Trade shows are one of the most expensive marketing channels, and some CEOs, CFOs and CMOs may even argue that they are a complete waste of time and money. Yet, industry events seem to be more popular than ever. What’s behind this paradox?

The truth is that regardless of the rising importance of digital marketing, nothing can replace face-to-face contact, and judging by the social buzz they generate, it looks like industry events are here to stay. So instead of completely removing trade shows from your marketing strategy, why not try to fuse outbound and inbound techniques to reap the maximum benefits of an event? Here’s how.

  1. Identify the right shows to attend

With the abundance of niche industry events these days, you can’t possibly be everywhere. So you should be very discerning in making sure the events you do choose to attend are aligned with your marketing strategy and are, indeed, going to have an impact on the bottom line. One to two judiciously selected trade shows spread throughout the year won’t break the bank and will leave you with plenty of time to prepare.

  1. Devise an event-specific strategy

You may want to rely on your charisma to lure prospects to your stand but in reality that rarely works, especially when the majority of attendees now do extensive online research prior to an event. So you really want to make it known that you are going to attend so that prospects are aware of who you are and, in the best case scenario, come straight to your stand.

This is by no means easy to achieve and it is crucial that you approach each show in a strategic way that is in line with your business objectives. HubSpot recommend that you allow at least six months for planning each step of your trade show journey – from the pre-show campaign to the post-show follow-up.

  1. Use the right metrics to track your progress

It is crucial to measure your performance so make sure you have clear, quantifiable goals behind each trade show campaign. Once you have set your targets, it will become easier to identify the key metrics to track. Using a web analytics tool or a marketing automation dashboard will help you analyse the performance of all channels and calculate the ROI of each event.

  1. Deploy your social media armoury

Social media is to trade shows what mint is to a Mojito cocktail. There is ample evidence to suggest that trade shows and social media make good bedfellows so you should be deploying as many relevant channels as humanly possible. For B2B companies, you’d be best off starting with your company blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and, preferably, YouTube (for video interviews and highlights).

  1. Set your pre-show campaign in motion.

Inbound marketing techniques such as blogs, SEO and social media can generate buzz prior to the event, raise brand awareness and drive more prospects to your stand. You can harness the viral, real-time nature of Twitter by creating a unique hashtag to promote your attendance.

Setting up a LinkedIn group dedicated to the show will help you connect with other attendees and exchange some useful information prior to meeting in person, especially if you are in B2B. Just like trade shows, LinkedIn is all about networking so the two naturally make a good match.

You can also create a subdomain of your website a few months before the event, using the name and the year of the event – not only will it make it easier for people searching to find you, but it will also increase your SEO rankings.

Last but not least, why not reach out to influential event speakers and ask them to make a guest appearance on your blog? You can either interview them about the event in a video or ask them to write a blog post. This will considerably enhance your reputation and drive traffic to your website.

Businesses often approach trade shows without a dedicated show-specific agenda to drive action before the event. But with a strategic modus operandi, a well-planned social media calendar and clear, measurable targets, companies can attract more people to their stand and significantly increase their trade show ROI.

Download our free e-book to learn some more trade show best practices.