Pre-Show Marketing Beyond Email: What Works?


Your pre-show marketing efforts don’t have to be limited to one tactic. If email is indeed everyone’s favorite form of promotional marketing, then build an email marketing campaign. But don’t disregard other ways to get your exhibit on that “must see” list attendees compile before they leave home.

Social Media

Well, of course. Fortunately, the days of determining which platform works best for which purpose are over—or should be. The correct answer to the which platform question is “all of them.” What are some of the social tactics that will attract your target market?

Post on LinkedIn. Keep the copy to the basics: who, what, when, where, why, how. Use photos and video to personalize your message. Use the same approach as you did with email: brevity, clarity, a compelling call to action (CTA). You can forward your post to Twitter and link your Twitter account with Facebook.

Facebook is powerful. To generate interest in an event, post the details on your company’s page, and encourage other sales and marketing people to post and share on their pages. Create a Facebook event—”See you at our exhibit during the XYZ show”—and send invitations via Facebook. Schedule posts regularly, and make sure you communicate the inherent value in visiting your exhibit. And don’t limit yourself to text; YouTube videos are great traffic drivers as are relevant third-party articles.

Within the past year, more b-to-b marketers have started using Instagram to reach their audiences. Instagram stories allow you to develop a narrative for your followers, a totally unique way to create interest in your exhibit.

The appeal of social media transcends generations. Don’t assume that only young people will notice your posts. There are no studies to prove it, but what would you want to bet that the people who delete email are the same ones that absorb media on social sites?

Banner Ads

Did you hear? The lowly banner ad is making a comeback. Investing in a banner ad on the show website or on the show app is a wise use of marketing dollars. But don’t stop at the banner: embed a link to a page on your own website. Perhaps to a page (or microsite) that is all about your show participation—or perhaps to a discounted pass to the show or a show-special offer. Some apps allow you to load content that is accessible through an in-app banner. Don’t just pay for the ad; talk to the salesperson about what is possible.


Enlisting sales to get the word out is extremely effective. If your company has territory reps, supply them with analog or digital collateral and enlist their help in inviting their customers and prospects to your exhibit. If most of your sales take place via phone, prepare a script for your in-house sales teams and supply them with something to email to the customer after the call —a pass to the show, a description of the in-booth activity, or some other incentive.

Bonus Tip: Is someone from your company speaking at the trade show? Promote the fact—everywhere. Convince your speaker to come back to your exhibit after the presentation, and promote that even more. Sponsoring a speaker? Make some noise—and again, convince that person to spend some time in your exhibit,even if it’s for a book signing. (You might not be able to sell the book in your exhibit, but if you buy books in bulk and allow the author to sign them and give them away, you are providing something of value to your target market. Books are a great and cost-effective traffic builder.) If your speaker, sponsorship, or other investment resonates with your target audience, make the most of that investment and promote it early and often before the show opens.

Be Kind to Your Budget

With the exception of banner ads, which are worth the dollars spent if you include all the things we mentioned, your email, social media, and in-person delivery of pre-show marketing are budget-friendly. Other avenues are available to you but may prove to be less cost-effective. Ads in directories or show dailies are usually pricier, and as we tend to distance our self from reading or holding on to print material—or even accepting it when it is given out in front of the expo hall—the ROI is somewhat suspect. There is also a timing factor. When an attendee is about to leave—or on the plane to the trade show—is when that must-see list gets generated. Room drops suffer the same fate, and the return on investment is even less transparent now that many trade show attendees stay outside the room block at an Airbnb or VRBO.

Using multiple channels to connect with attendees before they take their first steps on the show floor is a critical component of a successful trade show. When you are building your timeline, pre-show marketing is a must.

Personalize your message by determining how different segments of your target market prefer to receive information. Our free workbook, Creative Bravery for Your Face-to-Face Marketing Program will help you do that. Are you a healthcare marketer? We have a special workbook for you that takes into account the challenges you face. Download Creative Bravery: Face-to-Face Marketing Strategies for the Healthcare Industry.