Exhibiting at a trade show means a busy time for you and your trade show team. There’s a lot to do, and it’s easy for some details to be overlooked. Don’t let your trade show email marketing campaign be one of them! Email marketing remains one of the most important ways to keep in touch with existing customers and reach out to new ones. But like any aspect of trade show marketing, email marketing works best when you have a plan.
How to Build a Successful Event Email Marketing Plan
Your trade show email marketing plan should have two stages: before the show and after the show. In the weeks before the trade show, your marketing strategy is designed to entice people to visit your booth. After the show is over, it’s designed to get those visitors to take the next step in your sales cycle.
Stage One: Before the Show
Your pre-event trade show email marketing is all about one thing, and one thing only: getting more booth visitors. For this stage of the plan, you need to reach out to your subscriber base, let them know about the show, and give them a good reason to visit your booth. Use targeted messaging that lets people know precisely why your trade show booth is worth their time.
1. Set Your Show and Email Campaign Goals
The first stage in any marketing campaign is to define your goals for that campaign. What outcomes are you looking for? Once you know what your endpoint is, you can devise a path that gets you there. For instance, are you hoping to:
- Build brand visibility?
- Launch and sell a new product?
- Generate qualified trade show leads?
Whatever your overall goal for the show is, your email campaign should be crafted with that end in sight. For instance, if you’re attending the show to launch a new product, your email campaign should tease that product and make people want to know more about it.
2. Who’s Your Target Audience?
In pre-show marketing emails, segmenting your email lists can ensure everyone gets the right messages. There’s no point sending event-focused emails to people who aren’t attending—and inundating those people with irrelevant emails may cause them to unsubscribe. You don’t want to risk losing contacts, and segmentation can help with that.
You have two main groups of people to consider:
Current contacts: These are clients or existing customers, prospective customers, leads, and people you’ve met at other events. They are “maybes” who might attend the event. Emails for this group should extend an invitation to visit your trade show booth.
Registered show attendees: It can be worthwhile obtaining the show’s email list of registered attendees, but it’s important to use this list selectively. Sending out generic emails to everyone on it isn’t a good use of your time or effort.
Instead, segment the list and look for people with specific job titles or descriptions or people who work for companies that are already sales targets. Make sure to cross-check this list with any other email lists you maintain. For any targets who are on both lists, you can then choose which group to add them to.
3. Develop Your Email Schedule
It’s not easy to strike the right balance in terms of your email delivery schedule. Too many emails, and you risk people getting annoyed and opting out. Too few, and you won’t be able to cut through all the other noise in their inboxes. The right balance typically starts out with a slow schedule that picks up the pace the closer it gets to show day.
- Three months out: Announce your attendance. Talk a little about the show and mention your booth with a booth announcement. If you have a new product to launch, include a teaser.
- Two months out: Add more details about your booth and any promotions or incentives you’re planning. Issue a general invitation to visit the booth and invite people to schedule a personal appointment if they want to see you.
- One month out: Repeat the information from the previous email. Add images, a video teaser, or a countdown clock to heighten interest.
- One week out: Send a final reminder. Include the following information:
- Your booth number/name and location in the exhibit hall
- Promotions or incentives you’re running and what the eligibility criteria are
- For people who’ve made appointments, send out a separate email with the time and date of their appointments.
4. Craft Emails That Get Results
Now you know when and to whom you need to send those emails. But coming up with the content might just be the hardest part. What kinds of emails get opened, read, and acted upon?
Start with a Catchy Subject Line
Your first job when writing a trade show marketing email is to get the reader to open that email, instead of directing it to the trash. That means the subject line must be good. Try:
- Personalizing it: Use the recipient’s name to create an instant connection.
- Appealing to emotion: Use language that evokes curiosity or urgency or piques their interest about the contents of the email.
- Using active language: Use a verb or describe an action in the subject line. Avoid passive voice.
Add Compelling Content
Once you have their attention, it’s time for the body of the email to get to work. It should give recipients the information you promised in the subject line, but don’t give all your secrets away. If readers already know everything you have to say, they might choose to visit other booths at the trade show instead.
For instance, if you’re launching a new product, you have the perfect opportunity to engage in a drip marketing strategy. Reveal a new detail about the product in each email, and your readers will feel compelled to visit your booth to get the full story and finally find out what the product is.
Mix Text with Visual Branding
Don’t rely on words alone to make your case—emails that include images are much more effective. But not too many—there’s definitely a sweet spot! In fact, a survey from Constant Contact reports that emails with around 20 lines of text and no more than 3 images get the best click-through rates.
Create a Clear Call to Action (CTA)
Every email you send out should have a single, obvious call to action. What one thing do you want readers to do after reading your email? Is it the same for every email, or does the CTA change the closer you get to the event?
For instance, for that first email, maybe you want to direct them to your company website. In the second and third emails, you want to invite them to make an appointment or to visit your booth at the show. For the final email, you want to reiterate that invitation and remind them of all the reasons why they should visit you.
Stage Two: After the Show
Once the show is over, you move from event mode back to email mode. The work of engaging booth visitors at the event is done—now it’s time to follow up. You no longer need to segment emails into different demographic groups, but you do need to treat qualified and unqualified trade show leads a little differently:
- If you’re short on time after the event, follow up on qualified leads first. It’s okay to leave the unqualified leads for a few days.
- Tailor your calls to action to qualified versus unqualified trade show leads. The next steps are different for each group because they’re at different points in the sales cycle.
1. When to Send Trade Show Follow Up Emails
The content is the most important thing, of course, but timing is a close second. It’s important that you don’t delay in sending post-show emails. The best time to send these emails is typically one to two days after the end of the show. At the very latest, aim to get emails out within a week of the show.
Timing is important, and sending emails one to two days after the show usually gives the best results. Why?
- If you send emails too soon, people may still be traveling home. If they’re paying less attention to their inbox, it’s easy for your email to be overlooked.
- If you wait too long, your recipients may have already moved out of event mode. They’re looking ahead to the next thing, and you’re no longer fresh in their mind.
2. What to Write in a Post-Show Email
Trade show attendees who are busy at a show tend to have full inboxes when they get home. Working through that inbox, they want to quickly know what each email is about. If your email makes that easy for them, they’ll be more likely to decide in your favor.
As they read your email, the recipient has three questions. You need to answer them quickly and fully.
Who are you? Each person on your list is likely to be on several other lists too. They’ll be receiving a big handful of emails after the show. Your first job in a post-show email is to remind them of who you are. It’s helpful if you can include a personal touch—something that shows you remember them. If the two of you chatted about something memorable at the trade show, refer to it in your email. It could help jog their memory.
What can you do for them? The second thing your recipient needs to know is whether it’s worth their time to keep reading. So your next step is to explain what you do and what you can do for them. One option is to include a quick sales story that highlights how you found a solution for another client. If you discussed anything specific at the event, try to find a way to include that too.
What should they do next? Your final move is to tell the reader what their next step is. If you’ve piqued their interest and they’re ready to move ahead, they need to know what to do next. Here, you need to base your call to action around your goal for the email.
For instance, if you’re working with qualified leads and want to move them directly to a sales pitch, invite them to schedule a phone call or meeting. If you’re working with unqualified leads or a product with a longer sales cycle, it might be more appropriate to direct readers to sales literature.
An Effective Trade Show Email Campaign Sets You Up for Success
Exhibiting at a trade show is all about planning and preparation. Every little bit of effort you put in before an upcoming trade show contributes to your success—and that includes your event marketing plan. A well-designed email strategy brings more booth visitors and gives you a way of following up with those visitors after the show is over.