10 Email Tips for Better Trade Show Marketing

Revised VK-1122 trade show display with Backlit LED Header, Monitor Mounts, Workstations, Standoff Graphics, and MOD-1297 Counter

Custom VK-1122 trade show display with Backlit LED Header, Monitor Mounts, Workstations, Standoff Graphics, and MOD-1297 Counter

Trade show marketing can be expensive, especially if not done correctly. Yet, trade shows in 2014 still made up about 20% of company marketing budgets.

Spending that large of a piece of the corporate budget requires very careful control and nurturing. Thus, it’s critical to be sure you promote your trade show appearances in order to gain as much as possible from each trade show appearance.

We’ve discussed other ways of promoting your trade show appearances; this post will review one of the least expensive tools – email marketing. Despite almost never-ending predictions that it’s dead, dying, or otherwise passé, email has instead become the single most ubiquitous communications media in the world.  

If someone has access to the Internet in any way, shape, or form, they have an email address and they’re probably using it in their day-to-day lives.

Indeed, many cold calling sales people are directed to send an email, so their proposal can be reviewed at leisure, as time allows.

So, email-based promotional techniques are still totally viable for promoting upcoming trade show appearances – but you need to be sure your email doesn’t get caught in – or immediately sent to – the spam filter.

In some ways, the spam filters have become a boon for companies that actually want to communicate with interested people.  Email today is much more personal, which in turn opens up entirely new strategies for engaging people’s interests.

Let’s talk a bit about updating email strategies, and how things have changed from the past few years.

Major Ways To Update Your Trade Show Email Marketing


1 – Ditch The Purchased Lists

Hopefully, none of you are still doing this, if you ever did.  Either way, purchased lists of email addresses are absolutely junk.  They don’t get you in touch with relevant buyers/researchers, and most of the time, spam filters ensure they’re never even seen.  

Emails should only be sent to people who, in some way, have given you permission to email. 


2 – Build Organic Email Lists

Organic email lists are simply those made up of people who’ve volunteered them.  They are pre-qualified since they’ve already indicated interest in your product or company.  Obviously, anyone who’s previously had contact with you, or done business, would automatically qualify. 

Beyond that, here are a few ideas for getting people to type in their email:

  • Premium content on your website, such as e-books or training videos
  • Monthly newsletters
  • Hosted webinars / online demonstrations
  • Periodic exclusive coupon / discount e-mails
  • An online forum or talkback area with email registration
  • Asking nicely


3 – Target Email Introductions to Registered Attendees

Check out the list of attendees that have registered to attend your upcoming show, review their company information and pre-qualify them. If they fit your screening criteria, send them a personal note.


4 – Segment Your Customer Database

Hopefully you have a database of customer data to go along with your email addresses.  If not, you should start one.  Because, as you come to learn more about the preferences of your customers -through interviews, surveys, and other feedback- you can add that information to the database and start sorting them into smaller categories.

People expect personalized materials to come to them online, so they respond best to emails that are personalized beyond simple fill-in-the-name templates. If you have enough information on your customers, you can start to appeal to them in “deeper” ways that relate to their lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, or even pop culture trends.

Since half the problem with getting people to visit your trade show booth is convincing them there’s some reason for them to do so, a well-targeted email adds to the personal appeal.

Or, broadly speaking, a single email sent to 1,000 people is likely to be far less effective than ten emails sent to ten different 100-person segments.   The extra time spent re-writing the same basic message a few times will be well rewarded, if the research and database are reliable.

Just remember that, under CANSPAM laws and simple courtesy, you do need to include unsubscribe options if anyone changes their mind.


5 – Keep Tracking Your Results

Another great thing about maintaining a database along with your email addresses is that it becomes far easier to track message frequency, response rates, and other critical data across your entire outreach strategy.  

The possibilities here are nearly unlimited, in terms of your ability to test, track, and refine.  I came across a good blog post with six case studies on email testing and the results they found.   It’s easy to see how powerful data analysis can be in optimizing your email strategies.


