Trade Show Traffic — Get in the Fast Lane

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Tips for picking the best show and for attracting the right exhibitors

By Mark Kao

The value of trade shows for marketing is immense. For starters, people at trade shows are already in a shopping mindset. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 92 percent of attendees are looking to discover and learn more about new products.

But remember: Other exhibitors will be competing for the very people you want in your booth.

So how do you ensure that your exhibit booth gets the traffic and attention it deserves? This basic guide will walk you through three simple strategies that do just that.

Creating a High-Traffic Exhibit Booth Starts with Picking the Right Trade Show

Part of getting good traffic at trade shows is to ensure that your target audience is attending. You may have the most accommodating staff manning the booth, high-impact audio and visual equipment, or the best invention since sliced bread, but if you’re at the wrong show, and people who’re likely to take interest in your offering are not attending, you won’t get traffic. Maybe a few freebie-seekers and aggressive networkers, but not the people you hope to attract.

Here are two things to look for in a trade show to guarantee traffic.

1. Attended By and Close to Your Target Audience

Foot traffic is great. But you know what’s better?

Targeted traffic from attendees whose interests, problems, and needs similar to those of your customers. The better you know your customers, the closer you get to the ideal trade show. Sit down with your top 10 to 20 customers. Ask them:

● What trade shows do you attend every year?

● What are you looking for on the exhibition floor?

● Why did you choose my company?

● Is there any particular feature of my product or service that they find attractive?

● How did my offering help them solve their problems and challenges?

Not only will you discover which shows they attend, you’ll also have a better idea of how to build the exhibit that attracts the right kind of traffic. And do pay attention to your distribution area and the show’s location. Up to 60 percent of trade show attendees are from within a 200-mile radius of the venue. Go with the trade show whose venue is close to the areas your business services.

2. Fitted with the Latest Attendee Tracking and Management Technology

Event technology is your friend when it comes to running a successful exhibit. In particular, the advances in attendee tracking and management can help maximize engagement, brand exposure, and traffic.

Take radio frequency identification (RFID) for example. Thanks to RFID, event organizers and exhibitors won’t have to guess about traffic. The technology reveals who visited which booth or aisle, the number of people passing through a route, and more. For exhibitors, RFID gives better insight about the demographic of attendees — job title, industry, age, and location — and the product booths that interest them the most.

And then there’s near field communication (NFC). This affordable technology is being used across a number of events like music festivals and conferences. NFC sends data over radio waves, delivering a variety of content like surveys, downloadable apps, and event updates minus the paper waste. For trade show organizers, this means lower costs and reduced waste. Exhibitors, on the other hand, are pleased with the easier and smoother lead capture afforded by NFC.

When choosing a trade show, give special attention to shows that employ such technologies. No matter how well you do this year, you will want to do better at the show’s next edition — and event tech like NFC and RFID can help you do just that.

Use Digital Marketing to Your Advantage

Digital marketing is an umbrella term describing the marketing of product and services using digital technology. Search optimization, social media marketing, and PPC advertising are just some of the most popular marketing techniques in the digital age.

Internet usage around the world is only increasing, with 77.6 percent of people in Europe and 66 percent in the Americas connected to the web, according to Telecommunication Development Sector. And for businesses looking to promote their trade show booth, digital marketing can give the reach needed to make the exhibit a success.

The number of digital marketing tactics is also growing. So instead of overwhelming you with a long list of tactics, let’s take a look at two tried-and-tested ways to drive traffic to your booth the digital way.

1. Promote Your Presence On Social Media

Social media can help you generate leads and traffic to your exhibition booth, while slashing costs by up to 80 percent. However, social platforms are a dime a dozen, and you don’t want to spread your pre-show marketing efforts thin. So which social media networks should you focus on?

The answer: The right channel is where your target audience goes online.

Take a thorough look at your prospects’ browsing and social media habits. See where they stay and focus your efforts on establishing presence on that channel. It’s possible that the people you want to target are across multiple platforms. Here is a look at the most popular social networks — from quick statistics, best practices, and the types of event marketing material that work best for each.

Instagram can be an excellent platform for promoting your presence at the event. Its reach is sweeping the online world, with Instagrammers surpassing the 500-million-mark. Not to mention their users cover a wide age demographic, from teenagers barely out of middle school to 64-year-olds enjoying their retirement. Instagram’s highly visual nature makes it an ideal place for sharing photos of the staff in action, a short video tour of the venue, and close-ups of the best attractions of your booth.

