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Trade Shows / 08.26.19 / By Chase Howells

Trade Show Marketing in Digital Terms

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Recently we launched a refreshed version of our website. This is on top of increased internet marketing efforts this year with expanded videos, social media, Google Business, SEO, etc. This is all to say that I’ve personally been dipping my toes into the world that many of you spend most of your time, digital marketing. Through this, I started to realize that virtual world mimics the trade show world in a way. Let me further explain some of these ways.

SEO: Move to the Front

Think of the aisles of the show hall as the pages of a search engine. Established, well-known brands own the best spaces in the show just as they own the top of the results. Regardless of company though, we all know that being first page on a search is a priority and being even just a couple of pages back is a lost cause. Yes, trade shows (especially if they’re smaller) will be more forgiving to those not up front, but the further you are from that main entrance and main aisle, the less traffic you will receive. Just as you’d consider SEO for important keywords a worthwhile expenditure, evaluate which shows it would make sense to pay more for the better booth space.

Pay-Per-Click: Utilize Sponsorship

Search engines allow you to buy their favor. Paying to place your company, even an ad, at the front of the search results regardless of who you are. Trade shows generally offer a comparable option; sponsorship. What sponsoring a show will give you varies, but typically you will get primary logo placement, ad space and a preferred booth space on the show floor. If it is an important show, put your logo and ads directly in front of them the same way you’d pay to highlight a keyword.

Landing Page: Trade Show Graphics

A person’s click on the search takes them to a designated landing page. This site has to win them fast with enough relevant visuals and/or information above the fold to keep them at the page, or get them to contact for an initial conversation. On the show floor this is what your graphics are for. In particular, if you’re in a linear space this is what your backwall graphics are for. Those that are walking towards the space are already scoping out the graphics to gather enough information to decide whether or not it is worth stopping and having a conversation. Really focus on portraying the necessary information on the main graphic in the space, and keep it above knee-height in the viewing area just as it would be above the fold online (or in print).

Contact: Reception

They’re now on your website, like what they see and want to reach out. They go to the contact page and either fill out the necessary form, call, or maybe even live chat. On the show floor, be attentive for those that are looking to engage and have a clear point in the space for them to do so. We love freestanding counters versus tables to be more welcoming and more obvious as a point of reception. If you’re processing a lot of people, and just want to gather info, utilize a tablet stand or two.

Spam: Non-Leads

All websites get flooded with irrelevant traffic. Some wind up there for tracking down a strange string of words, some want to find a way to sell your company, some just seem inexplicable. Trade show traffic can be similar, and if you aren’t prepared you’ll be spending way too much time with unqualified attendees. Use advanced lead-retrieval (think of this as the CAPCHA), targeted pre-show marketing and appointment setting to help sift through this. Also, avoid having generic giveaways that can draw the freeloaders. Opt for more substantial giveaways that you can give out to qualified leads/customers at your discretion.


The web tracks everything and provides all kinds of analytics for marketers. This data is extremely valuable to tell us what is working, who our clients are, how they make decisions, etc. There are ways in which to track trade show analytics as well, though they are much less passive and require someone’s focused effort. This is another opportunity to use advanced lead-retrieval or options like the Exhibitforce software we use to compile and analyze data, link to CRMs and track things like ROI.

What happens next?

Everyone has a process for where the leads go that are generated from the website. Similarly, there should be one for trade show leads. And as mentioned before, these should be tracked. ROI is one of the most important indicators on returning to a trade show again in the future, and far too often we have clients unclear of their real value.

I hope this has helped to shape trade show marketing into the familiar digital marketing form, and allows you to envision the same successful traits from the web in your booth space. Contact us for ideas on analytics and trade show marketing strategy, we’re more than happy to help!