What You Need to Know Before Attending Your First Trade Show

what InLoop thinks you need to know before attending your first association trade show

Tips for Success at Your First Trade Show Exhibit 

Whether your association is just starting out or you’ve stood the test of time, attending your first trade show can be pretty nerve-wracking. You want your first trade show to be a successful outing and be the launch pad for future successful endeavors. 

However, if you’ve never been to one before, it’s hard to know what to expect. It’s also hard to know what common mistakes you should avoid. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy guide for the first time (you and) your association attends a trade show!

be sure to be planning for your first trade show

Pre-Show Planning

The key to having a great trade show experience is proper planning! Planning should begin far in advance, before the actual event you plan on attending. If you were to just show up with your material without prior planning, you’d be destined for failure. And no one wants to be a failure!

Early Registration

Did you know that most shows have dates for early registration? Be sure to research the show you want to attend and register your association the first day that early registration begins! The more time you have to plan for your trade show, the better off you’ll be. 

Not to mention that there are often early-bird discounts for registering your association early. For every penny you save, there’s a penny that can be put towards your success. Register early and you’ll be making this outing the most successful one it can be for your small business or association!

budget is a part of the trade show planning process

Event Budgeting

Setting a budget is critical to having a successful first trade show experience. In fact, without a budget, it’s hard to tell what a successful outing actually is. 

To set your trade show budget, consider the following:

  • What are your expenses? Having a limit on your spending for an event will help you to keep from making your exhibit outing a failure.
  • Record your spending. Without recording what you’re spending, there’s no point in having a budget at all. 

Be Attractive!

We’re doing a lot of logistic thinking about numbers and money, but don’t forget about creativity! No one will want to visit your booth if they’re not attracted to it. Make your booth and your business cards full color with fun designs. You want to accurately convey information, but have fun with it! 

Chances are you already have a creative person working for you who would jump at the chance to use their skills. In addition, video sharing is another great way to bring people by. Give them a show and they’re sure to stick around for a minute! As long as it’s a good show, that is. *wink wink*

make sure your booth is attractive to the trade show attendees

Check the Attendee List for Potential Customers

Almost any exhibit hall you go to will be able to provide an attendee list prior to the event. This list usually comes with a price, but it can have absolutely invaluable information. It’s time to do your research. 

If you know who is going to be attending the show, you can more accurately see how you want to spend your time and efforts. You can find your target market before the building is even occupied. Make a marketing campaign geared specifically towards the groups or people you know will be attending. Being able to tailor-make material or forums for specific attendees will almost certainly net you some positive results.

make a marketing effort on your association's social media platforms

Make a Marketing Effort on Social Media Platforms

Social media marketing is the best way to drum up some buzz before you attend your first trade show. Use your platform of individuals already interested in your products or services to enhance the excitement surrounding your trade show exhibit. Incentivize your followers to share your marketing efforts and expand your audience. The more buzz you create surrounding your association, and the trade show, the more valuable your experience will be.

Setting Goals

Setting goals will ultimately be the only way you know if your trade show was a successful one or not. Without having something to measure against, your only metric for success will be how you felt. While making a couple of good sells feels good, it’s not going to cover your expenses, and you might end up losing money without realizing.

We suggest setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your outing; broken down, this means:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

While the goal to “have fun” sounds nice, it’s not going to pay the bills. A real goal might be… “We want to make x amount of money or sales”. Or… “We want to interact with x amount of attendees”. When you have something specific to work towards, you have a specific goal in mind.

Achieving your goal becomes infinitely easier when the endpoint is in sight. Also, set some smaller goals for yourself. Sure, there are bigger reasons why you’re at a trade show. But there are lots of small successes to be celebrated in addition to the big ones. So shoot for the stars, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for your hard work!

know the convention center where your first trade show will be

The Big Day!

