In addition, many events today have their own mobile apps—which allow exhibitors and presenters to include their own news, events, and other information using hashtags and links—to attract interested customers and prospects. Those in-event apps can be linked to a company’s pre- and post-event social media marketing efforts.

ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES

Online and physical events provide marketers with easy opportunities to capture relevant customer and prospect information. Both usually offer some type of online registration. By scanning badges at a physical event, companies can learn not only who signed up for the larger event but also who stopped by the booth or attended a presentation.

But this data can get lost between the event and sales outreach. According to Gillett, it can take as many as five days to go from collecting event data to feeding it into CRM and related systems. Though several integration programs are available, companies don’t always have the links they need.

Steve Hartert, chief marketing officer at JotForm, an online form-building company, says that with or without badge scanning technology, companies should use quick, easy-to-use forms to capture additional data from booth visitors.

The badge scanning or online registration should feed instantly into the CRM system, enabling sales reps to send an email to a booth visitor immediately upon leaving the booth, Gillett says. Similarly, all communications with those visitors should be tracked and collated into post-event reports.

At the event, marketers recommend using large booth displays to demonstrate products in action. The booth should be set up so that multiple people can see displays at a single time. Additionally, Salesky suggests rotating salespeople and top executives in the booth so that they can interact with attendees.

“Executives should invest time at the event, not just pop in and leave after speaking,” Salesky says. “They can have discussions with customers to validate their perspective [on products, the industry, etc.] and show their commitment to their customers.”

“Your sales staff should be trained to engage attendees with specific ‘are-we-a-fit’ discovery questions, which enables them to qualify prospects on the spot and spend time with more high-value targets,” adds Sarah Cascone, director of marketing at Bluecore, providers of a retail marketing platform.

Coffee is another good booth attraction, providing sales reps with one more opportunity to engage in small talk with visitors, with the idea of building a relationship, according to Salesky. “It’s a way to get the conversation going.”

Another strategy that companies often follow is to stock their booths with free pens, key chains, and other giveaways, which many feel don’t serve a good marketing purpose. In fact, much of that stuff usually wind up in landfills, so exhibitors shouldn’t waste their money, Salesky says.

Cook disagrees, however, saying that small handouts and compelling signage can draw additional people to the booth.

Using photo booths within the exhibit hall is another way to draw attention to a brand, adds Katie Kern, a partner and chief operating officer at Media Frenzy Global, a digital marketing and communications agency. She also recommends taking time before the event to ensure that booth personnel have all the technology they’ll need, and to set up early enough to ensure the technology works as planned.

Another way to make connections and effectively market the event is to speak at sessions, which not only provides additional exposure and opportunities to make connections but usually reduces the cost to attend and exhibit, says Jason Myers, senior account executive at the Content Factory, a digital public relations agency.

LOOK FOR VIRAL OPPORTUNITIES

Some of the larger, more expensive trade shows have hundreds of exhibitors, including direct competitors. Attendees’ time is limited, so companies need to ensure that both prospects and current customers at least stop by their booths so that they can be engaged by personnel.

Meals and mixers at or near the show enable companies to engage prospects and customers in smaller, more intimate settings.

“Do something unique and newsworthy,” Bower says.