SMPS Marketer Featured: Successful Virtual Trade Show Ideas

SMPS Marketer Cover_Marketer April 2021
April 21, 2021

Successful Virtual Trade Show Ideas

In person trade shows are non-existent right now, and will be for awhile. After the middle of March, every trade show and conference has either been canceled, postponed, or conducted virtually. Initially the virtual trade show/conference planners were faced with various technology challenges, but thankfully most have those issues worked out by now for a smoother attendee experience.

From a vendor and supplier standpoint, it’s hard to engage with a new audience at a virtual trade show. Conference planners encourage attendees to “visit” the vendors, but I’m not sure there has been much success with this approach.

That’s why, now more than ever, education is so important. Being a resource for our clients and available to answer their questions allows us to be perceived as the expert. Virtual trade show booths should be focused on delivering value, and there are many ways to do this. Create a roundtable discussion about a hot topic in the client’s industry. Bring in a panel. Have a mini breakout session to answer attendees’ questions or tell stories about how you’ve helped other clients. You could even be really creative by having a celebrity workout, a mixology class, or a cooking class hosted by professional chef. Think outside the box! Ask the conference planner to help promote these activities to the attendees if you aren’t given a list to do so yourself.

In the days leading up to the trade show, mail those attendees you want to engage with a small gift and a handwritten card telling them when you’ll be online to visit. This is a meaningful way to engage with them and begin building that relationship. It’s also a chance to talk about how you helped other clients similar to them. Think VALUE.

Social media can be a great tool for these conferences, too. Set up different campaigns 2-4 weeks before the show and deliver some branding ads to attendees (assuming you’re given a list). Set up a social media strategy to get them to visit your booth. This takes a lot more time upfront, but once built, it’s something that can easily be replicated for future trade shows and other marketing efforts. With Twitter for example, you can upload the attendee list and deliver ads to that list. There are many social media tools that can be used to get your brand in front of your client.

Trade shows may look different now and in the foreseeable future, but they can still be effective. You just have to change the way you play the game. As marketers and business developers, we must take advantage of the opportunity to be creative and find new ways to connect with prospects and clients. I would love to hear what success stories you’ve had in attending a virtual trade show.

This article appeared the the April 2021 Society for Marketing Professional Services Marketer. @SMPSHQ ©Marketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, April 2021, #SMPSMarketer #SMPS

SMPS Marketer April 2021 Successful Virtual Trade Show Ideas