Savvy marketers know - integrating digital communications into face-to-face experiences result in more effective results.
Savvy marketers know – integrating digital communications into face-to-face experiences lead to more effective results

The way we communicate today is ever-expanding. We are more connected across various platforms than ever before. And through email, instant messaging, LinkedIn, Twitter (and a myriad of other social media channels), the speed at which information can be shared has escalated to new levels.

Yet, face-to-face marketing remains an effective tool for strong, lasting brand connections. According to an August 2012 study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 48% of attendees have seen the value of exhibitions, conventions and annual meetings increase and 37% of exhibitors said they had seen more value from their exhibits since 2010.

The reality is that both face-to-face and digital marketing are essential components to any company’s communications strategy. It is becoming vital for savvy marketers to integrate digital communications into face-to-face experiences for more effective results. Adding digital channels before, during and after the event can measurably enhance and extend audience engagement.

However, just as you would your face-to-face events, you also must plan and coordinate your online efforts. Choosing digital channels that make sense with your event, your audience, and your goals will affect the audience’s experience with your brand.

Trade shows are one of the most preferred face-to-face marketing strategies because they are a cost-effective way to generate leads, close new business, connect with customers, and drive brand awareness. How can a combined approach be applied to a trade show exhibit?

Pre-, At-, and Post-Show: A digital communication strategy that points to your booth’s message will generate more visitors.

Pre-show marketing plays an essential role in the success of any exhibit program because it helps drive booth traffic and identify quality leads. Digital communication is a natural fit here because companies can connect with customers and find prospective customers in a cost-effective manner. Some effective pre-show strategies include email campaigns, web microsite, use of hashtags in social media and video previews.

• Plan an email campaign based on the top messages in your booth and alert customers and prospects. Depending on your knowledge of your audience, this can be informational, educational, or gamified. Be sure to include mandatory information (who, what, where, when, etc.) and use the campaign to set appointments in advance.
• Set up a text messaging account and invite attendees to text to register for special giveaways, pricing or preferred treatment.
• Work with your IT department or web master to create a special section—or microsite—on your web site devoted to the event. If you have the budget, support your microsite link and message with banner ads.
• One campaign idea might be to create a pre-show contest based on a particular product or service. Invite your customer and prospect base to post comments, pictures, or videos to your Facebook page and Tweet using your contest hashtag. Post updates to Facebook and your microsite. Create excitement on the show floor by announcing the winners from your booth.
• If budget will allow and the contest prizes significant enough, consider a live stream from your booth to your microsite for the announcement.
• Tie your tweets about the show to the show’s hashtag. But add other relevant tags as well to extend your audience. Tweet often (comfortable rule of thumb 3-4 times a day) about the show and about interesting, relevant topics.
• Don’t forget LinkedIn! LinkedIn forum and groups are a direct way to discuss the show and your industry with peers.
• Create teaser videos for YouTube to build awareness about your show presence. A pre-show tour of your booth, product demonstrations, interviews with key people from your company, will build excitement in advance of the show.

On-Site: Interactive brand experiences are more memorable
Our latest white paper on America’s six generations points out that all the generations from 8-80 have gone digital. And, although personal interactions are an integral part of the trade show experience, digital tools are an increasingly important compliment to the face-to-face experience. Many of the activities at the show will be an extension of the digital communications before the show and provide content for extending communications after the show.

• Announce “specials” exclusive to those who signed up for text messages.
• Use your microsite for real-time feedback on the show floor so visitors can see what is going on at the moment. This extends your reach to people who cannot attend the show as well.
• With Internet connectivity being what it is on the show floor, be sure to assign someone back in the office to stay on top of posting and monitoring Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media. Keep that person up to date on happenings in the booth and on the show floor with emails, photos and smart phone videos.
• Publish blog posts each night to recap the day’s events. Remember to distribute information across your company’s own social and intranet channels.
• Effective but expensive, stream a press conference on your website if you have truly important news to announcement.
• Post video tours of your exhibit and onsite product demos to your YouTube channel for use in future marketing activities.

Another component of “at-show” digital engagement is digital collection of attendee data through RFID, QR codes, and interactive games and demos.

Post-Show: Keep the connection going long after the show.
Digital communication tools are ideal for all post-event follow-up. They also provide an opportunity to keep customers and prospects engaged long after the show doors have closed. Recapping show highlights, sharing attendee-specific information, and soliciting feedback on the show experience are examples of effective post-show efforts.

• Add show photos and videos to your website or photo sharing account. Be sure to tag with company name, show name and details. If there is an option for captions, you can retell your company story under the images. As always cross promote with social media and email and embed on your microsite.
• Post a virtual demonstration of new products launched at the show on your microsite. Use email and texts to share the URL with customers and prospects you weren’t able to connect with on-site.
• Crowd source ideas for your next show by using social network polls to gauge the most pressing needs and interests of attendees, customers, and followers. It can help you refine your focus at future shows and create a more engaging experience for the attendees.

Whether it’s a tradeshow, a proprietary show, a mobile tour or other event, face-to-face interactions help form the strong bonds that lead to long-lasting business relationships. Well-executed digital communications keep the dialog with prospects and customers fresh and lively year-round. What are some great ways you’ve integrated digital components in your face-to-face events?

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