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Start Planning for Your Next Tradeshow Today

| Feb 20, 2024 |

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Photo of a tradeshow planning Gantt chart on a laptop.Tradeshows often eat up large chunks of marketing budgets, from exhibit fees—and all the costs associated with having a booth—to travel expenses for staff. But are you making the most of your investment?

New clients often approach our B2B tech marketing and PR agency when an industry tradeshow looms, just a month or two in advance. Knowing the high stakes of making the right impression and connections at an upcoming conference, businesses take a hard look at their marketing and PR efforts. Suddenly, company leaders realize they need to invest in clearer messaging, update the website, draft a press release, secure media interviews, and organize spokesperson training. But doing all this in a month or two…that borders on miraculous!

At HCI, we prefer to come alongside a client’s team and apply time-tested marketing and technology PR expertise because that’s what gets a client the best results. And, even when time is short, we do our best. We bootstrap a marketing and PR program as efficiently as possible in advance of an industry conference, but the less lead time, the more difficult it is to achieve all your goals.

Frankly, there’s a lot to do. Given the amount of budget tradeshows consume, the best marketing programs involve a comprehensive plan that outlines the objectives, strategies, and tactics. Some PR tactics, such as writing a partnership press release and pitching media interviews can typically be done in 8 to 12 weeks. Other pre-tradeshow tactics require more time. A revamped corporate messaging strategy and a website overhaul realistically take several months from let’s go to go-live.

Here are eight steps to better prepare for a successful industry conference or tradeshow.

1. Make a plan

For B2B tech marketing and PR alike, the first step to make the most of your tradeshow budget is to set objectives and build your event strategy accordingly. Who are your buyers? Which publications/editors will best reach those buyers? How many media interviews do you want to secure? How many meetings with leads? Reserve enough time to ensure a solid foundation.

2. Decide what to say and what not to say

Messaging is the root of all corporate communication, whether you want to issue a press release or overhaul your website. It takes time, multiple iterations, and internal buy-in to define your messaging. Once you have messaging in hand, there’s still more work to do. Interviews with the press can be tricky, so messaging exercises need to prepare responses to both desired and undesired questions.

3. Prepare your spokesperson

Let’s face it, sometimes your spokesperson needs a little help. Depending on what technology you provide and the market you cater to, editors range from friendly and supportive to outright challenging! Your spokesperson may welcome (or need) some training that helps them say what’s needed and know how to field difficult questions from the press. A strong B2B PR agency knows the editors you need to meet with, can coach you on what related content they recently published, note pet peeves to steer around, etc. Spokesperson training shows you the best way to present your message and then walks you through several practice runs. After a bit of practice, HCI has even used friendly editors primed with more difficult questions to give the spokesperson a bigger challenge so that, by the time they hit the conference floor, they’re comfortable and well-prepared to not only answer questions, but truly engage editors in meaningful conversations that elevate your brand.

4. Secure news coverage

Tradeshows present PR opportunities to nurture and announce business partnerships, demonstrate new technology, and increase awareness about your company. But technology PR at a tradeshow is much more than issuing a news release. In fact, the key to press coverage is to reach out to the media weeks in advance of the show. Start pitching your news via a press release before the show to secure pre-show interviews under embargo as well as in-person briefings with the editors at the show. This early engagement builds excitement around your company and increases the likelihood of media coverage during a busy, noisy tradeshow. You can also take advantage of official event communication channels such as newsletters, websites, and social media. Submitting your press release through these channels can result in a feature and increase visibility to attendees and journalists.

5. Manage immensely small details

Pre-show conference representation involves many details that require careful execution and time-tested processes—from making travel arrangements to proofing materials to briefing your team. Commit to a reasonable timeline to avoid a frantic last-minute scramble.

6. Update your website

Do you need a landing page summarizing your activities at the show and asking readers to sign up for a demo or meeting? A new product page to support an announcement? A whole website refresh with a new look and updated messaging? In all cases, it helps to start early so you have time to research and get buy-in on SEO keywords that impact your Google Search rank, write content, design visual elements, implement in your web content management system, and review and test the site.

7. Drive people to your booth

Boost traffic to your booth and schedule more business meetings by reaching attendees through digital advertising platforms, email campaigns, and organic social media. LinkedIn sponsored posts and Google Ads involve messaging, graphics, audience selection, and thoughtful scheduling. The machine learning models used by these platforms need a few weeks of training before your ads gain traction. Start early.

8. Plan for post-show lead nurturing

The time to prepare to nurture the leads you collect at the show is before the event even starts. It’s all part of an integrated marketing approach that ensures consistent messaging across channels with the right messages for the target audiences at the right time on the right platform.

The best time to start planning your next industry tradeshow is today.

HCI can help you.

Busy as you are, an early start months before an important industry tradeshow improves your marketing and PR results—and helps us all stay sane. It’s never too early to start a conversation with HCI. Contact us.

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