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"Trade show attendance is down. We're shifting our marketing budget towards online."
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
That was a conversation I had with a manufacturing business owner that had regularly been an exhibitor at trade shows. As an online marketing agency owner, it's ironic that I'm defending trade shows, a marketing medium that's traditionally offline.
In 2019, my team & I cracked the code on how to pair online advertising with offline trade shows. We have a process that we used over & over on numerous trade shows throughout the year. I'm sharing our exact "recipe" for success below.
So in following through on my headline, how do you attract decision makers to your trade show booth?
I will let the long-time trade show exhibitors weigh in on what to do DURING the trade show. Our winning formula for a successful trade show starts a few weeks BEFORE the trade show.
There are 2 parts to our strategy. The first part has a limited lifespan, but it should still be effective for a few more years. The second part is foundational and is considered evergreen, meaning it's not a fad or trend that will die off.
In one sentence, this is a Facebook event on your company's Facebook page that has been put on steroids!
I'll lay out the step-by-step process right here on how to set this up properly in your company's Facebook Ads account. Then just below this, I'll explain some psychology behind why it's so effective.
For any kind of a live event that you physically attend in person, we've noticed that Facebook Event Ads perform far better than regular news feed image or video ads.
People don't seem to view live events happening in their area as an advertisement. So their guard is lowered and they are more open to finding out more about the event.
As social creatures, we also have a fear of missing out. When you see that some of your friends have already responded to this particular event with 'Interested' or 'Going', you become even more curious about this event.
The decision makers who come to your booth will have shown an interest in your product or service in one of the four ways listed above. Again, they are:
The location targeting is probably the most common sense out of all of this.
People who are within travelling distance of your trade show or industry conference should be the only ones being targeted with your ad campaign. There's no point in wasting your money on people who might meet all the other criteria, but they're too far away to travel to event.
Location radius targeting might not be relevant for events with international attendees. Then you might target all the countries where your ideal customer lives. The other targeting should still narrow down your audience.
This is the foundational part of our strategy that will still apply long after Facebook Event Ads are a thing of the past. The medium to get decision makers to your booth might change, but these things won't change:
You've probably seen all five of these in one variation or another. I won't go into detail on all of them, but I will highlight the last two.
It's absolutely critical to have an irresistible offer that's only valid until the end of the trade show. This has to be something compelling enough that they will take the next action you want them to take right at your booth.
Whether it's making a purchase right at your booth, watching a demo, or something else, you should use a consultative approach and have a genuine conversation that persuades them to take the next action.
At the very least, you should collect as many email addresses & phone numbers as possible at the trade show or industry conference. But it's not for the reason you might think!
BONUS! You get a reward for reading this far (or skimming through the subheadings of this article).
Upload those email address & phone numbers that you collected at the trade show as a prospect list in Facebook Ads (and LinkedIn Ads, if the list is over 300 people).
Then create campaigns in Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads that target that prospect list! This can be done to maximize any other follow up you would typically do with leads from a trade show or industry conference:
This process has proven to be very effective over & over again across many different industries. The first time we did it, our customer literally said:
"Things are going crazy, George! Everyone is coming to our booth telling us they saw our ads on Facebook. This is f*%#ing insane."
This process should really help you get a great return on the investment you're putting into a conference booth.
I know that it's definitely not cheap to exhibit at a trade show or industry conference. It adds up to a huge investment when you factor in travel & accommodations, booth rental, promotional material, and most importantly, your valuable time.
All the best with maximizing your return on invest with these 3 additional trade show strategies.