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How to Make Your Manufacturer’s Trade Show Presence More Impactful & Measurable

blurred people attending trade show

This article was originally published on the Gardner Business Media Marketing Blog.

Attending and sponsoring trade shows and other events has been an effective marketing tactic for manufacturers for a long time. These events give you the opportunity to meet new contacts, generate leads, engage with the industry, and put your brand’s best foot forward. 

However, for marketers used to being steeped in data, trade shows can be a bit opaque in terms of measuring actual return on investment. It’s difficult to quantify the real impact of your brand’s presence at an event without direct insight into how all of that brand exposure translates into leads and sales. On top of this, trade shows are extremely resource intensive—both in terms of budget and your personnel’s time. For manufacturers making significant investments in trade shows and other events, any opportunity to more accurately measure the ROI of these events is extremely valuable. 

Integrating digital marketing elements into trade show appearances is a proven way to get more useful data about how these events contribute to your brand’s KPIs. Perhaps even more important than making events more measurable, these initiatives can significantly improve the return on your company’s investment in attending trade shows and other events.

Manufacturing Trade Show Digital Enablement Playbook

At Kula Partners, we have developed a proven playbook for integrating manufacturers’ trade show presences with digital marketing elements to make events both more impactful and measurable. The playbook detailed below is broken up into initiatives you should implement before the event, during the event, and after the event, but in many cases, these will be more of a continuous process. 

Before the Event

The overarching goal with this playbook is to leverage the digital resources you already have (e.g. your website, conversion assets, marketing automation software, etc.) to make your trade show presence more effective. To do this, you need to start laying the foundation for your campaign weeks before the event.

At this stage, you will be working to increase the awareness of your company’s attendance at the event, begin building hype for your products and any special offers you’ll have on the show floor, and start to benefit from early pre-show lead generation.

  • Create or select an existing conversion offer. One of the centerpieces of this strategy is giving trade show attendees a reason to come to your booth and provide you with their contact details. The simplest way to do this is to have a whitepaper or some other kind of offer that they can sign up to receive. In many cases, the most effective option will be to create a new asset exclusive to the conference, but using an existing asset can work as well. The most important thing is that the offer is relevant to the types of people you want to attract and that it’s valuable enough that people are willing to give you their contact information in exchange.
  • Leverage your website. In addition to promoting your appearance at the trade show on your website, you’ll need to create a dedicated landing page on your site to use at the event that booth visitors will use to access your conversion offer. 
  • Develop outreach emails. If you can get a list of attendees, send an email to relevant prospects that will be attending. Emails should find a way to offer value to attendees—perhaps by encouraging them to download a useful piece of content or to visit your booth to enter a contest or for a live demo. Depending on the size of your prospect list and your available resources, email outreach can be further personalized and tailored to the individual so the recipient knows they’re not just receiving another mass email.
  • Promote your appearance on social media. As the date of the trade show approaches, you should promote your appearance on social media using the event hashtag. Look for opportunities to participate in conversations that are happening around the event. For larger events, it may also be worthwhile to create paid social campaigns to promote your appearance.
  • Make your print materials trackable. Make sure any printed materials you’re distributing encourage people to visit your booth to get your conversion offer or include a trackable URL directing users to your landing page (or both). This is especially important if you’re a sponsor of the show and the organizers are including your information in official programs and other materials.
  • Create geo-targeted display ads scheduled to run during the event. You can schedule an ad campaign that only runs in very close proximity to the location of the trade show, meaning that the ad will essentially be limited to attendees. This can be an extremely effective way to create awareness and drive traffic to your booth or to your conversion asset.

During the Event

With the foundation you’ve built before the event, you can handle the booth roughly the same as you would in any other case. Meeting with prospects and networking is the most important part of trade shows, after all. However, taking a few extra steps will help you get much better results from your time at the show.

  • Use your conversion content to capture leads digitally at your booth. When people come to your booth, you should have a device where they can use the landing page you built to sign up for your offer.
  • Participate in the conversation on social media to drive traffic to your booth and digital asset. Many trade shows will have a large number of people tweeting or posting to Instagram about the event using an event hashtag. Schedule posts throughout the duration of the show promoting your offer and your booth, but supplement these with live posts from the show floor. Share photos and watch for discussions that you can join. Make your brand a major part of the conversation.

After the Event

Once the show is over, it’s time to collect all the information you’ve gathered, build on your successes, and quantify your return on investment.

  • Follow up with your leads. Using your landing page and conversion offer, you should have collected a number of digital leads during the event. Send custom follow ups to your most important prospects. You can set up an automated nurturing sequence to keep in contact with the rest. Send them additional offers to help move them down the sales funnel. 
  • Analyze your results. Once you’ve had the opportunity to follow up with your leads, you can start looking at the results from your trade show appearance in terms of hard KPIs like website traffic, leads generated, cost per lead, and new customers closed.

Use Your Data to Plan Future Events

Once you’ve successfully executed a trade show event with this kind of digital integration, it gives you enough data to help you plan your future events. You can use the results of each event to help you plan and appropriately scale your investment in upcoming events. Over time, as you execute more events in this way, you’ll develop a good sense of what works and what doesn’t, making your trade show appearances another one of your predictable marketing channels.

Download the Trade Show Digital Enablement Playbook for Manufacturers

Start making your investment in trade shows more measurable and conversion-focused. As a takeaway from this article, download your copy of the Trade Show Digital Enablement Playbook for Manufacturers, which contains the proven process for manufacturers to achieve digital integration with their trade show presence. Access it now.

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