The big day has finally arrived! You’re there, you’ve got your trade show displays ready to go. Perhaps your business cards are designed attractively in full color, and you’re just about ready to set up your booth space. What should you be thinking about on the day-of? It’s your first trade show, but we believe in you.

Know the Convention Center 

Get some intimate knowledge of where you’re going to be. No, we’re not just talking about where to get food and where the bathrooms are (although that’s important, too)! Get to know the physical space. Are you far away from any drinking fountains or the food? Maybe offering food or drinks would be just the thing to get someone to stop at your table! 

Know where your competitors are and know where your target market is. Know what your competitors are offering and how they’re advertising. Give yourself the competitive edge of knowledge and planning to circumvent the competition.

Finally! The big day has arrived! It's time for your first trade show.

Give Your Target Audience a Reason to Visit your Trade Show Booth

We’ve done all our research on who will be attending the trade show. You know which competing associations are nearby, so now it’s time to come up with your plan of attack. 

Here are some tips for coming up with great ways to attract an audience:

  • Make interactive content. Entertain your guests! Give them a puzzle to complete. Find a way to involve social media. Giving prizes out is another incentive to get the interaction started!
  • Entertain. You don’t have to be Elvis Costello to put on a show for your audience. It doesn’t have to be music, either! You can perform demonstrations for your products if you have them, or just have a fun game to play while you discuss your association.
  • Provide a phone charging station. When we’re at a trade show, we’re all away from home. You know that means at least one person forgot to bring a cell phone charger, right? And for everyone else, you’ve already been out all morning. Seeing a cell phone charging station at your booth is going to be an oasis in the desert for some folks. So while attendees are charging their phones, what better a time to strike up a conversation?! Mention what else your association can do to help them.
set SMART goals for your first trade show

Being Prepared for Your First Trade Show

Being prepared for your trade show exhibit is going to be the first gatekeeper to success. Make specific and achievable goals for yourself and your association! When it comes to your booth and your promotional material, no detail is too minor to be worthy of consideration.

Success doesn’t come from being prepared for just one thing, but from being prepared for everything. So continue to follow our blog this month and see what you need to do to be ready for your first trade show experience!

The Member Journey and Content Personalization Software

personalizing your content to association members

A Personal Touch: Content for Association Members

Associations have the crucially important goal of connecting with members. This may seem like a simple task, but in today’s world, it takes a ton of time and resources. In the past, associations would reach out to members through the mail and on the landline. But then came the internet! And email became the most effective form of communication when reaching out to members.

Now associations are expected to reach out to members via phone, text, email, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn). The list of communication methods grows every day! It’s a lot to handle all at once.

Members expect constant and immediate communication from associations. The problem is, most associations don’t have the time! Automation has helped relieve the stress of 24/7 communication and member support.

Depending on how it’s used, sometimes automation can come off as impersonal to members. How can associations maintain constant communication without sacrificing the personal aspect of association to member relations?

What is Content Personalization Software?

what is the member journey

Content Personalization Software is the software that brings the personal aspect of membership back into the equation. Using this type of software, associations can streamline communications and keep it personal too. Using information about members such as age, gender, location, visitor frequency, and session behavior, associations can create and send content that is specific to the member.

A few examples of session behavior include:
  • Navigation clicks
  • Blogs/article views
  • Downloads
  • Time spent on each page

These session behaviors can tell you what content and pages members are interested in. With demographics and session behavior combined, associations can make informed decisions when segmenting members and creating content. A few examples of creating segmented content includes:

Email Marketing with Content Personalization Software

With this information, associations send specific emails tailored to each recipient. Add personalization tokens to emails with name, profession, and location included. Add a newsfeed to the email newsletter with industry related news in their area. Share content related to the type of content they typically search for, etc. Add images to the email that are similar to the ones they spend the most time looking at, etc.

