How to Use Digital Marketing to Promote Your Trade Show and Conference

The trade show has its roots in medieval trade fairs.

Merchants, craftsmen, and artisans from all over Europe would visit trading fairs in various towns to view first-hand the handiwork and products of fellow tradesmen and producers as well as forge relationships and partnerships with merchants and distributors to access new markets.

One can still find analogues of the historic version of trade fairs today in the form of arts and crafts festivals, pop-up shops, sample sales and various types of grass roots meet ups. For the most part however, trade shows and conferences have evolved into large scale industrial events, professionally marketed to regional, national and global audiences.

In the U.S. alone there are over 15,000 trade shows and conferences held each year. But few bring effective trade show marketing strategies to these shows.

In 2019, trade shows and conferences still presents an invaluable opportunity for companies to showcase their latest products and services, to monitor emerging market trends and opportunities and stay up to date on competitor activities.

In this competitive environment, media coverage and attendance are very high priorities for these events; great buzz surrounding a “can’t miss” event will drive registration, increase sponsorship opportunities, and increase tourism revenue for the host city.

Trade Show Marketing Strategy

Internet marketing for trade shows is crucial. An event lacking the sought after buzz is more likely to suffer from lackluster attendance and the feeling from participants that their investment in time and resources was misspent, threatening the possibility of future iterations of said trade show and conference.

Below are eight trade show marketing tips you should integrate into your trade show marketing strategy. Plus, we’ll cover how to market a trade show with digital and traditional marketing tactics.

1) Start with a Digital Marketing Plan

The first priority is to create a high-level digital marketing plan that answers the who, what, where, when and why of your event. Figuring out and nailing down the nitty gritty details of the event will be very important. Who should attend, what the event is, where will it take place, when and for how long.

Also very important is articulating the Why of your event. Why should people want to attend your trade show and conference? Why does it matter? If this reason is compelling enough, people will block out a week of their busy lives and travel across the planet to attend your event.

To avoid any embarrassing pitfalls, this marketing plan should happen in conduction with the event planning (if that’s not the case ask why).

2) Identify all Communication Channels Available

All available communication channels can be utilized to help market your event. Make a list of all existing channels and identify any new channels that will need to be created for your event.

Below is a list of common channels a marketer can utilize in their trade show marketing strategy.

  •     Email
  •     Website
  •     Twitter
  •     Facebook
  •     LinkedIn
  •     Youtube
  •     Podcasts
  •     Webinars
  •     Affiliates
  •     Sponsors
  •     Search
  •     Paid

Cohesive trade show marketing strategies across all available channels will take a combination of high-level strategy and nimble tactics.

3) Use the Right Hashtag for your Trade Show Marketing Strategy

This trade show marketing tip seems obvious. But picking and promoting the right hashtag for your trade show marketing strategy is a subtle art. Make sure the hashtag you want to use is functional (We’ve unfortunately seen various hashtags with spaces, hyphens, dashes and other special characters heavily promoted in print and online that are nonfunctional on social media).

Also make sure your intended hashtag is not being actively used for a competitor’s trade show marketing. Nothing is more awkward than asking your audience to participate in an online conversation that is already taking place by a different group of people and for a different purpose. A possible exception to this rule is if the hashtag has fallen into disuse or if you think you can simply hijack the existing online conversation to promote your event (a bit impolite but no one can legally own a hashtag).

Last trade show marketing tip: make sure your hashtag does not have any negative or questionable connotations.

To view some comical examples of unfortunate hashtags, click the link below (InterCaps or Internal Capitalization would have provided clarity in most examples).

When in doubt field test them internally with the millennials on your trade show marketing team. Ask them to poke holes on all of the options.



4) Make Sure Your Event Website is Responsive and/or Mobile Friendly

Mobile marketing has become mainstream in 2015. With the proliferation of smartphones and the current trend towards larger display multitouch devices for mobile web browsing, making sure your website provides an optimal viewing and browsing experience across a wide array of devices; desktop computers, laptops, smart television sets, tablets, smartphones and soon… smartwatches and wearables, is mission critical for most event organizers.

There is myriad reasons why your website should utilize Responsive Web Design (RWD).

Increased conversion rates and better SEO are the top business reasons to do so. If you rely heavily on email marketing to market your event, in 2019, the majority of emails are now first viewed on a mobile device.

Having an email campaign link to a page that is not optimized for mobile is a missed selling opportunity and the chances of your subscriber reopening that specific email is fairly slim.

If you suspect your website isn’t all that it can be check out our checklist here to see if any of the signs apply to your online web presence.

5) Curate All of the Social Profiles for Your Participants, Keynote Speakers, Sponsors and Partners

Another trade show marketing tip that exponentially boosts your event is actively curating and engaging with all of the keynote speakers, sponsors, attendees and partner organizations on social media.

This will dramatically increase the buzz and excitement surrounding your trade show months in advance and also drive attendance and additional sponsorship opportunities by creating a bandwagon effect.

One of the main reason people participate in trade shows and conferences is for increased exposure and new opportunities.

Helping the individuals and entities involved in your event to increase their internet presence is a win-win situation for all involved. It helps them to promote and market themselves to a new audience as well as incentivize them to promote your event to their network and followers.

One of the best feelings in trade show marketing is having a sold out event and focussing the remainder of your  energy and efforts in finalizing media coverage and experiential aspects of the event.

6) Create a Video Promoting Your Event

Video is one of the most powerful medium currently at marketers’ disposal. It now accounts for 70% of all internet traffic. If you do not have a video promoting your event and why people should attend, you are leaving a critical piece of the puzzle out of your trade show marketing strategy.

An effective marketing video promoting your trade show can be repurposed across all of your marketing channels; Youtube, Vimeo, Email, Blog, Website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on.

With a modest amount of resources and planning, any organization can create a 60 to 90 second video to promote your event. If your resources are barebones, you can make do with an iPhone and Youtube to create your video.

Below is a tutorial on how to create your own promotional video for under $100.

If you really want to put your best foot forward though, we would encourage you to go with a tested production team to create your video marketing.

7) Make it Easy for Prospective Attendees to Sell Your Event to Their Employer

Sending an employee to a trade show or conference is an investment, an expensive one.

If you are marketing a new trade show, word of mouth is not on your side yet and you have to make it easy for prospects to sell their employers on the idea of sending them by distilling all of the benefits of attending that they can present to their supervisor and key decision makers.

Make this information accessible across all communication channels, each email and on the event website.

8) How to Market a Trade Show on the Internet

A successful trade show marketing strategy combines many aspects of business and a fun social gathering. It’s an opportunity for professional colleagues and peers to reconnect and also to build and expand one’s network beyond their immediate local market.

The social and after-hours aspect of many events is a huge draw for out-of-towners allowing attendees to forge meaningful connections and fellowship with like-minded peers.

When considering how to market a trade show, make your event easy to share online will help allow each of your prospects and attendees to share the event with their personal social network (A good segment of whom are probably your ideal target audience). Create social share buttons that allows for customized and consistent statuses to be posted on all popular social channels.

Trade Show Marketing Tips and Resources

Below are some available resources to help craft a custom social share button for your online channels, plus other tools to help you learn how to market a trade show.

For Twitter we recommend using Click to Tweet to create easy to use Call to Actions for Twitter.

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