Maximize Your Trade Show Investment With E-Mail

“Build it and they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply to your trade show booth.

In her book “Trade Show and Event Marketing,” Ruth P. Stevens writes, “Trade show marketers often get so preoccupied with designing and building their booths, they can forget to concentrate on driving qualified traffic.”

Given that trade shows represent 18.6 percent of the typical business-to-business (B2B) marketing budget, according to a 2003 Business Marketing Association poll, investing in targeted pre- and post-show promotions should be a priority. Here are some statistics Stevens cites from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) to illustrate the importance of promotions:

  • Business buyers generally plan their trade show time in advance. CEIR found 76 percent of attendees use pre-show information for this purpose. You compete with not only conference sessions and other exhibitors but also outside attractions in destination cities.

  • A CEIR-commissioned study by Deloitte & Touche found exhibitors who conducted a pre-show advertising or email campaign raised their “attraction efficiency” 46 percent. This stands for the quality of the audience they were able to attract to their booths. Conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads rose 50 percent when a pre-show promotion was used.

E-Mail: Key to Multitouch Promotions

Stevens notes, “Ideal pre-show promotions use a series of contacts, leveraging multiple media channels.” A typical campaign to the trade show’s attendee list could include:

  • Outbound postcards scheduled to arrive a week to 10 days before the event. Create a message that prequalifies the attendee, such as, “Attention, purchasing managers, come and find out how you can save time and money in your search for the best widgets.”

  • Follow-up email reminders to the same list. This should contain links to a landing page from your company Web site covering:
    • Your plans for the event, such as a new product introduction

    • Parties you’ll host
    • Sessions in which your executives will speak

To set up appointments with prospects who have expressed interest in your company:

  1. Send a postcard announcing your upcoming presence at the trade show.

  2. Follow up with a phone call to set an appointment at the booth at a specific time.
  3. Confirm the appointment with an email or letter (or both) to remind the prospect of the appointment and resell why it’s going to be worthwhile. Include a pass to the show floor or the sales rep’s business card/contact information.

Post-Event Follow-Up E-Mail

“An ongoing series of messages after the trade show can extend the value of the trade show investment indefinitely,” says Stevens. “Your objective is to build on the relationship with contacts made at the trade shows.”

Here are ways to follow up:

  • A personal email thank-you note from the individual staffer who met with the contact at the event (Stevens adds, “If your staff has any energy left, the email can go out the evening of the meeting.”)

  • An invitation to subscribe to the corporate e-newsletter
  • Reprints or links to any press coverage or other articles relating to the trade show
  • E-reminder of the final expiration date for the trade show special offer
  • A series of communications to keep the dialogue going
  • Promotion to attendees who didn’t make it to your booth

Qualifying Prospects After the Event

The best way to qualify a lead is on the trade show floor. If you can’t qualify your prospects on site, Steven says, “email is the most efficient means for post-show follow up communications.” Once you collect an email address at the trade show, follow up with:

  • A thank-you note containing product information promised at the show

  • An email qualification form requesting additional information
  • Attachments or links to product information
  • A post-show survey to capture information about the trade show experience

Nurturing Unqualified Leads

What do you do with those unqualified leads not yet ready to buy? These should be filtered through the “nurturing” or “lead development” process with a series of communications designed to build trust and awareness and to keep the relationship going.

Stevens recommends devising a standard process and refining it as experience demonstrates what works best. Most of these nurturing tactics can be accomplished via email:

  • Additional qualification questions

  • Seminar or Webinar invitation
  • Event invitation
  • Request for appointment at next trade show
  • New product announcement
  • E-newsletter
  • Press release
  • Survey or needs analysis
  • White paper, article, or chapter reprints
  • Case study, executive briefing, checklist, tip sheet, or guide
  • Personal communication, such as a holiday card
  • Letter from various sides of the company
  • Letter from third party endorsing your prospect

When you get to the point where it no longer makes sense to nurture a prospect, remove the contact from the nurturing process and return the name to the marketing database for a fresh promotion.

Don’t let all those business cards drown in that trade show booth fish bowl! Hook the live ones immediately, and nurture the rest with an efficient pre- and post-show email campaign.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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