The possibilities are endless! Sending emails that are specific to the recipient is important when creating a customer journey. As a result, your email open rates will thank you.

content marketing with content

Content Marketing with Content Personalization Software

Content marketing includes blogs, articles, downloadables, case studies, white papers, and ebooks. Certainly, written resources for members make up a lot of what an association does. With personalization software, associations create smart content tailored to a segmented audience.

Associations can create multiple versions of a blog post and show the member a specific version based on certain triggers. In addition, you can also create separate versions of the content for members and non-members. For instance, this could include “call-to-action” content aimed at catching the attention of current members, non-members, or prospective members.

Call-to-Action (CTA)

If the reader is not a member, add a CTA at the bottom of the blog post that says “Become a Member” with a link to the member application. Or if the reader is a member, the CTA could be to download member exclusive content. If the reader used to be a member but is no longer a member, the CTA could say “Renew Membership”.

Content Personalization within Content Writing

The writing itself can also be manipulated to fit the needs of each reader. If the reader is not a member, leave out “member exclusive” content like this:

(paragraph of the article) Read More
(Error message) Member Exclusive: Looking for more information on this topic? For an annual cost, you can become a member of our association and receive extended versions of industry content like this.

If the reader clicking on “read more” is a member, then the read more link should reveal exclusive content. If the reader is not a member, show the error message above. This both entices non-members to become a member and it emphasizes to members the exclusive benefits they get from being a member.

Web Personalization with Personalization Tools

website content personalization tools

In the world of digital marketing, it is extremely important to have a user-friendly website. Therefore, a great way to improve the member experience is by segmenting and personalizing the association’s website. For example, think about Amazon. When users are on the Amazon website, they see products and sales that relate to their search history on the website.

For instance, if say, last week, the user was looking at gardening supplies, Amazon takes this information. By using machine learning algorithms, Amazon places related products on the homepage of the website for the user to see. Apply this to web personalization for associations too!

Personalization marketing is a customer-centric approach to member acquisition and retention. Most importantly, it’s an approach that will engage web visitors. Associations can use web personalization to present newsfeeds on the homepage that are specific to the member visiting the homepage. In addition, it refines the association’s recommendation engines.

Social Media Marketing

This is specific to targeted ads on social media. For instance, they use information collected about members to direct advertisements about location-specific events, content that appeals to the member, and member-exclusive benefits. Many associations also use chatbots on social media to streamline fast response to inquiries and deliver personalized messages.

Many members access their social media accounts via mobile apps, so response time is therefore expected to be that much faster. Offering members real-time personalization is key to the engagement and benefits of membership within an association.

Do you Need Content Personalization Software?

this software benefits associations and businesses alike
“Content Personalization Software” is a broad term for software that helps businesses and organizations automate and personalize content and communications.

Clearly, content personalization software is a great benefit for associations. On the other hand, Association Management Software is software specifically meant for associations. For example, this can help associations use the power of information to create personalized content that is sure to delight members.

In a study done by Instapage, here were the top benefits of using content personalization software using customer data:
  • Increased visitor engagement (55%)
  • An improved customer experience (55%)
  • Increased conversion rates (51%)
  • Increased lead generation/customer acquisition (46%)
  • Improved brand perception (39%)
  • Increased e-commerce revenues (27%)
  • An increased customer lifetime value/loyalty (25%)
  • Increased value of other marketing platforms (24%)
  • Reduced churn and increased retention (20%)
  • Makes me/my team look good! (20%)

Overall, surveyed participants agreed that content personalization software improved engagement, user experience, conversion rates, and lead generation. Above all, here’s the reason that content personalization software is so effective. It combines efficiency and relationship building. In short, it creates a smoother customer journey, or in this case, member journey.

Reasons to Strengthen Your Association’s Social Media Presence in 2019

Reasons to Strengthen Your Association's Social Media Presence in 2019

Increasing Your Association’s Social Media Presence Needs to be a Key Goal for 2019

In this digital age, your association’s social media presence is a crucial part of not just your digital marketing presence but also helps to create a perception of your association as a whole.

