For B2B companies, exhibiting and participating in trade shows can be a significant expense. TradeShow Handbook estimates that the average cost of exhibiting at a show is $10,000. This might be an underestimate if you bring in a full team of sales and marketing personnel to work the show. You can use this online trade show cost calculator provided by Meetings and Conventions Magazine to estimate your own costs.
That said, trade shows have proven to be a cost-effective method of generating leads and closing sales. Meetings and Conventions Magazine provides a quick summary of findings from The Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s study, The Cost Effectiveness of Exhibition Participation (a two-part study that can be purchased here – Part I & Part II).
The data indicates that the average cost of generating a sale from exhibiting at a trade show is $2,188. This is 42% less than the $3,102 average cost of closing a sale.
Every trade show marketer’s goal is to maximize their investment in exhibiting, and lower the cost of lead generation and closing a sale.
There are a number of ways that you can use SEO, PPC, and Social Media to maximize your investment when exhibiting at tradeshows.
SEO your events calendar
If your Web site does not already have a section for Events, add a dedicated area for this content.
Use basic Keyword Research, Page Tagging, and SEO Copy Writing to frame the context of your Events section. For example, if you provide data storage technology products and solutions, you may want to structure the main page to target the keyword “data storage trade shows.” You might use an HTML page title like “Data Storage Industry Trade Shows – Your Company Name”. The page heading would be either identical to the first part of the page title, or a variation of that. A summary paragraph at the top would mention that below is a list of upcoming data storage industry trade shows where Your Company participates.
You will have to keep the list of shows fresh. All too often, Events pages are left stale and list past events in the upcoming events area.
There is a way to leverage your participation in past trade shows in the overall section. Below the list of upcoming shows, you might have a section for recent trade shows attended. Each of the mentions of past shows should contain a link to a page dedicated about the show.
As with the main Events page, you should make sure to use appropriate keyword strategies and tactics for the pages for individual shows (e.g. Storage Expo 2009 Recap). Use the page to highlight any announcements you made. More importantly, provide a write up of the key findings and announcements presented across the entire show. If available, use rich media such as video (consider embedding code for YouTube videos). Link to resources from the show organizer’s site.
You may want to add in a stream of social media content, such as a Twitter feed for discussions about the show (e.g. use the most-common hash# tag for the show as the keyword trigger for the feed). The Twitter feed content may go stale after the buzz is done, but it will provide rich content, and a valuable resource for visitors to connect with other people.
All of this rich data for past shows will likely generate inbound links to your site.
Using PPC to generate face time
Paid search advertising can be an effective method for facilitating appointment setting prior to the show.
Set up a Campaign for trade shows, and use Ad Groups for each individual show. Bid on keywords specific to the next show(s) where you will be exhibiting. You can also bid on more-generic keywords related to industry events (e.g. “data storage trade shows”).
Use the structure you set up for the SEO efforts highlighted above. Use this as your opportunity to set up a page for each specific show (you can transition the page from a Landing Page to generate appointments to the archived recap pages described above). The pre-show incarnation of the page should be targeted at encouraging users to contact you to visit your booth and speak with your booth personnel (you might want to indicate that a user can connect with someone other than/in addition to a sales representative, such as a product manager, engineer, industry expert, C-level officer, etc.).
Create compelling PPC ad copy that encourages users to visit the Landing Page. Mention the show by name, and set the expectation that you have something to announce, present, say, and so forth.
Use Social Media to highlight participation
There are a number of ways to use social media to promote your participation in the show, and to set appointments.
- Broadcast news and announcements through Facebook.
- Blog about the show before it happens.
- Find bloggers talking about the show and engage in meaningful commentary on their blogs.
- Participate in LinkedIn Groups to connect with people about the show. LinkedIn can be an excellent way to set appointments.
- Participate in Twitter discussions about the show, making sure to use the hashtag# convention in your stream (e.g. #storageexpo). Twitter is perhaps the most effective social media tool (currently) to make one-to-one connections and set appointments.
- Don’t forget to find niche communities and forums specific to your industry, and find opportunities to connect with people there.
The Search and Social Media tactics described in this article are just a few ways to maximize your trade show investment. In the end, it will be your creativity that is the X Factor in generating cost-effective leads and closing sales.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.