Have a Marketing Strategy to Get The Most Out of Industry Trade Shows
Trade shows have been a marketing staple for decades. But perhaps because today’s marketing focuses so strongly on digital, website-based efforts, you think trade shows are a thing of the past. Not so fast, though. With an up-to-date marketing strategy in place, these shows can be more relevant than ever for your dealership, whether you’re an exhibitor or an attendee.
The smart plan is to integrate your show participation with your inbound marketing efforts, just as you do other forms of traditional advertising and promotion.
If you’re an exhibitor:
Reconsider how you use your space. Rather than accepting that dumb sign the show organizer gives you (or, more typically, covering it up with your display), create a sign that sets you apart and does more for you than announcing your name and booth number. For instance, you could use a QR code.
An interactive sign actually attracts attention and engages people – it has compelling content that can generate leads and teach people more about your dealership. Isn’t that why you’re at the show? Show a short video, too – that’s nothing new, but here’s the twist – show just a teaser and give attendees a link to see “the rest of the story” via your website or YouTube account.
Use email to promote the event incrementally, but strategically. Don’t pester people with redundant information and reminders they’ve already acted on. Instead be smart about your marketing strategy by using your analytics and marketing management software to send messages targeted just for them.
You can send meaningful invitations to both leads and customers – why should they attend and visit your booth? What’s in it for them? If they can can’t attend, think about how you can “attend for them” by sharing what you see and learn, in real time during the event and afterward.
Whether you’re an exhibitor or just an attendee:
Plan ahead to make the most of your time. Your goals are to make friends, initiate and strengthen existing relationships and uncover learning you can share with co-workers within your dealership and also with your online friends. Trade shows offer valuable face-to-face contact you can’t get online.
Who are the speakers, who are the vendors? Are any of them potential marketing partners you can work with in the future for cross-promotion?
What existing and potential customers will be there, and how can you strike up a meaningful conversation with them? Think about questions you can ask that people will feel comfortable answering, so your conversation is friendly, not sales-y. Focus on who they are, their role at their trucking or construction company, and especially their key challenges your dealership can help solve, so you can follow up in a well-targeted way after the show.
Be strategic about which seminars you attend, too. You want the latest information on making your dealership more effective or efficient. So grab handouts or links to electronically-provided materials from your seminars, and join forces with other attendees to snare materials from sessions you can’t attend.
Hot news and best practices will make great marketing content, helping inform your prospects and customers and highlighting your value as a leading-edge dealership. You can even post live updates and comments while you’re there.
Approached right, trade shows can be a smart part of your marketing strategy, whereas giving out candy and collecting a big pile of mostly irrelevant business cards are a waste of time. Well, maybe not the candy.