Trade show marketing: Which marketing materials perform best?


Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pinpoint exactly which of your trade show marketing materials are generating real leads and boosting your marketing ROI, versus those materials that are falling flat?

Business leaders and marketers often funnel big bucks into their trade show marketing materials, only to be left scratching their heads about whether or not all of their valuable time, energy, and marketing dollars actually paid off in the end.

After all, you can try to track the amount of traffic your booth gets and keep tabs on how many flyers you hand out, but how do you know if that exposure made any real impact on your business success?

Want the highest ROI from your trade show marketing? These are the marketing materials to use.

Through our SmartMeasure service, SmartLink has tracked trade show marketing performance for a wide range of businesses and brands. Based on our insights, these are the trade show marketing materials that actually work, and the ways that you can leverage them to your advantage:

Booth graphics: banners, signage, and displays

At a trade show, your booth is your ultimate first impression. Your booth design should be eye-catching and immersive, luring audiences in with inspirational designs and state-of-the-art materials. Ideally, your booth should:

● Look good from all angles, both outside and inside
● Use bold, bright, unique colors and materials that attract attention
● Make your brand the focal point

From posters to banners to pop-up displays, your booth graphics can be one of your most powerful tools for attracting large audiences, encouraging prospects to take notice of your brand, inspiring conversations, and generating valuable leads.

Step and repeat banners

As far as shareability and reach goes, nothing beats a well-designed step and repeat banner. Event attendees love snapping photos in front of these backdrop-style banners, which can (and should) be heavily branded and uniquely designed.

That means that there’s a good chance that your branded banner will end up on various social media channels, and possibly even the event website (i.e. free advertising!).

Video demos

When it comes to catching the eye of as many event attendees as possible, video demos are one of the most effective marketing materials available. Whether you’re demonstrating your product, offering a behind the scenes look, or sharing the latest industry trends and insights, showcasing a short HD video on a TV screen or tablet is a great way to generate interest and bring more prospects into your booth area (and make them stick around).

Branded snacks and drinks

Given the long hours and rushed schedules of most trade shows, offering snacks or drinks in branded packaging is surefire way to attract serious crowds to your booth. That said, while you may see a large influx of people by offering food and beverages to tired, hungry, and thirsty attendees, you won’t necessarily see them sticking around your booth for that long.

If you do want to go this route, make sure that your packaging uses smart branding techniques. For example, include a QR code on your water bottles in case attendees who grabbed one without stopping to chat want to learn more about your product or brand at a later point.

Handouts and reading materials

servicesphoto_litho_320x213Flyers, pamphlets, and brochures are classic examples of trade show marketing materials. While they can be very effective, they also have a high potential of ending up in the trash can.

Inspire event attendees to actually read your marketing materials by using fresh designs and high quality printing, and by including content that’s actually relevant. Adding interesting, easy-to-consume content like infographics is a smart way to draw more eyes to your branded trade show content.

4 marketing myths to stop falling for

The world of marketing is saturated with cliches, confusion, and downright bad advice. If you ever come across a so-called “marketing expert” who tries to tell you that any sort of well-established marketing tactic like email is “dead,” or that you “need” to be using using the latest and greatest social media platform in order to stay relevant, we’ve got one word of advice for you: run.

By far the worst marketing offenses are those myths and misconceptions that have been repeated by businesses and brands so many times, that they’ve become accepted as truth.

Here are 4 marketing myths to stop falling for, once and for all.

Myth #1: Our product speaks for itself – we don’t need marketing.
Believing in the value and effectiveness of your own service or product is a great thing…but it’s not a marketing strategy. After all, it’s not your opinion of your product that matters, but that of your customers. In order to sell your target audience on your product, you’ll need to showcase your unique value proposition through marketing.

For instance, let’s say a consumer is looking to buy a new car. How will they decide which brand to shop for? Well, it all depends on what they value. Fuel economy? Performance? Value per dollar? Or maybe they desire something more abstract, such as luxury and style, or a make and model that will impress people or “make them look cool.” Maybe they just want a car that will get them from point A to point B without breaking down!

When you consider all of the diverse features and benefits consumers may be looking for in a vehicle, you realize that there’s no one brand that’s “best”–it all boils down to what the consumer thinks (and what they think is often based on marketing!)

