Post-Trade Show Emails: Old-School Marketing in a New Era
In the digital world we live in today, there’s just no substitute for the face-to-face interactions trade shows provide. In fact, for some industries — such as health care, technology and retail — trade shows may be the biggest component of the marketing budget.
If you've ever exhibited at a trade show, you know what a great feeling it is to leave an event with a bucket full of business cards and swirls of positive buzz.
But the real ROI comes from how well you leverage those interactions in the days and months after the show is over.
You need a plan for nurturing the leads you’ve created. And the bedrock of your plan will be the trade show follow-up email.
It’s old-school marketing at its finest — updated for a modern, savvy audience.
In this article, we’ll show you how to create and launch a trade show follow-up plan that equips you to translate all of that buzz into measurable revenue.
Set Clear Goals
As many as 70 percent of exhibitors go into an event with no specific objectives. This is a colossal mistake.
Prepping for a trade show should be about more than making sure you have enough boxes of brochures and gearing up for a fight with the on-site union electricians.
You wouldn’t approach any other major marketing initiative without setting attainable goals, so don’t skip this step for trade shows, either.
Instead, step back and define your target numbers for:
You need to know what you’re aiming for with your trade show experience, so be as specific as possible.
Identify Potential Contacts
Some events will provide attendee lists ahead of time, particularly for exhibitors or sponsors. If this is the case for your event, jump on it!
Use this opportunity to identify attendees who are likely to fit your target audience. This will give you lots of head notice to think long and hard about how you can deliver the most value to these individuals.
Build a Trade Show Editorial Calendar
Start building your reputation before the show starts by scheduling blog posts, social media blasts and other marketing content around the topic of the event.
Some of this content can be straight-up promotional … but not all of it.
Sure, you want to make sure that anyone in your database of contacts who might be attending the event knows how to find you there.
But more importantly, you want attendees to think of you as an expert in this field. So in addition to your promotional messages, look for ways to present a unique spin on the subject matter at hand.
What do you have to say that no one else is saying?
Monitor Social Media
In addition to launching your own conversations, listen in on the discussions already taking place. What questions and problems does this audience have? What answers are they finding?
There are a multitude of social media monitoring tools that can put this insight right at your fingertips, including Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social, as well as marketing automation tools like HubSpot.
Create a Show-Specific Landing Page
A dedicated landing page, designed specifically for trade show attendees, will give you somewhere to send them after the event with your follow-up emails.
Use this landing page to drive additional value for attendees. For example, you might offer a whitepaper that dives deeper into a particular aspect of the show topic. Case studies might reinforce what attendees already experienced in your booth. Or you can even conduct a poll during the event and create an infographic that presents your data creatively.
Planning Your Trade Show Emails
Emails Before the Show
Build a foundation for the face-to-face interactions that will happen at the show by reaching out to some of your most appealing prospects before you ever step foot in the hall.
Load that attendee list into your email service provider and start sending personalized, specific messages about the solutions you’d be happy to discuss on-site.
This is also a great time to point out all of that additional content you’ve been developing. In your emails, include links to related blog posts on your website or your social media profiles, so you can pull prospects into targeted, high-value conversations before they even meet you.
Emails During the Show
Once attendees hit the show floor, they’ll be barraged with sights and sounds that are wrangling for their attention.
To keep them from being too tempted by your competitors, a few well-placed emails sent during the course of the show itself will remind them they wanted to stop by your booth. The emails can help keep your message top-of-mind amid these distractions.
Emails After the Show
Of all of the communications you’ll send, the trade show follow-up email is the most important. This is where you pull the lead into your marketing funnel and begin to formulate a real plan to help meet the lead’s needs.
A few key elements to keep in mind:
- Organize Your List of Leads According to How Sales-ready Each Lead Is. Send leads who were highly engaged with you or your sales reps at the show an email that directs them to a landing page with mid- to bottom-of-the-funnel content, such as a buying guide. Leads who expressed moderate interest might be better suited with top-of-the-funnel, higher-level content, like an industry report. And at least some of the leads won’t be leads at all; these are the people who only stop by your booth to get their badge scanned in the hopes of winning a giveaway. For these people, your best bet is to politely point them to some very general resources on your website, but not spend too much time on them.
- Personalize Each Email. Start building a sales relationship from Day One. Use the lead’s name in the email, and have the email sent from the rep or account manager who will be handling the sale.
- Include a Photo of Your Booth in the Email. Chances are good your lead visited a lot of booths at the event — and maybe even your competitors’. A photo will help jog the lead’s memory so the visitor knows exactly who you are.
- Send the Email No Later Than Three Days After the Event. While it’s reasonable to give leads one day for travel, prompt follow ups are critical. Have your email campaign ready to go as soon as you’re back in the office, so you don’t lose any momentum.
It’s tempting to simply look at the size of your leads database and call the event a success. We get it. But don’t do it.
If you’ve built a solid foundation by setting clear goals and executing a carefully planned strategy, you should constantly tweak your formula based on how well you met those pre-show aspirations.
- Did you get the booth traffic you expected? How many touches did the average visitor receive before the show?
- Did those visits produce meaningful conversations? How many of those visitors can be considered sales-ready leads?
- Did your post-show follow-up emails help to guide these leads into the buying process? How many hits did your dedicated landing page receive? How well did your landing page convert on its call to action?
Use these insights to adapt your trade show plan as-needed to generate even better returns next year.
After all, if your trade show presence doesn’t eventually translate into sales, then what’s the point?
To get the sales, you have to build the relationships, old-school style.
A great email marketing strategy that connects the journey before, during and after the trade show will maximize your chances of making the type of connections you want: ones that cut through the static of the hall, last well beyond the brief span of the show, and lead to a long-term business impact.