6 – The First Line Is Of Top Importance

Step and repeat trade show display backdrop popup display

Step and Repeat Trade Show Display Backdrop Popup Display

Most email clients these days now display the subject and the first line of the email, to help people decide what is and isn’t relevant.  What this means is that you should treat your emails as though they have two subjects. 

The good news is, this also means you have two chances to hook them in.

The bad news is, it’s a bit challenging in terms of etiquette, since “Dear Thomas” doesn’t cut it as far as sub-headers go.

There are a few approaches one could take with the first sentence:

  • The value proposition: “Register for our upcoming trade show and receive ___________!”
  • Added urgency:  “Registrations for our 2014 exposition are filling fast!”
  • A question:  “Has your company made purchasing decisions for ______ yet?”
  • A personal message, IF there has been prior communication: “Remember our discussion at last month’s trade show?”


7 – Send Plenty Of Thank-You’s

It’s easy to set up automated email systems to send out thank-you’s whenever someone interacts with your system, and it’s a very good idea.  A simple thank-you email costs nothing, but adds measurably to the goodwill people feel about a transaction. 

Even if all they’ve done is sign up for your mailing list, thank them for doing so.  Likewise, if you collect their email at a trade show, be sure to thank them for visiting your trade show booth.

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8 – Get Your Social On!

By and large, people don’t want to spend a lot of time on their email. They understand its necessity, but I think a lot of us all tend to find it’s a chore much of the time, in the same way sorting through postal mail is frequently uninteresting.

So, try using email as a teaser for other social media tools, websites and online materials. For example, an email with the subject “Here’s a sneak peak at our new slide show!” with a couple slides included, and a link to the full set on Slideshare.

Or, the same principle could be applied to following up after a trade show appearance: Give them a taste of your new designs in your trade show booth, and then remind them of the items they were interested in and provide a link so they can review the full details on your website.

It’s short and to the point, it creates an instant value proposition, and anyone who’s interested can immediately click through.  It’s pretty much the same trick as “Continued on page 3” on newspaper front pages.


9 – Think Of The Time!

Finally, try to consider what time of day people will be reading your emails, and try to send them when people will be most receptive.  The context of an audience is becoming increasingly important: what’s happening around them will affect how they view your email message.

If someone’s a family man, hit them before they go home and have to deal with screaming kids.  If they’re a Gen Y, have the emails sent at midnight – they’re probably still awake  and bored.  And so forth.  This is another area where a robust customer database can be a big help in determining peoples’ likely routines.


10 – Get Some Training

Email marketing isn’t rocket science, but like any marketing or sales effort, it relies on understanding your target personas and the reasons your prospects make their choices. There are several superb online resources that can help shed some light on what works and what doesn’t work:

1) Check out Jill Konrath’s sales blog, which focuses on a broad range of marketing techniques including email campaigns.

2) Gary Vaynerchuk is the founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, and has written several great books on marketing, focusing on email and social media marketing. His most recent one, “Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook”, was the inspiration for the email marketing lesson mentioned in the Hubspot article below.

3) Hubspot, the inbound marketing company, recently teamed up with Bryan Harris at Videofruit to produce a free email marketing lesson on video.

4) These are all great resources; there are many more if you look around. But if it all seems too overwhelming, here’s a primer on how to get email marketing all wrong!


Bottom line, Emails Are Still A Great Trade Show Promotional Tool!

Companies today need to be smart about their email strategies. Its ubiquity makes it a powerful tool for outreach, but the emails increasingly need to be tailored exactly for their recipients to have full effect.

Think context and relevance in your trade show-related emails.  A recipient needs a real reason to read, but once they do, they’ll be open and receptive to your message.

And of course, if you need help designing your next trade show booth so it helps you attract interest and communicates the right message to that crowd of new visitors you’ve attracted, give us a call us at 1(800) 676-3976 or email [email protected]

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