Your strategy for a trade show or event should never be created in a vacuum. It should always be a part of your larger marketing strategy and feed directly into your business goals. So, when planning for a trade show, make sure you're incorporating all of the channels which are a part of your normal strategy.
Just like any marketing strategy, your plan should be directly related to your goals. When deciding how to properly use social media to meet those goals, think about your funnel. Specifically you need a plan in place for reaching prospects at each stage: awareness, consideration, decision and even for current customers.
Now all you have to do is match your approach to your prospect's stage!
Before the Show
If you take nothing else from this blog, let it be this: preparation before the event is key! If you haven't done your homework, there's no way you'll be prepared to pass the test. Most people want to go to a show, blast social messages out through a megaphone and wait for the results to start pouring in.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but it doesn't work that way. As my husband is fond of saying, "anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing," and this is no exception. Be prepared to put in the work if you want the results.
1. Start your research early. Check out the show's hashtags and create monitoring streams for them. Start watching who's interacting and follow them. Make yourself a part of the conversation before you even get to the show. Respond to others, ask questions and be insightful. Give people a reason to want to come see you at the event!
2. Start following the right people. Start following all the big names at the show. Start with speakers and sponsors. Interact or repost messages they publish about the show.
3. Automate as much as you can. You know the event agenda ahead of time, so preschedule some of your more "canned" messages before you even go to the show. It will be one less thing to think about when you are on the trade show floor. Tag speakers or other companies as appropriate (they will likely want to retweet your message to a wider audience).
4. Promote yourself (in moderation). Have a booth at the show? Tell people why they should stop by. Speaking or running an event? Give the audience a teaser: tell them why they should come!
Consideration and Decision
5. Build your prospect list. This is where the work part really comes in. If you're going to a trade show, you absolutely must be preparing for who will be there. This is non-negotiable. Start researching who will be attending and build a list of who you want to be speaking with. Do not, I repeat, do not skip this step. If you don't know who you want to talk to, how will you ever talk to them?
6. Follow your prospect list. Sounds simple, right? It takes some effort to try and find the right people or companies on social. But, if you can do it, it will pay off big. Reach out to them on social with great content or information preshow to give them a reason to come see you.
7. Get personal. If you are connected (or can get connected) on LinkedIn with any prospects that you know will be attending the show, send them personal messages to start the conversation early. Provide them real value and they will want to come see you at the show.
8. Don't forget your customers. Trade shows are a great place to continue to build relationships with customers. They are also a fantastic place to up and cross-sell those customers. So make sure to set up meetings or invite current customers to your booth. Reach out to them with personal LinkedIn messages or through social if that is their preferred method of communication.
At the Show
Don't let your prescheduled social posts be your entire voice. Be prepared to interact for the entirety of the trade show.
9. Run contests. A surefire way to drive interest in your booth at a trade show? Give people free things, big things. Use contests to drive interaction through social. You can pose a question and give the best answer a prize, run a promotion for the most creative picture with your trade show giveaway or simply promote a contest that's running live in your booth. The sky's the limit with this one, be creative!
10. A picture is worth a thousand words. And a video is worth a million. Make use of images and videos over social. Events are a great place to get pictures with your team or clients, show off your personality and give people a reason to come talk to you!
11. Stay on top of the stream. Have someone dedicated to keeping an eye on the monitoring stream for the show hashtags for the entire event. Respond to questions, repost interesting items and contribute to the conversation. This can even be someone who is back home in the office if the on site staff are too busy.
CONSIDERATION and Decision
12. Engage with individuals. I've written at length about how your marketing should speak to the individual. Social is no exception. Make sure to reach out to tag or send messages directly to individuals. Talk to your prospect list, tag attendees you've spoken to in-person or respond to interesting posts by other attendees. Seek to use social to start a conversation rather than treating it like a megaphone.
13. Use your happy customers. Get in touch with your customers at the show and have them create video testimonials for you at the show. Turn around and release them via social to give your prospects a reason to come talk to you!
14. Do some customer appreciation. Share the love and post messages about customers you have at the show if appropriate or send them messages directly. You may even come prepared with customer appreciation gifts to give away at the show.
After the Show
Phew, the show is over and you are likely exhausted! Time to go home and rest, right? Wrong! Now it's time for the real work: follow-up. Social media can be a great tool in this phase of your trade show strategy.
15. Keep or create monitoring streams. The trade show you just attended was chock full of prospects that are just the right fit. So make sure to create monitoring streams in place for all the attendees (if you can get a list) or just create a list out of all the people who used the hashtag during the event. Now stay in touch with those folks!
16. Use social media for lead nurturing. Set up alerts for key phrases or mentions of your products or services, and then respond to anyone who uses them in posts. Depending upon your marketing tool set, you may be able to automate some of this process.
17. Take advantage of individual social accounts. Company accounts on social are great, but the real connections come between individuals. Make sure all your booth staff is connected with people they met at the show and are regularly releasing quality content through their individual social accounts.
CONSIDERATION & decision
18. Follow, follow, follow. What's the best way to start a conversation? Listen first! Start by following or connecting with all the prospects you met at the show and engaging with them. When they are ready, they will follow you.
19. Create targeted nurturing messages. This is another example of using social to start conversations rather than as a megaphone to blast a message. We typically use social like this: "Hey everyone, here's this cool thing I made about X." Think about how much more powerful it is to say: "Hi Debra, I know you are frustrated with X, here's some free content that may help you tackle that problem."