Admit it. You dread it. You cringe at the thought of spending seven days in Las Vegas, Orlando, Chicago <fill in the blank> exhibiting at a tradeshow. The long hours, the crowds, the bad concession food and way too many late nights at the hotel bar. And for what exactly? It’s definitely not for getting quality leads – no, that’s a given. No, you do it for the visibility, the networking and the hope that with all the time, effort and expense, you can create some buzz about your product or service. But let’s be clear – the ROI is not in your favor.
Does that mean you should just cross tradeshows off your marketing list? No, not necessarily. But it does mean that you have to rethink your strategy. Because tradeshow success is no longer defined by having the biggest booth or the best tchotchkes. If you look beyond traditional exhibit-hall formats, you can absolutely create an experience that can still get you the visibility and networking you need.
1. Get a Speaking Slot.
We believe developing thought leadership through a speaking opportunity is much more valuable than the expense of planning and exhibiting a 20x20 booth. Instead of showing off your logo and running demos on 10 flat screens, you are sharing knowledge to a very captive and targeted audience. But do your homework. Map out the events and submit your topics EARLY and follow up often.
2. Don’t exhibit but Attend.
Sending a few of employees can still be a wise move. Costs are a fraction of exhibiting, yet you’re still networking, making great connections and meeting with customers. Turn the event into a content creation opportunity -- such as through blogging, tweeting or posting visuals on Instagram. Before your employees attend an event, create a content plan to maximize the marketing and PR value of your participation.
3. Sponsor Something.
There are likely dozens of sponsorship opportunities running the gamut from coffee breaks to event bags. The bigger the event, the bigger the list of sponsorships offered. But these are crazy popular and sell out quickly, so know your budget and secure a spot early.
4. Host Cocktails or Dinner.
We love this one. If you’re a marketer, this will endear you to your sales team. If you are the company leader, this will endear you to your CFO. It’s focused and very cost-effective, especially if you team up with a partner.