Growing Your Trade Show

May 12, 2017

Kate Dodd

Kate Dodd is the Marketing Manager for Expo Logic. With ten years of conference marketing experience and a BA in Marketing from Pennsylvania State University, Kate specializes in creating company-wide marketing initiatives for events, products and services.

Good news for trade show organizers: According to a recent Attendee Acquisition Benchmarks and Trends Study, 66 percent of organizations are expecting increased attendance in 2017.

So, while this optimistic outlook is encouraging, how should you go about getting your share of this increased attendance? In other words, how do you grow your trade show?

Target Executive-Level Professionals. A study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) indicated that the majority of first-time attendees at trade shows are executive-level professionals who have the authority to make purchase decisions. The study concluded that this valuable group decides to attend a show for the first time if the show has a credible reputation and they are confident the show will:

·      deliver the opportunity to meet face-to-face with colleagues

·      provide the information they need to make business decisions

·      feature high-quality speakers

·      give high value for the money

So, if you’re looking to attract these executives, make sure your event delivers on these top-of-mind points.

Have a Compelling Value Proposition. Why would your target audience – whether new or returning attendees – want to attend? Perhaps it’s networking. Maybe it’s education. Or building visibility in the market. Organize a brainstorming session with key team members. Email a survey to former attendees, or to your prospective attendees. Ask them what motivates them to attend.

Be an Event Superhero. Make sure your show is positioned to appeal to your target audience. Shape your content to address specific industry challenges and get the best speakers or industry luminaries to participate. Provide fantastic networking opportunities and a convenient, or otherwise desirable, location. 

Multichannel Marketing Matters. Attendees looking for new events tend to rely on various sources of information, not just one. Make sure you’re clearly communicating your value proposition in the publications, websites and social media outlets they read.

Target and then Re-Target. The Attendee Acquisition Benchmarks and Trends Study also revealed that organizations attributed show growth to better email targeting (52%) and/or more sophisticated use of digital tools (44%). 

·      Email targeting. If you’re buying email lists, choose segments that reach as closely as possible your desired audience. And whether your using purchased, rented or your own lists, when you do email to them, tailor your content to their segment. A particular session topic or speaker that appeals to one segment may not resonate with another. 

·      Digital re-targeting. Google AdWords and Facebook offer re-targeting opportunities to further engage your audience with videos, polls or ads after a prospect has visited your website. Re-targeting allows you to continue the digital conversation with content specifically relevant to your audience.

·      Don’t forget the press. Have a press list? Make sure you’re communicating to them as well. 

Toot Your Horn. Use word-of-mouth marketing techniques to organically build your event’s reach and reputation. Social media tools like Hubspot, YouTube or your own blogs keep the conversation going and get people talking. Testimonials or quotes from former attendees lend credibility, as do survey results (i.e., 9 out of 10 attendees plan to attend next year). 

So, in a nutshell, growing your trade show attendance really means you understand 1) your target audience, 2) what they’re looking for, 3) why your show is uniquely positioned to deliver what they need, 4) how to clearly communicate your value proposition, and 5) how and where your audience best receives information about events. Now get growing!

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: