Trade show success is a lot about just a few days: how many visitors come to your booth; getting leads and appointments, email addresses and phone numbers; and ultimately winning new sales and (lifelong) customers.
But your trade show success is not only about what happens at the event itself. You can’t just set up your exhibit and hope for the best. Developing a great pre-show marketing campaign is almost as important as having an expertly designed booth that captures plenty of walk-in traffic.
One of the cornerstones of a pre-show marketing strategy is a pre-trade-show email campaign that targets potential trade show attendees and encourages them to visit your exhibit at the event.
Why Create a Pre-Trade-Show Email Campaign?
Because creating touchpoints with your audience is always important. Email is especially important because it allows you to reach a targeted audience with precise messaging, and it’s repeatable. This is a chance to promote your brand and generate interest ahead of the event. It can mean huge things for your trade show ROI.
Creating a Pre-Show Email Marketing Campaign
Set Campaign Goals
Before you compose anything in Outlook or Gmail, you need to define your goals for your event appearance. What do you hope to get out of the show? Are you:
- Generating new leads?
- Making sales?
- Launching a new product?
- Building brand visibility?
Whatever it is, the emails you send should include a mention of something that pertains to the goal and readers should care about meeting you at the show to find out more.
Define Your Target Audience
For pre-show marketing you’ll have two separate audience groups to focus on:
1. The list of contacts you already have—in particular:
- Current clients and customers
- Prospective customers and leads
- Visitors from previous shows
You may want to expand this list to include all your current email subscribers as well, but be careful: If those people aren’t likely to attend the show, it’s wise to avoid adding them to the pre-show list, as they may unsubscribe if they receive too many irrelevant emails. Then you’ve lost them as a contact.
2. Registered trade show attendees
Some trade show organizers provide email lists of attendees to exhibitors free of charge. Others make the information available on request for a fee. If you don’t receive this information from event organizers, feel free to ask for it.
Note: Sending unsolicited emails can be risky. You’re likely to get a higher bounce rate, and you don’t want your company to come off as spammy. If you choose to email trade show attendees, especially if they’re people you’ve never contacted before, put some thought into how you’ll address them. For instance, you’ll want to speak about the show, not be sales-y.
Segment Your List
Another good way to be sure you’re not sending a generic email to every recipient is to segment your list with specific demographics in mind; the more specific, the better. Write a separate email for each segment. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s much more likely to work than sending a generic email to an entire list, especially if they’ve never heard from you before.
For instance, one group might comprise people with a specific job title, or people who work in a specific department in their company. Another group might be attendees who work for companies that are targets for your sales team.
Also remember to check the list against any other subscriber lists you’re using to ensure you’re not targeting people who don’t fit your demographic, and that you’re not sending emails to the same person multiple times.
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Create a Landing Page
Keep your email short and to-the-point to avoid losing readers, but link to a landing page with an eye-catching call-to-action button. This is where you’ll keep all the relevant details about your show appearance in one place. And it provides recipients with a place to find out more information.
What should you include on the landing page?
- Information about your exhibit location on the trade show floor
- Quick notes about your exhibit and what you plan to show, like product launches or upgrades
- Information about who will be staffing the exhibit
- Any functions your company is hosting during the trade show
- Where a client is likely to find you after-hours for a bit of networking
If you want to create more structure, provide visitors with a sign-up contact form that allows them to make an appointment at your exhibit. This can give you the opportunity to create a separate, additional email campaign targeting those sign-ups specifically, so you can give them more information about product lines and remind them of their appointment times as the event draws near and even during the show itself.
Develop Your Email Timeline
The ideal pre-trade-show email campaign is one that sends out just the right number of emails to everyone on the list.
Too many, and your recipients end up with information overload. Worst-case scenario: They opt-out of your mailing list altogether.
Too few, and your pre-show campaign may get lost in your busy customers’ inboxes.
Ideally, you’ll send no more than half a dozen emails in the six-month lead-up to a show—around one email per month.
A typical campaign timeline could look like this:
Three or more months out:
Talk about the trade show itself, and provide basic information about where it is and what the focus of the show will be. Mention that you’ll be there and what you’ll be showing.
Two to three months out:
Talk about your exhibit, whether you have a particular theme planned, any promotions you’re running, and other details. Invite attendees to make appointments if they want your personal attention when they visit your booth.
One to two months:
Mid-campaign emails should simply reiterate the information you’ve already provided. Remind people they can drop in on your exhibit the day-of or sign up for scheduled appointments if they want to see you personally. If you have a promotional offer or giveaway planned, remind people what to do to be eligible.
A few days out:
Send a final email to remind people of your location on the floor, encourage them to visit, and remind them of whatever promotion or special offer you’re providing as incentive. Send out a separate email to people who signed up for appointments to remind them of the time and day they’re scheduled to meet with you.
Plan for Sales Incentives
One of the keys to success with any email campaign is to offer value. It’s not enough to write a salesy email full of cheerful promotional messages. Your sales pitch is always more valuable when you offer an incentive that people will want to take advantage of.
When creating direct sales emails, it’s easy to create this kind of value with things like discounts.
With pre-trade-show emails, you may need to be a bit more creative because you want to provide people with a reason to visit your exhibit on the day. This is especially true if you’re reaching out to an attendee list of people who may never have heard of you. Ideally, you’ll offer a prize of some kind, with eligibility open to people who visit your booth, or perhaps only to people who book an appointment, if the item is particularly high-value. Or get people flocking to your booth with:
- A celebrity appearance
- A high-energy music or dance spot
- Interactive events, such as raffles or games
- A beautiful or intriguing food spread
Then there’s the event swag—the freebies that can either be one of the best or one of the worst aspects of trade show attendance. Don’t be the booth that hands out branded pens and keychains. Choose unique and useful items, like mobile chargers or reuseable water bottles, and fun snacks or drinks. It’s always easy to spot a company that puts thought into the items it hands out at shows, and word of mouth can help get more people to your exhibit.
Write the Emails
You know your goals, who your audience is, when you’ll send your emails, and you have your landing page. It’s time to write the emails. This is simply a matter of saying,
Hey! I have these cool things coming up. I thought you’d want to know!
A sample email could look like this:
Improve Your Opportunities for Trade Show Success
Achieving the results you want from a trade show is all about preparation. Having a great exhibit, well-trained and knowledgeable staff, and a promotional campaign that’s on-point ensures you have plenty of visitors. A well-crafted pre-trade-show email campaign is an invaluable marketing tool for that preparation. It generates interest in advance and gets your message out to the people who need to see it.