Your association’s social media presence is something that can be used as a communication tool to engage with members you already have on the various social platforms. It can also be viewed as a strategy to interest potential members, like millennials who are digital natives and known for seeking information and communicating online. If done well, an association’s social media presence can easily translate into membership base growth, and retention, as well as increasing the effectiveness of the time and effort spent on growth. And more importantly, your association’s social media presence and engagement is something you can do which can be extremely cost effective in terms of ROI.

So let’s take a look at the reasons more associations are strengthening their social media presence in 2019. And also, let’s take a look at what they’re doing to achieve this.

so many people are connected to their phones, and engaging online, which is why your association's social media presence is more important than ever

Increasing your Association’s Social Media Presence Through Greater Visibility

Technology in today’s world moves so quickly, and so do our attitudes about technology. Not long ago we were told to be very cautious about the things we put on social media because potential employers or business partners could see them.

But that’s exactly what we want now. Your association’s social media presence is more important than ever. In a very real way, it looks unprofessional not to have a social media arm to your association. Your results on search engines can seem incomplete without having this badge of technological honor under your name. It validates your association as being one that embraces technology as opposed to one that looks like a dinosaur. Associations’ need to keep up with the times to continue to remain relevant to younger members who want to be part of something that they can relate to.

Visibility Includes “Housekeeping” Items as Well as Communication Through Social Platforms

Many businesses and organizations use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to stay in touch with their target audiences. But have you considered this is also another method of communication?

Social media platforms are a way for your association to advertise things like location, office hours, events, newsworthy members, and an overall way to speak directly to your audience. Having this high level of visibility is very important to your branding. For an association looking to maximize its ability to stay in touch with its base, having a social media presence is vital.

One more important aspect to consider regarding visibility and your association’s social media presence is that you need to make the social media itself visible. In other words, make sure that you advertise the fact that you are on whichever platforms you choose to utilize, but remember, the more the merrier. Add social media icons to your association’s website, and include them in all of your team’s email signatures. Also, include reminders for members to follow your association’s social media outlets through newsletters, emails, and other literature.

if your association's social media presence is not on your radar, it should be.

Let Social Media be an Advertisement for Your Association

Your association’s social media page might be the first place someone views your organization on the internet. Whether its a committed member of your organization or a new potential member, make sure that your first impression is a good one.

In a great article from Investment News discussing the importance of using social media platforms, they state that “clients and prospects look to your website and social media content as a way to get to know you better”. This is a great attitude to have when thinking about the kind of content you put out there to increase your association’s social media presence.

Consider the goals of your association when you are deciding what content to put out on your platforms. Let your organization’s goals and your social media presence’s goals share a common purpose. While inflammatory and flashy news articles might turn some heads, it’s ultimately not good for your branding and reputation in the long run.

Think of your social media presence as an extension of material that you produce for the members of your association. Your members are the individuals who follow you and care about what you have to say, but on a social media platform, you are also able to speak to a wider audience at the same time. While you are able to present your members with newsletters and emails designed specifically for them, think of your social media output as a way to deliver your association’s message to other interested parties.

Pay attention to what’s trending in the world, and find how it relates to your association and its values. This is your opportunity to stay relevant and do some free advertising.

utilize your association's social media presence to deliver your message to a much wider audience

Let Your Association Openly Communicate with the World

Beginning to work on your association’s social media presence can be intimidating. What your members, and potential members, want to hear from you might not seem obvious. However, the best part of social media platforms is that they are two-way streets.

While you should remain consistent on the quality and frequency of things you post, don’t be afraid to tailor your messages to your audience. The audience for every social platform is slightly different, but one thing remains consistent: people want to feel like they’re individually special yet inside a like-minded crowd.

