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.