Attending a trade show is expensive. Very expensive. There’s the cost to purchase booth signage and the booth itself, the cost of renting a space at the show, plus expenses for travel, lodging, and food for your staff. And don’t forget to add in the costs of pre-show marketing, printed literature, and branded swag to hand out to booth visitors.

The expenses can add up to the point where you start wondering if it’s even worth it. But with the right combination of strategies and tools, you can boost attendance and maximize your ROI from trade shows.

What Is Geo-Targeting?

Given all the high costs of attending a trade show, it’s critical that you attract all the right people to your booth. That’s where geo-targeting comes in.

Never heard of geo-targeting before? No worries. It’s a relatively new concept that involves targeting mobile devices via based on specific location. Here’s how geo-targeting works for driving traffic and leads to your trade show booth.

Start With Mobile

You’ll never have as many potential new customers in one place as you will at your industry’s most important trade shows. And you only have one chance to get them to your booth, so you’d better take full advantage of the opportunity.

That’s where mobile can provide the boost that you need. Never before has there been a medium as powerful as mobile when it comes to location-based targeting.

Let’s start with your email list, which is made up of prospects that are known to be potential buyers of your product or service. We match those emails with their corresponding mobile devices. If we find those mobile devices are in the same city that is hosting the trade show, those prospects become part of a targeted database.

On the first day of the event, we will begin the process of geo-targeting of the trade show venue itself. This means that we are obtaining third-party data that tells us the mobile devices that are at the convention center area. Yes, this does mean that there will be some people that fall into the database who might not be potential buyers (such as security, parking attendants, food preparation staff, etc.), but the vast majority will be your target market.

But, the geo-targeting efforts don’t end there. We also get a list of the official trade show hotels from the event website. Mobile devices found at those hotels during the days of the convention are also targeted.

Job titles are also targeted. So, if you are seeking people who work in IT, we target those people who are in the city during the event. This means that in addition to targeting and attracting IT workers attending the show, it also draws in local IT workers, even if they hadn’t planned on attending the event at all.

Finally, if your business, or the trade show itself, is sponsoring a client dinner, party or event, mobile devices found at these functions will become part of the targeted market as well.

Give ‘Em The Hook

The most important thing that you need to include in your mobile advertising campaigns is an engaging offer. We call this the “hook.” Give delegates a good reason to visit your booth. That might be a giveaway, a contest, a discount, or a chance to meet a celebrity or play a game. Your hook should be included in the mobile advertisement, and it becomes the reason why delegates will want to visit your booth.

One of the tricks we have found works well is to take a picture of your trade show booth and your staff and to include that image in the advertising. It’s amazing how many people will see you at the show and comment that they saw the mobile advertising that included your picture. By adding friendly images of people, the advertising becomes native and seems more like a news story than an advertisement.

The creative elements of your  mobile advertisements should encourage delegates to click through to a form designed to capture more information from them. In exchange for providing their contact details, prospects can be led to a special landing page with a code word for a sweepstakes entry or a free gift. Once you’ve captured all of the information you need, you’re ready to move on to the next step – syncing it with your marketing automation platform so you can continue to target these prospects with more content that fits their needs.

Tie In Marketing Automation

You’ve likely seen it before with trade shows. Your marketing and sales reps come back with a stack of business cards, and by the time you reach out to those prospects, they’re not nearly as interested as they were at the trade show. Or (*gasp*) your sales team doesn’t do a very good job of following up with them at all.

However, if you plug those new leads into a structured content marketing or drip campaign, many of them will become long-term customers.

Trade shows offer an unprecedented opportunity for your business to showcase its products and services to the people who are most likely to buy. That being said, it’s difficult to stand out from the din of messages that bombard trade show delegates. It can also be extremely difficult for small businesses to compete with larger companies that have huge budgets and a lot more real estate at trade shows.

But with a unique mobile geo-targeting strategy, you can guarantee that your business will stand out and seem more innovative, and that you’ll be putting your brand message right in people’s pockets.

Bob Bentz
Lindsey Sherman