Why the Best Exhibit Experiences Start Early and Finish Late

With all the new focus on building powerful experiences for prospects visiting exhibits, you’d think it’d be enough to simply concentrate on everything that happens from show opening to close.

But that might be a missed opportunity. Because communicating with your prospects before and afterthe show can create an experience that’s bigger, richer and, ultimately, more effective for your marketing efforts.

We’re not talking about sending out a pre-show mailer that outlines your sales pitch and gives your booth number. Rather, it’s about looking at the experience you’re planning and finding an intriguing element of it that you can implant early in the minds of your audience.

For example, if you’re doing a mystery theme in your booth, send prospects the first clue. Or if you’ve got an amazing new kind of display technology, send them a teaser video clip. Whatever it is, start early and the impact at exhibit time will be that much greater.

It’s also important to not give away too much too early. You want to build enough excitement to gain early involvement, but the real fireworks still need to happen at the show.

In terms of which media to choose, email blasts and the old standby, direct mail, remain very effective. But don’t overlook tweets. At just 140 characters, the brevity of each tweet gives you the chance to plant lots of little thought-starters into your prospects’ minds that will build up over time and ignite their imaginations. Plus, they’re quick and cost you nothing.

 Once the show date arrives, the pre-tease doesn’t need to end. You can plant messages at the airport, place them in your prospect’s hotel room—or chalk them on sidewalks leading to the hall. You can even extend your experience through the hall itself, even if it’s your staff doing things in the aisles to get attention. Depending on the experience you have in mind, some of these tactics will lend themselves more naturally to what you are trying to achieve.

Then there’s the incredibly powerful post-show opportunity. At last, you’re in a position to communicate to prospects who have been fully brought up to speed by your booth experience. And now that you have qualified leads, you can start to concentrate your resources on them. So–called lumpy direct mail plays very well here. Though pricier, mailers with an object inside an envelope have a near-100% open rate.

And there’s no reason why you can’t go beyond a single follow-up communication. In fact, the more we think about exhibits as being just one part of the overall marketing effort, the more we see the need to communicate from the beginning of the sales funnel right through to the moment of purchase. Which is why the rewards for extending your customer experience can be worth their weight in gold.