LinkedIn features more than 450 million professionals. For B2B companies especially, the network can be a powerful pre-show promotion tool. Take a closer look at your professional connections to see who is attending or might be a good fit for the show. You want to engage with these people in a casual, not salesy tone. Bring up the trade show and your booth number as an aside, and encourage them to drop by if they have the time. Keep an eye on LinkedIn groups relevant to the event. If you can contribute valuable insight to conversations while briefly promoting your attendance as an exhibitor, you’re golden!

Twitter is still the king of real-time social communication, with feeds moving at lightning speeds. The micro-blogging platform works best for sharing bite-sized and just-in-time updates before, during, and after the event. However, approximately 6,000 tweets are posted every second and catching the attention of potential booth visitors can prove challenging. You want to provide value and promote your attendance, but at the same time, you don’t want to annoy people. A good rule of thumb is to never tweet more than once an hour, and make sure the tweets aren’t all about your exhibit. Nothing wrong with tweeting about the trade show several times a day. But do mix it up.

Facebook, of course, has to be part of a list of popular social media channels. The brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg now has 1.79 billion active users every month, with the average U.S. consumer spending about 40 minutes on the network every day. Facebook pages and profiles allow for a variety of updates — from videos and photos andnotes, to long and short posts. However, Facebook feeds aren’t as fast-moving as Twitter’s. So short and constant updates may end up clogging your followers’ feeds. Instead, use Facebook for more substantial updates like photo album uploads, daily video recaps, and long status updates.

2. Email Marketing

Email is still one of the best ways to reach audiences and potential booth visitors. With an open-rate of 21.37 percent and CTR of 3.57 percent across multiple industries, email provides better bang for your marketing buck than other communication platforms.

For a successful email marketing promotion, you want to create a list of people who fit your audience’s profile and are likely to attend the event.

You need to review several sources to build such a list. First, you want to see which companies and individuals reached out to your business recently, but have yet to become customers. Check the usual touch points like questions on social media, office visits, and phone calls.

Next, you want to speak with the trade show’s management team to see if you can obtain pre-registration information or last year’s list of attendees. These people have already shown interest in attending the gathering. And if they do come, you want them to drop by your booth.

After building the list, preparing an effective email marketing sequence is the next step, and this varies from one industry to another.

But one thing to always remember: Make your pre-show marketing emails about them — their problems, challenges, and the solutions you offer. It’s the best way to catch their attention.

Lure Attendees to Your Booth with the Right Giveaways

People love giveaways!

In a 2009 study by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), more than 1,000 consumers were sampled to see how they reacted and responded after receiving promotional products and giveaways. The study found that 94 percent of the participants remembered a specific product they received while 89 percent also remembered the advertiser. And many said they’d love to get more from the brands they support.

Yes, giveaways can do more than just attract traffic to your booth. It can also leave a lasting impression on attendees. So how do you pick the right giveaway? Here’s a four-point checklist to keep in mind.

1. Aligns With Your Brand and Message

What message do you want to convey to exhibit visitors? That your company is professional, punctual, or maybe reliable? Whatever it is, you want every element in your exhibit — especially your giveaways — to steer that direction.

For example: Our company, COSRental, rents tech and A/V equipment to event professionals. And we want our clients, especially those who need to get everything together in short notice, to view us and our rental services as a stress-reliever. If we are to exhibit at a show like Event Tech Live or The Special Event, stress-balls or a pack of relaxing teas can be a great choice as they suit the message we want to convey.

2. Valuable for Attendees

Pens and coffee mugs were once the go-to giveaways for exhibitors, and for good reason. Just about anyone — from stay-at-home moms, new employees, to company CEOs — could find both useful in their day-to-day activities.

This isn’t to say you should pick pens and mugs as your giveaways. They’ve been overused and won’t score you points in the uniqueness department. But you do want your freebies to be useful for the recipient. Think about what your target audience has to do every day.More important, ask how you can help them with those daily duties. The answers can lead you to a giveaway idea that’s catchy, unique, and practical.

3. Made to Last

Think about it: Your giveaway will carry your company’s logo and branding. It can be an exceptional branding and promotion tool — but only if it’s made to last.

Pens that run out of ink or planners whose leaves fall off just after the show won’t earn you the respect of booth visitors. Attendees won’t benefit from it and it will reflect negatively on your brand. So when shopping for giveaways, make sure the items are durable.

4. Fits the Budget

And last but not the least, the giveaway needs to fit your budget. Giveaways are just one component of your exhibit. It’s great for attracting foot traffic and increasing brand exposure, but not the whole enchilada.

The freebies must reflect the number of attendees you hope to attract to the booth, and be well within the projected value of a new customer.

For more insights from COSrental, click here.

Mark Kao is the department manager of COSRental — an event and conference equipment rental company. This article was originally published at

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