10 Email Tips for Better Trade Show Marketing

Trade show marketing can be expensive, especially if not done correctly. According to a 2019 survey conducted among convention and industry professionals, it was found that 49% of respondents reported no change in their budget from 2018 to 2019, while 36% reported a budget increase. These 10 email tips should help you maximize the ROI on your trade show marketing budget.

First step, when determining your trade show budget, take the amount of money you plan to spend on exhibit space, and multiply that number by three. 

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

Outbound marketing - 10 email tips

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 salespeople 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, 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.

illustration of trade show marketing

10 Email Tips to Update Your Trade Show Marketing 

 Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels you can use as a business. It is said that for every $1 you spend, you can expect a return on your investment of approximately $51. What is your current ROI from your email marketing campaigns? If it isn't that high, then it is time to update your current strategy.

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 absolute 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 an interest in your product or company.  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 websites, such as eBooks 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.

A personalized email marketing strategy doesn't mean you have to send an individually crafted email to each subscriber. Think of the overall customer experience. You will find much higher open rates if you choose to use the recipient's name in the subject line. More than 47% of emails are opened due to the subject line alone, so keep this in mind as you work on your personalization.

You can also choose to use a reply-to email address. Using a do not reply email address takes away your email's authenticity, and you can quickly lose some credibility with your target audience. Taking this away also makes it more personal and can better engage your target audience.

Finally, when personalizing your emails, use a real email signature. Make sure all the contact information is real and updated, and all of your contact details are included in the email signature. Allowing them the opportunity to contact you is a great way to use your email campaign strategy to build relationships with your target audience.

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.  As you come to learn more about your customers' preferences − 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 personalized emails 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 related 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.

You can find better open rates with segmentation as well. You can choose to start the segmentation process in three different ways:

  • By Industry: are you offering services or products to consumers? Getting to know your industry is a great way to segment your different email campaigns, so they are sent to the right people. You will find much higher engagement rates as well.
  • By Company Size: this is also known as account-based marketing. You can segment emails by either company size or annual revenue to increase your response rates and improve your digital marketing strategy.
  • By Sales Cycle: finally, offering free trial offers or webinars is a great way to connect with people who are ready to buy. Early-stage buyers or potential clients won't want to experience an aggressive sales pitch or demo but would be more appreciative of valuable content and information. So, make sure you understand which stage of the buying process your email subscribers and event attendees are at so you can better segment them following your virtual event or trade shows.

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 its results.   It’s easy to see how powerful data analysis can be in optimizing your email strategies.

6 – The First Line is of Top Importance

These days, most email clients now display the subject and the first line of the email to help people decide what is and aren’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.

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 many of us 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 peek at our new slide show!” with a couple of 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 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 are 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 help determine 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 why your prospects make their choices. Several superb online resources 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.
  1. 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.
  2. Hubspot, the inbound marketing company, recently teamed up with Bryan Harris at Videofruit to produce a free email marketing lesson on video.
  1. 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!

Other Tips for a Better Trade Show Marketing Email Strategy

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you build and improve your current email marketing strategies ahead of the next trade show event.

Make it Mobile Friendly

More and more people are reading their emails on their mobile devices these days. So, when sending out your emails, make sure they are mobile friendly. 

Consider the Design and Message

Implement a responsive email design. This goes a long way in optimizing the customer's experience regardless of the device they use to read the emails. Keep your subject line and header short. The subject line needs to be eye-catching, so they click on the email. They are going to want to know exactly what the email is about before they click. 

Call to Action

Summarize your call to action in a short subject line. In event marketing, you want to be sure you are promoting the upcoming event. Along with emails, you can also create a landing page for your event where you can tease a new product, show off an upcoming booth design, and share promotional items.


You should also consider automating your email campaigns when possible. The emails can be set up to send automatically based on the behavior of the users. Open rates for these kinds of emails are also much higher, and the average click-through is almost doubled compared to traditional email click-through rates without a trigger email.

Promotional Material

Again, don't forget about the promotional material. Whether you are pre show marketing for an upcoming trade show event or you are amping up for a virtual event, you want to make sure you get the right information to the right people. Promotional material is good for existing customers as well as prospective customers.

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 these 10 email tips should help ensure the emails are 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 they’ll be open and receptive to your message once they do.

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].