Pre-Show Marketing in the Virtual Age

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One of our favorite topics of discussion has always been pre-show marketing. Specifically, how to get attendees to visit your booth. The key to a successful show is doing the legwork before the show. With the live events shifting online, this has become even more important.

As people were suddenly forced into virtual events last year, I don’t think many knew what to expect. The feedback that we’ve gotten from clients though, is that they are not able to close nearly the same amount of business (or achieve whatever other show goal they had) as they did at live shows. One of the biggest reasons is visibility. At a live show there are unplanned avenues to gain traffic. For instance you can catch people passing by your space or gain in-event word of mouth from other attendees. Though we’ve always argued that this is far less efficient than targeted pre-show efforts, it isn’t nothing, but in the virtual space this type of interaction is almost non-existent. Big brands and primary sponsors gobble up primary real estate in the virtual experience and getting beyond them by just showing up is difficult. We want to help clients develop pre-show plans that get their prospect/client to engage.

Targeted Gifting

We define targeted gifting as creating a list of specific prospects/people who having the opportunity to meet with or sell at the show would make it worthwhile. Live trade shows cast a wide net as your booth is there for anyone who wants to walk up to you, whether a qualified prospect or not. This gets fueled further when there is a table of giveaways. We believe instead of buying 500 pens, lanyards and hand sanitizers that it is more efficient to tailor that spend on premium gifts for 5-10 key prospects. This strategy still holds for virtual shows and events as well, and you’re already saving the money not being spent on the generic promo items. The photo for this blog is an example of a targeted gift opportunity. It shows a box of virtual meeting essentials that would aide in a better remote work experience (blue light blocking glasses, portable laptop stand, Larq self-cleaning water bottle) with instruction to join at an upcoming conference. Helpful items for the current work climate, branded packaging and a reminder to meet with you. Instead of giveaway and sponsorship spending, you can spend on one of these targeted gifting campaigns and cut directly through to the people you need to see.

Unique Virtual Meeting Space

Live trade shows allow you to bring a customized booth to stand out. We’ve found that in the virtual show world, everyone is generally working with the same virtual booth style. This has led to an uptick in interest for customized virtual spaces. We spoke at length about these and showed a sample here in our last blog. The major benefit is having an opportunity to give the often distracted or complacent virtual attendee a more immersive and memorable experience.

Creative Email Campaigns

Historically for live tradeshows, b2b preshow emails have a tendency to be underwhelming, and frankly, it is because they can be. For live shows you know that your company and the attendee are going to be there, and there are so many other angles that get to them, the email is typically just, “see us at the show [maybe our new product too], booth 123.” For virtual, try to step it up because email is now a platform where you’re really fighting to get someone’s attention. Get creative with content, timing and dividing the list into prospect tiers. Maybe you create a tier 1 that gets personal email invites or a special perk for joining while tier 3 gets something more generic.

Use What you Have

I know from storing for some of you, that you have boxes of generic giveaways and brochures collecting dust while we don’t have live shows. There’s no guarantee that these items are going to be relevant (especially brochures) when we get back, so put them to work for the virtual show. Send out preshow bags/boxes with these items. This will generate interest, serve as a reminder and clear out some of those dusty boxes!

Leverage the Event

We love live tradeshows because they offer the unique opportunity to get companies around their clientele in person when otherwise it is just a digital (phone/video/email) relationship. You’re all at the same place at the same time. Well, virtual doesn’t offer this, and while I view this as a con it can be a pro if you leverage the event. What I mean by that is, don’t be afraid to use the common denominator of participating in a virtual event to set meetings before during and after the event. A zoom meeting with a virtual attendee is no different whether tomorrow, or two weeks from now during the event, so set them whenever you can make it work. In fact, if you get ahead you may even keep them from joining your competitors in the virtual space. You can meet the attendee when convenient for them instead of being part of their list to talk to in that rushed event window.

Spend time figuring out how to overcome the challenges presented by virtual events. Make the best of the opportunities they present. I hope the above has been helpful in showing some of the ways to break through. It is tough when we’re all in front of our computers, and a “trade show” feels little different than checking email. We want to help develop creative strategies with you to make these successful. Let us know if you’re interested in working together!