Pre-conference marketing strategy guide for inbound sales leads

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Conferences, like football, are a very complex game. You might not associate a trade show with Inbound Marketing – but as any good marketer knows, the key is how you integrate all parts of your marketing strategy into one seamless play for sales leads!

Ever find yourself at a trade show, looking around wondering - why am I here? Or perhaps - why did my company send me here? Don’t worry you are not alone. Trade shows, expos and community events are part of the marketing tool arsenal, but like all tools, it’s about knowing which one to use for the job.

So why would you consider a trade show or expo to market your business?

  • Cost per sale is lower than conventional sales
  • Keeps you in front of your customers, existing clients and industry colleagues
  • Exposure to new clients and prospects
  • Trade shows are very targeted events (geographic, industry, etc.)
  • Attendees are motivated! They are there because they want to learn and buy.

The following pre-game tips will help your team maximize every lead opportunity your next conference:

Season Schedule

Trade Shows and expos can be a big investment. In order to get the most from that investment you need to choose the right shows!

  • Participating in a show that doesn’t align with your target marketing personas isn’t a good investment. Think like your marketing personas - what trade shows would they attend? 
  • Before the year begins, gather data on last year’s conferences so that you can make an informed marketing decision on which conferences you should participate.
  • Don’t know where to start? Do competitive research. Ask your customers which shows they attend each year and see where your services align.

Set Smart Goals

Be smart about your goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. The goals of your trade show should align with your company marketing goals and be a strategic part of your company’s marketing plan. These goals need to be:

  • Measurable - something you can assign a number to and quantify “30 new leads”, “50 new blog subscribers”
  • Achievable - be realistic
  • Time Sensitive - goals need to be timely to the show

Remember a trade show can work towards more than one company goal. Some maybe very specific such as “50 new leads in the first quarter of the year”, others can be more generic and are supported by specific goals “increase brand awareness in the Washington DC market”.

Team Huddle

Get together and meet with your team. Everyone needs to understand what the definition of success is for each show you attend.

  • Budget – have a budget for your event and trade shows – knowing what you spent is the only way to measure your return on investment.
  • Determine feasibility of your show with the following formula:


Total number of qualified prospects at a show

# of attendees X % of attendees in your market

Total number of prospects you can see over a show

# of staff X # of show hours X calls per hour

Number of sales can you make at the show

# of prospects talked with X average close rate

Estimated sales (in dollars)

# of sales X average sales dollar amount

ROI = Return On Investment

Pre-game show planning

Just planning on showing up with your display? Think again. According to a 1998 Trade Show Week poll 40% of respondents said promoting generates the most traffic!

  • Send announcements promoting the show to your existing customers. A postcard or email is a simple and effective way to get the word out.
  • Send announcements promoting the show to prospect lists. Most shows have a list of exhibiting companies and registered attendees that you can purchase
  • Don’t forget social media can be a cost effective tool to reach prospects attending a show. Look for the show and industry related Twitter hashtags, Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups.
  • Give a reason to visit! Stop by for your free guide, or pen, or to register for a drawing.
  • Don’t forget to incorporate your communications in your inbound marketing cycle. Create landing pages, offers and emails specific to each tradeshow event. 

Ready to take your conference marketing all the way to in the end zone? Download our ebook: Booth Camp: Steps for success to generate leads from Expos and trade shows. 

About the author: Christina May

Christina is managing partner and CEO at Illumine8 Marketing & PR, an integrated inbound marketing agency located in Frederick, Maryland. A recent GALA award winner with 14 years experience in integrated marketing strategy; she is a popular speaker on topics that include real estate marketing, integrated marketing communications, inbound marketing and digital conversion strategies.

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