Why Trade Shows Are So Important

Did you know that trade shows and conferences in the U.S. generated close to $13B in revenue for the exhibition industry in 2015, with revenue growth of 1.6% in Q2 of 2016? Huge.

Large global trade event organizers are also racing to get into content marketing with good reason – it’s incredibly effective at connecting buyers and sellers before, during, and after an event.

Audience-focused content, properly distributed, keeps event attendees engaged all year-round (which is crucial from a targeting point of view, but more on that in a minute).

trade show crowd
credit: Unsplash

Your Competitors Are Investing in Content and Lead Acquisition

To grow this pie even further, trade show groups that own dozens of properties around the world are coming to rely heavily on content as it relates to lead-gen and digital user acquisition.

UBM just acquired the Content Marketing Institute to up their game, Reed Exhibitions owns a Content Marketing Expo in Japan, and ASD Market Week (owned by Emerald Expositions) recently won the industry’s award for Trade Show of The Year in large part because of their embrace of digital content and lead acquisition campaigns.

But you don’t have to be huge trade show to get started. No matter what size trade show or conference you manage there are straightforward (and very executable ways to get started).

First, let’s create and drive as much traffic as possible to your content.

Do Some Light Audience Research – Ask What People Want to Read

The key to attracting the right audience to your site content (and eventually register to attend your event) is to create content they want to read.

  1. Send out a questionnaire using Survey Monkey or Google Forms with the following questions;

What online content would be most helpful for you and your business?

-product advice?

-vendor and speaker guides?

-business marketing advice?

-show-related information?

What 2 social media channels do you check in with each day? What blogs and influencers do you follow?

What is the most important information for you to have just before the event? After the event?

In my experience, the closer you get to the actual event your audience will almost exclusively want procedural information (maps, times, vendor info, speakers etc) that can increase their ROI while at the event.

When you conduct google searches related to your business, what keywords do you use?

  1. Conduct short Interviews with 3-5 current and potential attendees to understand specifically what they want to read about and what channels they use.

Create Content For Your Site & “Gated” Funnel Content

Now that you know what to write and for whom, it’s time to publish!

  • write blog posts and publish them on your site at least 1x per week (ask your entire team to post and share these posts on their Linkedin profiles, and your email marketing team to deploy). You’ll need to create a “content library for them to pull from – this is just an easy excel spreadsheet.
  • Plan to create, publish, and distribute content during your event as well.
  • create a piece of downloadable content specifically for your audience (see next point). Start with a 5-10 page very easy-to-read deck. This is called “funnel content.” This is also a great way to leverage existing content you may have “laying” around.

Funnel content is designed to bring customers into your “funnel” by because you’ve made this piece incredibly specific and enticing (in a genuine way). for your audience.

If you’re a trade show vendor, this might be something like, “A Vendor’s Guide to Making The Most Money Possible at an Electronics Trade Show.” You get the idea.

Strategic Landing Pages: For Gated Content and For Inside Blog Posts

Use Unbounce (a leading, self-serve landing page platform) to create a landing page that collects customer information in exchange for the very valuable piece of content you just created. You’ll be able to track the leads that come in from any traffic source too.

Add yes/no buttons that say, “I want to be contacted for the next show.” Anyone who selects “yes” send over to the sales or attendee team for 1-to-1 contact. Anyone who clicks “no” receives a content-based, opt-in email drip.

Landing pages are also a great way to streamline your event registration process. Create event “registration” landing pages and place these links inside your blog posts to get your content to convert.

Pay to Promote Your New Website and Funnel Content on Facebook – Here’s How

According to the Holmes Report, Facebook is now the preferred social media channel for B2B decision-makers – yes!!

Instead of paying to promote posts from your company Facebook page, create “content ads” using your ad account only. Set aside approximately $10-15 per day to promote one of your blog posts each week (again, not as a promoted post) to your existing audience and targeted prospects. For beginners, these are called, Facebook “custom audiences” and “look-a-likes.”

At the same time, deliver your new gated piece of content using the landing page link to collect new lead information for another $15-20 per day. Your goal here is to get as many people to download your piece of content. Other channels: make sure this landing page link lives on your site, in emails, in your social channel bios, Linkedin, and even press releases.

Your goal here should be to drive qualified traffic to blog posts on your site and collect as much useful lead information as you can.

Here’s why.

Retargeting

This is how you turn editorial content into paying vendors or attendees.

Facebook (and Google and Twitter) provides website remarketing pixels that you can place on your website pages.

When a visitor reads content on your site, a remarketing pixel matches them to their Facebook profile – at which point you can deliver a tasteful, relevant blend of “content ads” and “exhibit now” ads in their feed.

If you do nothing else at all ensure you’re driving qualified traffic to your content using every channel at your disposal.

Trade Shows Are The “New” Internet

Trade shows and conferences are and always have been in the unique position to foster those crucial in-person relationships that propel businesses forward.

Trade show executives that also add year-round digital content experiences for their attendees will not only achieve a stable balance of retention and new, but will also generate the kind of industry authority necessary for every great event to thrive.

It’s the perfect recipe.