Myth #2: My business has a website and a logo – our work is done!
While an informative website and a memorable logo are good starting points for your brand, this is actually when your marketing work really kicks off.

● What’s your plan for making sure your brand gets noticed?
● How will you attract potential customers to your website?
● How will you establish your brand’s authority?
● How will your brand and website help drive sales?

Take a look at some of the most widely recognized brands in the world like Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or Walmart. Did these brands get to where they are today by relying on a mentality of “if we build it, they will come?” Definitely not!

In fact, Apple spent a record $1.8 billion on advertising in 2015, despite the fact that it produces some of the top consumer products in the world, has one of the most recognized logos in the world, and is one of the most-visited retail websites in the world.

Myth #3: Social media marketing won’t work for my target audience.
Another variation of this common myth is “social media is just a trend” or “social media marketing isn’t real marketing.” If you’ve found yourself buying into this sentiment, these quick facts just might sway your opinion:

● People aged 55-64 are more than twice as likely to engage with branded content than those 28 or younger
72% of all online US adults visit Facebook at least once a month
42% of all online women use Pinterest
● LinkedIn has 400 million members; 100 million of those access the site on a monthly basis
77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand when their Tweet has been replied to

That said, using social media just for the sake of checking it off the marketing to-do list won’t get the job done, either. But by using the right platforms (i.e. the platforms your target audience is using) and by using social media strategically, you have the potential to seriously boost your brand awareness and your sales.

Myth #4: One marketing channel is enough – too many options would just complicate things.
Ah yes, the age-old excuse of not wanting to do “too much” marketing at the risk of sending mixed messages, or letting your marketing focus spiral out of control. But is this actually a concern?

The answer: not really. In fact, many modern consumers expect (and demand!) to be able to research and interact with brands in a variety of formats, including brick-and-mortar stores, social media, websites, online chats, apps, and via phone.

As long as you’re using each marketing channel strategically by defining your specific audiences and goals, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using a variety of channels to promote your brand, including:

● Content marketing
● Social media marketing
● Event and trade show marketing
● Email marketing
● Search marketing

In fact, many of the most successful and well-rounded marketing strategies do use all of these diverse channels to drive new business leads.
H2: Falling for these common marketing myths can hurt your sales and diminish your brand’s authority.
If you’ve just realized that your business has been falling for one or more of these marketing misconceptions, don’t give up – it’s not too late to turn things around! The marketing landscape is constantly evolving and growing, but there’s always time to inject new life into your marketing strategy and help grow your business.

Need help breathing new life into your marketing game plan, or undoing the damage caused by one of these marketing myths? Contact us today for more information.

Omni-channel retail statistics you can’t ignore

The phrase “buyer beware” no longer applies in today’s modern era. Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones, online stores, and social media, customers are only seconds away from reviews and other data that tells them whether or not they should make a particular purchase.

For many customers, online shopping and mobile shopping have become the new norm. For others, they prefer to browse and read reviews online, but hit the stores in person to make their purchases. Others still will do their in-store browsing first, then turn to social media, online reviews, and other digital resources to find data that can influence their final shopping decisions.

One way or another, what all of these customers have in common is that they are all omni-channel retail shoppers.

Omni-channel retail is all about improving and diversifying the customer experience.

Omni-channel retailing means reaching your target audience through multiple channels before they make a purchase. These channels may include brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, telephone communication, live web chats, apps, and social media.

For example, 71% of shoppers who use smartphones for research while shopping in-store say that it has become an important part of their purchasing experience.

Read on to discover more compelling statistics about omni-channel retailing that your business can’t afford to ignore.


Photo via Unsplash

Omni-channel retail shoppers are more valuable than single-channel shoppers.

Shoppers who make purchases at a given store both in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value to that store than shoppers who use only one channel.

Additionally, companies with an extremely strong omni-channel retail strategy have an average customer retention rate of 89%, whereas those companies with weaker strategies retain only 33% of customers.

In other words, if you’re not using omni-channel retail strategies to attract these types of valuable customers, your business is seriously missing out.

Paid online search ads can directly impact in-store visits.

According to a study completed by Google (using their AdWords’ Store Visits metric) and PetSmart, 10–18% of all clicks on PetSmart search ads resulted in an in-store visit within 30 days. This statistic demonstrates the magic that can happen through a strong omni-channel strategy.

