Trade Conference Marketing Ideas

Tips, tricks and ideas for successful trade conference marketing.

Trade conference marketing is one of those tasks that today’s life science marketer cannot avoid. It’s a certainty that your organisation will be attending several trade shows, events and conferences through the year.

The CEO has stated he wants as many people as possible on the stand. The Finance Director has said he wants to incur as little costs as possible. The Head of Sales says he wants the world’s supply of piping hot leads to come from the event.

This all falls on you, the life sciences marketer to deliver!

Here are a few ideas and suggestions which we feel would give food for thought for any life science marketer who has conference marketing on their task list.

1. PLAN BACKWARDS

Sounds an obvious one, but it’s important to give yourself at least three months to plan and execute a conference presence. Many of the best digital slots will go early. So, for instance, if you are booking an event much later in the year, the organiser may sell list rental.

It’s a good bet that the best deployment dates (a week before the show) are gone anything up to six months earlier. Be the early booking. Have the definitive list of all the events in January, and use January to develop strategic plans for them all. Don’t leave it until August to plan for CPhI WW, you will have a lot fewer options.

2. ASSOCIATE WITH THE ‘MEDIA SPONSORS’ PUBLICATIONS

Each conference usually has a stable crop of media partners. Reach out to each one and find out what they plan to do around the conference. They will all say they have additional distribution, which usually means the magazine will be in the magazine racks bins at the entrance.

3. GEAR UP YOUR CONTENT MARKETING AND MESSAGE

Social media marketing (covered in the next two points) can’t just be a tweet during the week of the conference saying you "will be at booth number x," it’s got to be clever than that. Have a clear list of reasons why the visitor will come to your booth (see point 9) and take time to develop an interesting and compelling story around it.

Divide the story into bitesize chunks and deploy each chunk out separately so the reader is taken through a journey with regards to your product. It can culminate with a final tweet saying "to learn more come see us on our booth" but that will only work once they have had their curiosity spiked by a good story.

4. USE YOUR CONFERENCE HASHTAG EVERY CHANCE YOU GET

You will, no doubt, be ramping up your social media activity during a conference or trade show presence. But has every tweet about the conference been hashtagged so to associate the booth with the conference and any media associated with it? If not, you’re missing a trick.

5. EMBRACE SOCIAL MEDIA

Again, it seems obvious, but do you have a definitive timetable of tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn posts? Point 3 on gearing up the marketing message touches on how you should build a story.

6. USE YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURE(S)

Have all the attendees of the conference got an email banner with the booth number? Maybe have a click-through landing page that could request a meeting. This is especially pertinent to the sales reps that will be present. Every conversation they will be having with clients for the months before the show will be "are you going to x event?"

7. FIND RELEVANT PEOPLE ON TWITTER

Use Twitter Advanced Search to find people who are interested in your speciality, topic or giveaway and tweet to them directly with a friendly invite. This could be especially important for the potential customer list. If there are any key customers you are targeting, ask any board-level director (or if possible someone above that) to connect with them directly! How flattering that would be to your potential target customer to get a connection from your CEO!

8. GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO COME FOR: ACTIVATE YOUR ATTENDEES THROUGH GIVEAWAYS

Possibly the most important one here. Give them something to come for. Keynote presentations, free merchandise, competitions, drink and nibbles are all tried and tested but try and think wider. Is there a product launch you could utilise? Clever messaging used before the show to entice people to hear ‘the latest big announcement’ will really spike interest.

9. BECOME A CONFERENCE SPONSOR

This only applies to a limited number of conferences; you’re never going to sponsor everything. Again, budget permitted and is most likely be the smaller conferences that offer this, but it's worth enquiring about.

10. LOOK AT ALL ADVERTING OPTIONS (NOT JUST AT THE EVENT OR WITH THE ORGANISER)

Think wider than print advertising and email broadcasts – and think wider than the exhibition or conference organiser. There will be countless on-site opportunities – lanyard sponsorship, gangway pop-ups and programme sponsorship: these are all good, but why not see about advertising around the city the event is in? Or brand a car and offer customer lifts to and from the hall?

Hotels increasingly provide ad spaces in lobbies or you can brand the door room key cards. One conference we visited brought the voice in the elevator which would deliver you to a particular floor, and then invite you to join a certain company’s drinks reception. All clever and different ideas that will get noticed.

11. POST-CONFERENCE IS AS IMPORTANT AS PRE-CONFERENCE

Far too often people stop any activity after an event, which is sometimes understandable. But there is still a window to reach people. If the conference organisers can’t offer you list rental pre-show, don’t rule out the post-show opportunities.

You can use these to tell people about the event – maybe to announce the winner of the business card drop competition you had, or even to just show people the best pictures of the show. Remind them if they didn’t see you, it’s not too late to arrange a chat!

12. EXPERIMENT AND LEARN

What worked last year? What didn’t (more importantly)? Do sales and marketing have meaningful post-show reflective meetings? This is essential. Have salespeople in the marketing team meetings to find out what did the reps find that worked. Be bold and ask people who attended why they came to the stand. A short survey would be a good idea.

Trade conference marketing is something that most life science marketers look on with dread, but with early execution, and covering the points raised above, you will have a fantastic show.