Digital marketing offers many opportunities for engaging with people and brands both before and after your event which can sow the seeds for great business relationships in the future.
The decision to exhibit at an event should always be made with the wider picture of your corporate goals and strategy. You should have clear, measurable expectations for the event, such as:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Growing your following on social media
- Growing your mailing list
- Direct or indirect sales of goods, products or services
- Lead generation
- Networking opportunities
Whatever your objectives might be, make sure you set them before the event. For example, you might want to come away with at least three warm leads to follow up and to grow your mailing list by 25%. Another company might want to have sold a certain number of products or set up a number of product demonstrations.
It really depends on your business - whatever you do, be clear and specific about your expectations.
Who else is going?
Most events will have an exhibitors list which you can use to find out who is exhibiting at the event. For the Anglia Business Exhibition 2019 you can access it here.
You can follow all these exhibitors and use the list on the day to keep track of what is happening. You may also want to follow them on other networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. A ‘see you there’ tweet is a nice way to engage with other exhibitors and gives you some content to share throughout the run-up to the event.
It’s well worth following the event hashtag and any other relevant hashtags - for example for the Anglia Business Exhibition this year we’re using #ABE19 - also #SuffolkHour is a great one to follow for live tweeting with other businesses between 8.30-9.30 on Wednesday evenings.
Add the event to your Facebook page
Most events will create a Facebook event - you can add this to your company Facebook page when on a desktop computer by clicking on the three dots to the right of ‘Share’, and select ‘Add to page’. We’ve written a more detailed ‘how do’ on the ABE blog here.
Tell your clients you’re attending
Whether you send a direct email, add it to your newsletter or push something out on social media, let your clients and contacts know that you’re going to be exhibiting at the event.
Invite them to come along - you could even offer to have some 1-2-1 appointments if you have the staff and facilities to permit this during the event.
Do something to invite engagement
You could run a competition or launch a product at the event, whatever you choose make sure you have something to encourage engagement and give people a reason to open up a conversation with you - free sweets and pens will only get you so far!
In the run-up to the event you can use this as an opportunity to post teasers - videos or images which hint at what you’re preparing so that you can build excitement and buzz around the event.
During the event you can often ask the organisers to make an announcement on your behalf if you are announcing the winner of a competition or launching a new product.
Prepare your materials
All your visual materials, whether it be business cards, exhibition stands, giveaways or fliers need to be on-brand and relevant for the event you are attending.
Ideally a professional designer should be involved in helping you define the brand message and creating these materials. If you’re a smaller business and want to ‘do it yourself’ then check out canva.com.
Ensure you get your materials delivered in good time, and use this as an opportunity to offer ‘sneak peeks’ behind the scenes of your event preparation. You can take pictures of the design process, snaps of the exhibition material when it has arrived, even setting up at the event.
Preparing for the day
Train your staff
Make sure that everybody who is involved with digital media knows your overall strategy and what they are expected to do before, during and after the event.
Ensure that your digital marketing tools are set up and ready to receive the incoming contact details - for example I use the FullContact app on my mobile, connected via Zapier to my CRM, so that each time I scan a business card it automatically adds the person to my CRM and sets me a task to follow up with them.
This takes time to set up and think through - particularly if you are doing any kind of automation associated with people you meet.
If you have sales and marketing teams, make sure that they are aligned on the strategy for the event, follow up and your expected outcomes.
Schedule your social media
On the day, it is likely that you will be busy. Plan for not having time to check your phone or social media and ensure that somebody is taking care of that - whether you schedule up social posts in advance or have somebody back at the office looking after it.
If you need to do some social media updates while you are at the event, do not do this while on your stand. Go and grab a coffee and sit somewhere away from your pitch - having somebody staring at their phone instead of engaging with visitors when you walk past an exhibition stand does not give a very good impression!
Make use of ephemeral content
All the social media channels have short-term content, as-it-happens news collections and similar. Facebook and Instagram have ‘stories’ (which can be page-related and event-related on Facebook!), and Twitter has ‘moments’.
This is a great way to interact with your audience without flooding your main timeline with lots of updates in a short time period.
Tools like Wordswag allow you to quickly put together collages on your phone which can then be uploaded to the various networks.
When you get a chance to visit other stands this is a great time to be sharing on social media - selfies, pictures of their stands, and other interesting snaps of the event are a great way to share the experience with your audience.
You could even consider doing a Live Stream, on Facebook Live or Periscope!
Post-event follow up
The work for the event doesn’t just stop when you pack up your stand and head home - in fact this is where the real work starts! First and foremost, make sure you thank the event hosts, venue, catering etc!
Follow up on social media
Make sure that you follow up with everybody you met at the event, and follow them on social media where you can find them - both company and individual profiles.
Drop them a message to connect with them after the show and try to include something memorable - it might be something you remember about meeting them or that you wanted to discuss with them.
Check out the event hashtags, and follow anybody of interest who you didn’t encounter on the day - you can also drop them a message saying you didn’t get a chance to chat, perhaps set up a date to meet up over a coffee?
Follow up marketing
With the new GDPR rules coming into play you’ll need to ensure that any list-building you do as a result of the event is compliant.
As an example, you may wish to set up a list with double-opt-in, and then personally contact the people you meet inviting them to subscribe (perhaps with some kind of enticement - for example to find out the winner of the competition or the latest news about your new product or service).
Use the first email they receive as an opportunity to remind them how you met, and to follow up on any specific themes you were featuring at the event, so that it is familiar to them. If you were running a competition at the event you might use a title like: ‘And the winner of the ABE19 iPad giveaway is …… (it could be you!)’ which encourages them to open the mail.
Remember that you should be segmenting your lists to make sure you send appropriate information - so add a tag or a segment in your marketing tool of choice so you can identify these subscribers in the future as coming from this event.
Write up your experience on a blog - making sure you feature links to your social media updates within the article to encourage people to follow you if they didn’t already do so (you can embed most messages from social media platforms).