Studies completed by Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores have solidified this idea. By running online local inventory ads (LIAs), which show online customers not only the item they are searching for but also the store location and information where it is currently available, Sears has seen a 122% increase in in-store visits.


Photo via Flickr

Omni-channel retailing can help ease customer frustrations.

Data tells us that one of the biggest frustrations for shoppers is having to repeat their issues and concerns to multiple representatives of the same store. Likewise, more than 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel.

Smart companies understand these customer frustrations, and are using omni-channel retailing strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

Of those companies identified by Aberdeen Group as being top-performers in omni-channel strategy, 85% conduct regular training of customer care agents in the handling of omnichannel communications, and 77% store customer contact data across multiple channels.

The opportunity cost of not being omni-channel is 10% in lost revenue.

Obviously, every retailer wants to avoid a 10% revenue loss! But what exactly does it mean to consumers for a retailer to “be omni-channel”?

Check out these telling statistics for a peek into the mind of today’s shoppers:

  • 45% of shoppers in-store expect sales associates to be knowledgeable about online-only products
  • 71% of shoppers agree that it is important or very important to be able to view inventory information for in-store products
  • 50% of shoppers expect that they will be able to make a purchase online and pick up in-store

In simple terms, if your business isn’t providing these types of omni-channel services for your customers, you could be failing to meet customer expectations, and, in turn, losing revenue.

On the other hand, if you are providing these omni-channel services, you could be securing customer loyalty and boosting your business’s profitability for years to come.

Need help improving your in-store or online retail experience, in order to get your omni-channel retail strategy up to par? Contact us today for more information.

3 creative ways to use social media to market your events

Take a moment to imagine the following scenario: You’ve poured countless hours and marketing dollars into planning the perfect event that you’re confident both current clients and prospects are sure to grow your business. The day of the big event rolls around, everything is unfolding smoothly, and you’re ready to start networking and making connections.

Then, the unthinkable happens: no one shows up. The event is a flop!

What went wrong here, and how could this business disaster have been prevented?

Blog Image 3

Photo via Flickr by Katie

Social media gives you the power for two-way conversations with your customers and prospects.

The popular motto “if you build it, they will come” unfortunately doesn’t apply in the world of event marketing. In order for your business event to be a hit, you need to make sure you’re reaching the right people and actually enticing them to devote their valuable time to your event.

Social media is the perfect forum for achieving this goal, because unlike traditional forms of marketing, social media allows for a two-way channel of communication between you and your audience.

Here are 3 creative ways to use social media to market your event

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Photo via Flickr by m43photos

1. Create an event hashtag.

Using a dedicated hashtag for your event that’s both relevant and unique is the perfect way to generate social buzz. Every time you tweet, post on Facebook, or share an image on Instagram, make sure o include that hashtag. Go ahead and include it on any other marketing materials you may use too, such as emails and flyers.

The point is to get people interested in the hashtag, which will generate a series of positive results:

● looking up the hashtag,
● attending the event, and
● actually using the hashtags themselves.
If this is an annual event, choose a hashtag that you can use year after year, so that your audience can easily view images from previous years online.

2. Want your social media followers to take a specific action? Just ask!

What is it that you want your social media followers to do? Attend the event? Generate pre-event hype online? Invite their friends? If you don’t know, you can’t ask. Once you’ve figured it out, ask early and ask often.

  • Example: The Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 was clearly incredibly successful. It raised well over $100 million, and Lou Gehrig’s disease is now in the spotlight – a clear goal of the effort.
  • Your effort: It doesn’t have to be anything as extreme as dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head. Ask your social media followers to do something specific in the days leading up to the event, such as sharing a selfie with their event tickets and using the event hashtag, or sharing a story or tip related to the event context.

Then, share all of these user posts on your own social accounts to:

  • get users who are already planning to attend excited about the event, and
  • inspire others to attend the event by providing social proof (once they see that other people are actually going and are excited about it, they’ll be more likely to want to go, too).

3. Trending content is powerful – use it!

Pay attention to what’s hot online right now, and jump in on the action by using what’s already trending and finding a way to tie it into your event.

Example: Remember “The Dress” debate of February 2015? While the entire internet was blowing up debating whether the dress was white and gold or blue and black, numerous companies jumped on the bandwagon and used the social buzz to shine light on their own brand. See how Oreo, Olive Garden, BEHR Paint, Xbox, Snapple, Snickers, AT&T, and LEGO used it to their advantage here. How can you take advantage of trending content like Orea played up #TheDress?

