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Connecting pre-trade show: How fostering relationships and buzz can drive booth trafficHeather

Connecting pre-trade show: How fostering relationships and buzz can drive booth traffic

If you’re planning on exhibiting at a tradeshow in the future, one thing’s for certain: You want people to plan on visiting your booth. One of the best ways to do this: plant a seed ahead of time. Without engaging quality leads pre-tradeshow, it can be difficult to attract visitors to your booth.

Keeping that in mind, we’ve compiled the best ways to connect with your customers before the trade show occurs to ensure they’ll be on board and ready to attend:

Keep contact
The more often potential leads or current customers hear about your tradeshow plans, prizes and reasons for visiting, the more likely they’ll be there.

  • Send out your initial direct mailers six weeks before the actual show – this gives people enough time to mark their calendars. With this initial mailing, consider including a logo’d weekly planner or calendar magnet to remind them to look ahead and save the date. Then, two weeks before the tradeshow, follow up via phone to reiterate what business or professional benefits they’ll receive by visiting your booth. Finally, the week of the show, send out a final reminder e-mail to drive customer attendance.
  • If you have the bandwidth, consider fostering connections using online social media. With tools like blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter) and forums/discussion boards, you can easily promote your tradeshow presence and contribute to the conversation. Set up a Twitter account or Facebook group dedicated to your booth a month before the show and consistently provide updates to interested attendees. Then, use the tool to crowd-source booth design and promotional ideas—what a great way to involve your customers ahead of time!

Be the contest king
Contests or sweepstakes that start pre-tradeshow can be a great way to entice customers and secure their attendance at the show.

  • When choosing your tradeshow prize(s), be sure it’s relevant to your products and services. For example, if your tradeshow push is a new green initiative, giving away a gas-guzzling vehicle or non-recyclable prize wont’ send the right message.  Brainstorm a list of at least 20 possible prize packages before choosing to ensure you’re taking the most creative and relevant route.
  • After finalizing the prize, split the reward into two parts: One part mailed to customers to entice them pre-tradeshow, and the other, more valuable portion, to be given away at the actual show. Stumped on how to split up a prize? Try sending out a wine carry bag before the show, enticing people to enter to win a three-day “Wine Tasting Trip” to a national winery at the show. Mail out golf towels before hand and invite customers to visit the show to receive their golf bag coolers.
  • Within your materials accompanying the preshow gift, include the sweepstakes’ rules and instructions. Also clearly showcase where your booth will be for prize pickup and contest entry on a small map, as well as venue location, date and time of show activities. The last thing you’d want is for customers to be engaged pre-trade show, then to be unable to find your booth once they’ve arrived.

Stand out
Although you’re exhibiting at the trade show to make contact with potential leads, sometimes novelty and creativity will attract customers to attend a trade show more than anything else. In addition to contests, here are a few other ideas to get your mind moving:

  • If your booth is planned to be an awe-inspiring structure due to graphics, lighting or monumental proportions, let your customers know! They’ll want to be in on the buzz-worthy booth before everyone else is, including the press. If possible, set it up in-house ahead of time and send a photo of the booth out inside of a reusable picture frame magnet with any direct mailings, and post it on a company blog or website.
  • A popular trade show promotion is the coveted “money box,” where participants step into a clear box with swirling money blowing around inside. This promotion is popular because it attracts both participants and on-lookers. Spin off of this by allowing booth visitors to step inside your “giveaway box.” Instead of money inside, customers grab at coupons, discount offers and prize vouchers to redeem for imprinted  caps, tote bags or flash drives. It’s a great way to stir future business while not breaking the bank.
  • Using the typical “bring a celebrity” approach as your foundation, consider spotlighting “customer celebrities.” Ask your best customers if they would be willing to tend your trade show booth for a few hours and give first-hand testimonials to visitors about their experience. Frame their attendance like it’s a real celebrity to show how much you value your customers (i.e. autograph signing, name in lights, etc.). It will draw booth attention while also showing how much your organization is focused on customer service and building loyalty.

No matter what promotional route you take, the important thing is to truly connect with your customers ahead of time. Let them know why they should attend and what they’ll get out of it, because time is valuable. Appreciate them and foster relationships pre-trade show, and your attendance will be golden!

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