Having a booth at a conference, event or trade show is a great opportunity to generate leads, connect with stakeholders and promote your solutions. These events are, by nature, in need of integrated marketing and PR in order to present a cohesive message across your various stakeholders.
Companies spend about $25 billion on exhibiting each year. With that in mind, you’re much more likely to achieve the best return on investment (ROI) with an integrated marketing and PR approach.
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Many trade show exhibitors are already embracing integrated campaigns, with research finding that 89 percent plan to increase integrated efforts in the future. However, no matter where brands are on the spectrum of integration, it’s still challenging.
Your primary goal is to have your brand’s message remain consistent across the campaign while providing compelling reasons for attendees to visit your booth or installation. Coordinating and delivering an integrated plan requires participation from all internal stakeholders. A collaborative approach will deliver the best results. To help you better integrate your trade show marketing planning, here are the top areas you’ll need to consider.
The foundation of any good trade show campaign is the booth itself. It’s a chance to present great visuals that represent what you do and your overall branding. Events are an opportunity to engage creative services experts to create something that fits within your branding and helps you stand out.
Consistency in design matters. Imagine that you’ve sent emails pre-show and created a landing page for attendees to pre-register for a time to chat. So far, sounds great, except that when attendees actually make it to your booth, nothing looks familiar. Visitors may not even recognize it's the same brand.
Another common mistake is that brands use the same graphics for every event even though the audience changes. If you are at an industry-specific event, your graphics need to reflect this. Don’t go to a medical conference with visuals of accountants.
In addition to your visuals, the language and message across all your efforts should be in the same voice as all your other content. It’s more than what you say. It’s how you say it and who you are saying it to.
Messaging should be clear and deliver the value proposition of why attendees need to visit your booth. What’s in it for them? No matter your service or product, you need to lead with benefits, not features. Tell the attendee why they need your brand in their life. How will it make their job easier? How does it solve their problems?
The answers to these questions should be the heart of your messaging. It drives traffic to your booth because attendees will find the solution they need. This language needs to be part of every digital or print piece related to the event.
Another important part of the message is to whom it’s directed. Just like with visuals, your language needs to be specific to that audience. This means addressing their industry and/or titles. Ensure you are speaking to exactly how that persona would use your product or service.
Structuring Your Integrated Marketing Plan
Now that visuals and messaging have been addressed, it’s time to put together your plan and all the pieces that go with it. To have a truly integrated plan, you’ll use multiple touch points, separated by pre-show, at show, and post-show.
This is where you set up the compelling reasons to visit your brand. There are many different ways to do this. Which ones you should choose depends on several factors.
For example, is it worth it to send a direct mail piece? Or, are pre-show emails better? Make these decisions based on your audience and how they respond to different mediums. Also look at historical data. You may find that you should do both, if your budget allows. Everything pre-show is about the hype.
In addition to direct messaging via mail or email, you should develop content around the show. Try a blog called “5 Reasons to Visit Us at Event,” and add posts about what you’re doing at the show, sneak peaks on new products and any giveaways that might get attendees interested.
This is just one type of content to produce, which you can control. The other content you’ll want is media buzz. Your PR team should be reaching out to the trade show’s press list and pitching them what you’ll be showing off. They are most likely hungry for content around the event, so it only makes sense they’d want to preview it. Your PR team can augment this with a press release too, announcing your attendance and what to expect.
All this content and buzz needs to be shared on social media using the event tag plus your brand’s trade show hashtag when applicable. It’s one more channel to get your message out there and attract more leads to your booth.
The next part of your marketing plan is at-show, and a lot of the same pieces are applicable here. You’ll want to be posting and possibly doing some live shots on social media, reminding attendees why they should hang out with your brand. PR can still be working with publications to highlight what’s happening in your booth and why it matters to the industry.
At the show, your main drive is to captures leads, most importantly an email address, so make it easy for attendees to share theirs. Use tablets with a simple landing page that allows the attendee to opt-in to post-show emails relevant to your booth experience. Incentivize your booth visitors with giveaways, contests, content, demos or other value-add items.
Get attendees interested in a white paper or a recent report that your brand has created that is relevant to your audience. Planting the seed of helpful content that’s coming their way will make your brand stand out. Don’t forget printed collateral with a consistent look and message that follows everything else you’ve done so far in your plan.
Now it’s time to leverage that content you talked about with visitors. An engaging post-show email with the promised assets should jog their memory about your brand.
In addition to post-show outreach, you’ll also want to develop content on the show experience. Talk about the trends or what was surprising at the show. It doesn’t need to be all about your brand. These types of posts would be considered more thought leadership. Use social media to distribute these as well.
Integrated Measurement: What Equals Success?
To gauge whether or not your integrated marketing plan was a success, there are many metrics to look at. This includes how many leads received, email CTRs, press mentions and social media engagement. All of those metrics are important and can give context to what matters most—new business.
The top goal of brands at events is to earn new business, exactly what an integrated marketing plan should do when executed well. Execution depends greatly on being proactive, organized, and having all parties included in the planning stage. Trade shows offer many possibilities for your brand, take advantage of them with an integrated marketing plan.
Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) has been recognized as a Forbes top CMO influencer, and a Top Business Keynote Speaker by the Huffington Post. He is CEO of Marketing Insider Group, and co-author of 2 books including The Content Formula, and Digital Marketing Growth Hacks. Michael's innovative leadership has resulted in massive growth for his clients. His workshops and keynotes for Fortune 500 brands and tiny startups have inspired profound personal and professional change.