If nothing trend-worthy is happening online at the time, you can’t go wrong by falling back on using a popular meme to promote your event. People are familiar with them and they make people laugh – a perfect combination for getting your audience to take notice.

Remember – social media works! Here are the numbers to prove it:

Many businesses put social media marketing on the backburner in favor of traditional advertising, but when it comes to making your event stand out among the competition, social media is the way to go.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box – in fact, the more unique your social media marketing strategy is, the more likely it is that your audience will pay attention.

Need help planning your event, or using social media to reach your event’s target audience? Contact us today to learn more about our services.

5 tips for revitalizing your trade show marketing

Once upon a time, trade shows were viewed as relatively unexciting affairs: dull rows of identical-looking booths, staffed with bored-looking employees handing out cheesy promotional materials. Fortunately, this stereotype from decades past is long gone, and a new age of trade show marketing is on the rise.

More and more businesses are using trade shows as an opportunity to bring together the greatest minds in the industry, to generate buzz for their product or brand, and to create meaningful connections with their customers. The standard cookie-cutter booth and elevator speech just don’t cut it with today’s modern audiences!

Ready to revitalize your trade show marketing and get the biggest ROI on your marketing investment? Here’s how you can do exactly that.

Snag a speaking gig

Even with an amazing booth, attendees may still struggle to remember the brand or name behind the display. Designated speakers, however, are not so easily forgotten. Speaking at a trade show is a great way to show your credibility, promote your brand, and direct attendees to your booth for more information. There are far fewer speakers than there are exhibitors, so you’ll stand out significantly more if you can snag one of those coveted speaking gigs.

Be warned that being selected as a speaker won’t come without some hard pre-conference work. You’ll likely need to submit a proposal months in advance, but the rewards are certainly worth the effort. Not only will you have a better chance of gaining your target audience’s attention, but you may also receive a discounted or free exhibitor spot.

Social Media

Image from Flickr

Generate social buzz before the event

A lot of companies realize the importance of live-tweeting and posting during a conference, but far fewer are proactive about generating hype on social media before the event actually begins. Let your followers know where you’ll be and when, and be sure to highlight any special demonstrations or presentations you’ll be leading. Create your own event hashtag several days before the event, so your followers and other conference attendees know how to find your trade show-related activity online.

You want your customers to be thinking about your booth from the moment they arrive at the event, not just after it begins. This is will increase the likelihood of your social posts reaching their intended audiences and making real connections happen.

Invest in your displays

Blog Image 2 Simply put, your signage and other booth display items are worth spending the big bucks on. As trade show attendees roam through the endless sea of exhibitors, what is going to inspire them to walk up to your booth over any of the others? Your booth should display your unique brand clearly and proudly, and it should also be inviting and interesting.

You could even make your displays a fun point of conversation by including videos, live demos, or other engaging visuals. If your booth is unique enough, you may even end up in a few photos, social posts, or publications. Win-win!

Select your staff carefully

Nothing ruins a potentially great customer interaction more than an employee with a sour attitude. Your booth staff should want to be there, and they should be engaged, excited, and always looking for that next genuine customer connection.

Make your booth a device-free zone for your employees, meaning they can’t catch up on emails or mindlessly scroll through social media when they should be paying attention to your customers. When they’re working the floor, their primary focus should be on starting conversations and sharing your business’s products or services…no distractions allowed!

Think way outside of the box

Want a surefire way to make sure your new connections remember you? Think of something that no one else is doing, and do it! Make your swag something that’s totally unique to your brand or logo, or even go for something witty and humorous. Host a raffle or contest, hand out free food, or provide some unique entertainment.
Draw trade show attendees to your booth all day long by offering a charging station (all you need is a power strip!) or WiFi hotspot. The point is to think creatively, and to give your visitors something that they’ll truly need or enjoy–be it a laugh, a freshly baked cookie, or a full iPhone battery.

You don’t need to have a sky-high budget, special connections or the world’s coolest product to make your trade show booth shine. At the end of the day, a unique idea, some friendly and professional employees, and a little bit of pre-planning can give your trade show marketing the boost of life it needs to help you stand out and generate new leads for your business.
Need help creating an eye-catching display or determining your trade show marketing strategy? Contact us today to find out more or receive a quote!