning trade show events takes a lot of work and brain power. I recommend taking a global perspective to any new event as it helps align your efforts with your goals. Your company is investing in an opportunity to be seen, inform, capture leads, and establish new relationships. Over the course of one-three days or more, you have an incredible opportunity to have a visible corner in your market and help thousands of people. That’s exciting!

The next step and what this article goes over, is to establish a strategy for engagement. This strategy must make sense for your company, audience, and available resources. I recommend dividing your plan into three primary areas: inform (pre-show), interact and track (during event), and follow-up (post-event). Once you have a plan for those three areas, you will be well on your way

The best marketing channels to build awareness for your trade show event are: social media, direct mail marketing, and email marketing. You will also want to include relative content on your blog.

If you don’t have a planning system, try a virtual project management platform like Airtable or Trello.

Step 1: Inform

Build a list for each outreach channel, for example:

  1. Direct Mail: save-the-dates to current clients, community members, leads
  2. Email: to current clients, leads
  3. Social Media: first post, second post, third post….
  4. Add to online calendars – regionally, nationally, internally, and market-specific
  5. Blog article

For each of the above, identify distribution and timeline to assure you stay on budget. Start with the quickest, easiest steps first.

  1. Add the event to industry-related or community calendars.
  2. Schedule social posts. (Hootsuite is still an excellent resource for social).

Create your save-the-date announcements early to give your audience time to plan. When you don’t tell people, they don’t know to show up. The last thing you want to hear from your biggest supporters: “if only I’d known sooner!” 

Be sure to post an article on your blog. Start by sharing relevant educational information, then bring attention to the event closer to the day-of. For now, keep it simple, exciting, and enthusiastic! Finally, design your e-newsletter and direct mail campaigns.

Keep an eye on your email opens, unsubscribes, and social media shares. As the event nears, follow up with anyone who interacted with your announcements but haven’t yet committed to showing up.

Step 2: Interact and Track

Consider your event schedule, location, audience, and how many people will be staffing your booth. How will you encourage conversations amidst the high-energy event where distractions are everywhere? Consider seating, schedule day-of appointments with your fly-bys, have a system in place to track everything and eveyone. This will help you follow-up with those who expressed an interest in what you do, and will help you improve targeting for future events.

Step 3: Follow-up

Make sure that you are following up on the resources you’ve distributed. You’re goal with Step 1 is to build awareness. Step 2 is to identify how to direct focused targeting, and Step 3 allows you to connect with a more personal invitation, encouraging both cold, warm and hot leads to take action and join you.

Good luck with your event and may you reach an abundance of people who need your message. If you need help building your engagement strategy, head over to my contact page and get in touch.

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