Increase Trade Show ROI by Enlisting the Trade Media

Posted on Aug 2, 2010 by Kerry O'Malley

Leverage the Trade Media at Your Next Trade Show


With the official opening of the Fall trade show season approaching, it’s wise to start thinking NOW about ways to boost your next show’s ROI.

One way you can increase your trade show ROI is by executing a trade media P/R strategy.  Have you ever noticed at trade shows, there are always several (sometimes numerous depending on the industry) trade publications that have displays at the show?  They’re there for two reasons:  1, to cover news in the industry their publication services (new products, technology, process improvements, mergers, alliances, acquisitions, etc.) and 2, to gain new advertising business, since many of the companies exhibiting at the show are potential advertisers.

Savvy marketers, aware of the trade media’s need to cover “the news” at trade shows, work it to their advantage.  You might have to get creative in thinking about what you can “pitch” to an editor at a trade publication, but if your company has anything at all that is even a slight improvement over current processes or techniques, traditional products, or standard technology – you’ve got a hook.  Other news items an editor would be interested in would be mergers, acquisitions, alliances, new corporate leadership and direction and new facilities and capabilities.

Like most marketing initiatives, this strategy works best with intelligent planning, coordination, and follow-up.  Invest the extra effort and you’ll be rewarded by maximizing your next show’s ROI.  Here’s a ten point strategy for P/R success at your next trade show.

1.  Do your research and know who you want to talk to. You know the trade publications that cover your industry.  You may advertise in one or more of them.  Even if you do, you probably have an Agency placing the ads for you, or if you’re doing it directly, you’re dealing with the account exec that covers your area of the world.  If you know an AE, call them and ask who the editors are that will be covering your next trade show.  If you don’t know an AE, go to the publication’s website.  They generally have contact information for their editorial staff.  Contact someone and ask.  The larger trade shows often provide a list of media registrants along with their exhibitors list (also available on their website.)  This is another source for pinpointing individuals in the media you want to talk to.

2.  Make contact with your “target” editors at least one month before the show. This is best done over the phone, although e-mail follow-ups are OK.  It’s hard to build a relationship with someone strictly through email, so it’s a good idea to introduce yourself over the phone.  Tell each editor what your company will be offering at the show – products, demonstrations, technology, engineers giving papers, and the experts and execs from your company who will be available for interviews.  Let the editors know what insights and perspectives on industry trends or issues your people can address.  At this point, your goal should be to generate interest in your company. Don’t push for an interview at this point.  Ask the editors if they are on Twitter, or other social media sites and add then add them to your network after the phone call.  Your goal on this call is to establish a relationship and build interest in your company and its “experts.”

3.  Create a “press package.” Put together a package of marketing materials that you can either hand out electronically (on a Flash drive) or hard copies that you will hand out in person as you meet editors at the show.  The package could include video demonstrations, product fact sheets or brochures, papers your company has presented on specific products or technology pertinent to the show, FAQs, news releases, and the cover sheet should be a “resume” for your company.  If you don’t have a corporate press statement, now’s the time to create one.  This should include: what your company does; the markets it serves; when it was founded; where it is located; and other facts such as number of employees, certifications, awards, etc.  It should also include the primary media contact, probably you.

4.  If you don’t already have one, add a “Press/Media” page to your company’s website. You can direct editors to this page to easily obtain all of the information in your press package prior to the show.  This page should also contain an archive of all previous news releases and articles on the company for editors to review in order to have a broader understanding of what your company is all about.

5.  Conduct media training (or a refresher) for your key spokespeople. It is your job to help engineers and execs understand the importance of the trade media to your trade show ROI and future marketing initiatives.  You’ll want to cover some of the key messaging that will be used at the show to ensure consistency in what is said about the company and its brands.

6.  Follow-up with key editors a week or two before the show to schedule interviews or demonstration appointments. There may have been email communication between you and your target editors since your initial phone call.  Now it’s time for another phone call in order to ask for interviews.  You’ll need to know ahead of time when the key personnel from your company will be at the show and available to talk to editors.  Interviews can be conducted at your trade show booth, especially if you have a larger display area with seating.  You can also arrange for interviews over breakfast, lunch, or coffee at any time of the day.

7.  Scout out publishers that have displays at the show and make contact with them. Even if you’ve arranged for some interviews with editors prior to the show, it’s a good idea to make contact with anyone in the publisher’s trade show booth.  You may be able to connect with an editor you haven’t already spoken  to.  Be prepared to Pitch them on the spot and create enough interest that they will want to come by your booth and talk to your “experts.”

8.  Post news and/or updates live from the show floor via Twitter or other social media platforms. This is where your earlier connecting with editors on social media sites could pay off.  They will most likely be doing the same thing.  As they see your posts and recognize your “tweets” or comments as intelligent and insightful, it may move them to stop by your booth to meet you in person – even if you  weren’t able to snag an interview with them.  Interesting ideas for tweets:  survey visitors about the industry or the show; take informal polls and post the results at the end of the day; stand outside of a demo or symposium session and as people leave, ask for comments and post them.

9.  Follow-up by phone with your media contacts after the show. It is particularly important to call the editors who made the effort to interview someone from your company.  Make sure their questions are answered and their photo or other press material needs are handled. Continue to drive them to your website for additional content.  If  it doesn’t intimidate you (and it probably won’t if you’re a marketing type) ask them when they think they might be able to use some of your company’s “news” in their publication.  Above all, make yourself a resource to the new media friends you’ve made.

10.  Continue building your trade media relationships. This is where your P/R and social media strategies should overlap.  If you did your work prior to and during the show, you  now have many editors in the trade media who are in your social media networks.  It’s important to use social media as a platform to broadcast interesting “news” about your company; but it is equally important to use social media to connect with your trade media contacts at a more personal, human level.  These same editors may cover other shows in which your company exhibits.  In a sense, as your company’s marketing representative, they are your customer.  Cultivate these relationships just as your sales team cultivates relationships with THEIR customers.

By integrating some advanced P/R techniques and a little extra effort into your trade show strategy, you not only increase the ROI for your trade show efforts, you begin to lay the groundwork for increased media exposure for months to come.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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