By Alan Kleinman
Meritus Payment Solutions
As companies put together their marketing budgets year after year, there is always one glaring expense in the marketing plan: the tradeshow. Exhibiting at tradeshows gives businesses the chance to get in front of significant numbers of clients and prospects in a short amount of time.
And having a well designed tradeshow booth staffed by knowledgeable people offers the opportunity to showcase a product or service, create a first impression and build a relationship.
When debating whether to exhibit at a tradeshow or simply attend one, cost is sometimes the deciding factor. Exhibiting at a tradeshow is expensive and resource-intensive. Renting floor space, designing and fabricating the display, taking employees out of the office to staff the booth, setting up and dismantling the booth, traveling to and from the show, and paying for accommodations and meals at the event add up to a very costly undertaking.
Moreover, many companies approach all this expense by questioning whether it is "worth it" for only two to three days of interaction with clients and prospects. But you can justify the cost of exhibiting at a tradeshow, not just by deals made and warm leads gathered at the event, but also by seeing it as an investment in new social media marketing opportunities.
Tradeshows provide myriad opportunities to increase brand exposure for more than just the two to three days that you and your colleagues represent your company in person on the exhibit floor. You can extend related marketing activities over months and nurture leads using social media and inbound marketing.
Implementing a comprehensive pre- and post-tradeshow marketing campaign which utilizes social media and inbound marketing can help you solidify the transition from online marketing to real-world presence by creating buzz before the event, increasing traffic to your booth at the event and maintaining relationships afterward.
Twitter has a 140-character limitation, which lends its messages to a sense of urgency. Twitter is best used just before a show or during the show. Facebook is more generous, allowing for 420 characters, and it easily displays people's feedback, leveraging the social network throughout the event marketing cycle.
LinkedIn is predisposed to more professional interactions. For example, by participating in unique interest groups, you can initiate discussions within the answers section before the show. When creating groups, be sure to use keywords for the show, or type of show, so the keywords are easily searchable within LinkedIn and can clearly be associated with the show.
In addition, a company blog provides endless space for content. Remember, it is best practice for your blog to be informative or thought-provoking rather than overly self-promotional. Also, publicize your content about the upcoming tradeshow with industry bloggers who can embed links to your blog in their posts. YouTube videos are best used to explain complex concepts and give your company personality. Such videos can be very effective ambassadors for your company after the show.
Once you've planned everything - reserved the floor space, registered your staff, booked travel and handled shipping logistics - one question remains: exactly who is going to stop by your booth and what will those people want to know? There are ways to determine much of this before the show. Here are some suggestions.
Turn the procession of business card exchanges into standout face-to-face meetings by building your social media presence and its connection to the show months in advance. Engage your customers and prospects on all social media channels. Be sure to ask what they would like to learn about.
Usually, the list of exhibitors is made public weeks or months in advance of a tradeshow, and your website is the first place people will go to when they want to learn more about your company. Capitalize on the opportunity to meet someone face-to-face by adding a "show page" to your website. Remember to optimize the page's name, tags, keywords and URL with the show name and year to capitalize on the searches for the show.
People who conduct Internet searches for the tradeshow may find your website page, click on it, and be informed about the show and your company while improving the search engine ranking of your site. This page can also link to a landing page on your website to set appointments, so your customers and prospects can meet with you at the show.
Once you and your staff are back from the show, don't just settle into the day-to-day routine; there's still follow-up marketing to be done. Here are several things to do:
When looking at your marketing calendar for the next year, remember that tradeshows extend far beyond the two to three days of the actual event. A solid marketing plan can ensure that most tradeshows are, indeed, "worth it."
Alan Kleinman is the Principal of Meritus Payment Solutions, the leader in advanced global transaction processing. With a client-first mentality, Meritus provides a breadth of payment and transaction processing solutions that include mobile, credit and debit cards, gift and loyalty cards, electronic benefit transfer, automated clearing house, Check 21 and more. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-851-7558, ext. 141.
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