Three Ways To Turn One Trade Show Into Year-Round Marketing Opportunities

Events are infrequent but important. According to a survey we conducted in partnership with Researchscape, 97% of respondents who attend at least three events per year say that events have influenced their decision to choose a vendor. That’s an astonishing number.

You might be tempted to exhibit at an event every week as a result, but that’s a game of rapidly diminishing returns. The way to get the most value is to select a handful of high-impact events and market tirelessly and strategically year-round.

Another insight gleaned from the survey is that events behave similarly to analysts — only the upper echelon in a given industry move the needle, sales-wise. In other words, it’s much more effective to find the rare needle-movers in your industry and invest heavily in those. We also found that respondents were influenced by events year-round, not just during or near the event. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to carefully select valuable events and incorporate them into your marketing tactics year-round.

How do you do that? Great question. I assume you’ve done your due diligence within your industry to find the events that are most impactful to your business. (If you haven’t, stop reading this and go do that.) Below are the main tenets of event marketing done the right way.

Be Proactive

Speaker and panel lineups for conferences and trade shows are announced well in advance. Programming and event themes are often announced far in advance, as well. Naturally, this generates industry chatter, which provides opportunities for expert commentary.

For example, “digital transformation” is a buzzphrase across many industries right now and will inevitably be discussed at upcoming events. If an event incorporates “digital transformation” into its programming, it reinvigorates the topic and produces fresh opportunities for commentary. How does digital transformation impact your industry? Is digital transformation a fad or a revolution?

Provide your perspective by writing a blog post or publishing a bylined article, which gives you new content to share with your constituency. Or you can give specifics in a webinar about how digital transformation affects your industry.

There are myriad ways to repurpose your perspective, and there are multiple thematic tracks and topics that events provide. Avail all of them.

Collect Data

Data collection is the most important thing you’ll do at an event, marketing-wise, which means you should take great pains to buttoning up your data collection methods and mechanisms far in advance of the event itself. Will you be scanning badges at your booth? Will you require booth visitors to enter their information on a tablet? Will you forgo formal mechanisms? Who will be at the booth? What about the event itself?

You have two main objectives at an event: creating quality interactions and capturing those interactions accurately and seamlessly. If you do that well, you’ll be able to crystallize qualified sales leads as well as compile valuable information. If you have 15 meaningful interactions with 15 legitimate prospects and nine of them are experiencing the same challenges, not only does that give you sales opportunities, it provides valuable industry insight. This can be transformed into marketing materials such as webinars, videos or thought leadership articles following the event.

Respond To Industry Trends

I touched on this in my first point, in which I discussed leveraging event programming and themes, but this is a little different. Event themes can be related to industry trends, but they’re not necessarily industry trends. Sometimes, events call up deep-seated industry issues that have been festering or percolating for years.

Here’s an example: Cannes Lions is the self-proclaimed Oscars of advertising. Every year, heaps of advertising executives pour into the sun-soaked French Riviera to quaff rosé on yachts moored in the shadow of the Palais, where they will (hopefully) win a Grand Prix. As you’ve no doubt gathered, it’s a wildly extravagant affair, and for years there’d been rumblings about how the festival veered away from its founding ethos.

Last year, Publicis, a major advertising network, publicly announced a moratorium on awards shows, which reignited a conversation about Cannes and the culture around advertising awards shows in general. This prompted a flurry of news articles, op-eds and endless industry banter, which led to Cannes’ decision to reduce the price of its festival passes. Cue another round of news articles, op-eds and endless industry banter.

Every industry has a version of this. Find the issues that events raise to the surface and talk about them. Use them to your advantage. Position yourself as an expert and create solutions for these issues. Publish, post, create and share.

Make The Most Of It

You’ve spent a lot of money on your booth and exhibitor pass. If you’re going to these events just to network or peddle your wares, you’re wasting money. Reinvest in other marketing channels, or do it right.