If you don’t know what your members might want to share, ask them. You can create a poll as a way of giving individuals a strong voice. And they will inevitably want to utilize this voice. Post content that pertains to your association’s goals and values. Also, please note that you should be posting consistently, but that you can also give your message that extra personal touch. How? Well, by reaching out to the community at large.

when you association's social media presence is starting to grow, utilize tools to track its growth

Wrapping Things Up: Use Your Association’s Social Media Presence for Brand Building

Social media has proven itself as one of the most invaluable platforms for communication in the modern day. It’s used by individuals, organizations, brands, politicians, and everyone in between to help forward their agenda and communicate this world. Don’t let yourself be left out of the conversation.

Figure out a plan of action, and begin building your association’s brand through social media.

After all, this will strengthen not only your visibility and your web presence, but also your association as a whole.

Associations Struggling with Member Engagement

for associations struggling with member engagement it's important to create practical strategies

Defining Practical Strategies for Increasing Member Engagement and Retention

When we speak with association leaders and subject matter experts about the most important challenges and the pain points they face, they will most often put member engagement at or near the top of the list.

Associations know how important engagement is in keeping organizations healthy and advancing their mission, yet many are struggling to use their digital channels effectively.

A recent association benchmarking survey quantified the challenge of engagement. This study showed that 55% of associations felt that engaging members is  a challenge.

Traditionally, member engagement meant participation in annual conferences, training programs, or purchasing publications. With the advent of email, social media, and scores of apps, digital outreach became a quick, easy, and less expensive way of connecting with members. These digital options also brought forth a substantial number of new competitors vying for members’ attention.

Oren Ahronson, CEO of InLoop points out that,

“With the huge volume of data and spam that we receive every day, a simple approach of posting content to a website, email, and on social media no longer achieves the goal of engaging members. This is especially true in trying to get members to engage with digital content. These responses elevate engagement levels which are crucial to increasing association member recruitment and retention.”

associations have to make practical plans in order to increase member engagement

The rules of the game have changed. Associations need a more strategic approach with specific objectives and metrics. We provide practical tips for increasing member engagement.

Defining Engagement

In a world where electronic communications transfer information in nanoseconds, bombarding your members with “information overload” engagement is not just the existence of a relationship between an association and its members. You also need members acting on those communications and renewing their memberships.

Engagement = Member Recruitment + Action + Retention

Since each association has different goals, the exact definition of engagement will vary across associations. But the primary objective remains the same… increase engagement by increasing member participation, acquisition, and retention.

However, Wendy Scott, a Partner at ReedScott warns that,

Associations often focus primarily on recruitment while tolerating a decrease in retention until it’s too late. Delivering valuable, customized content is one of the best ways to retain members and remind them of the value you provide to meet their current and, hopefully, unmet needs over time. Retention is crucial because it can cost up to six times more to recruit a new member than the cost to retain an existing one.

Indications of Member Engagement Issues

member engagement and retention goes hand in hand

How do you know if you have an engagement issue with your membership? According to ReedScott, there are several reliable indicators:

Warning Signs that You May Have a Retention Problem

  • your association has a retention rate that is less than 75%
  • attendance at conferences and meetings is decreasing
  • the number of members volunteering is decreasing
  • you are seeing a decrease in benefits utilization
  • your sales from multiple revenue streams are decreasing

Time and time again, we see that the members who are highly engaged are the ones always coming back. So how do we measure engagement? And why is it important to measure it?

Measuring Engagement

by measuring engagement, associations can focus more on member retention and member engagement

It is important to measure engagement for the simple reason that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Without data, you have no information upon which to make sound decisions about which direction to head with your content and communication strategies.

But, how can your association figure out how to measure engagement?

At a high level, measuring engagement is about aligning metrics to your strategic objectives. At a more detailed level, these metrics will be specific to each marketing channel. AI is playing a larger role in how we measure engagement by providing personalized content to association members.

Strategies in keeping members engaged rely solely on the content we send to members; content must be useful and unique to the personal needs of all members. We only have a short window to catch the attention of our members, so we have to be sure we take full advantage of all the resources available to us in this increasingly technologically-run world.