Five tips for ongoing impact at tradeshows


My friend and colleague, Matt Fulk, has detailed in his posts some of the great ways we've used SAS Customer Intelligence to improve our own marketing.  Using SAS fits with our culture of measurement and analysis that keeps us constantly focused on finding better ways to do things, and one area that has received some well-deserved scrutiny is third-party tradeshows.

Tradeshow opportunities are evaluated at SAS using a standard process we've developed, and even so we've found that some of the most promising opportunities have not produced the hoped-for results.  That said, tradeshows have a place in a well-balanced marketing plan, so one way to mitigate any downside potential is to focus on ways to improve the results with “ongoing impact.”  Here are five of my favorites:

1.  Look for pre- and post-show touches

Admittedly, there is nothing new or whiz-bang about pre- and post-show touches, but I'd suggest this as one of your minimum requirements when considering any tradeshow opportunity.  If the show won't provide the pre-registration list and the actual attendee list, try to find the value with the 4 suggestions below. Since these events are gatherings of your target market, use your interactions to try to get your audience to opt-in to something, such as your blog or a resource center.  Doing that extends your interactions well after the show.

2.  Engage with Social Media – before, during and after the show

This is low-hanging fruit when your audience is professional marketers, but there are some industries where social media adoption is just now starting to grow.  Whatever the case, use available social media channels because doing that can be more impactful than pre-and-post show postcards or email blasts for three important reasons.  First, by engaging in the social media aspects of the show, you are associating your name and that of your company with the show and its “hot topics.” Second, your target market will self-identify and self-qualify themselves simply by following you or "liking" you when you emerge in this context.  Third, you can build your relationships with these people over time by engaging with them on their terms and in their preferred medium.

How to do it?  Look in same places where you are most active, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn:

  • On Twitter, look for the show's hashtag and use it, such as #DMA2011, #FMF11 and #NCDM.  Before the show, share your plans and also the parts of the upcoming event you're most excited about.  During the show, tweet during sessions and share the points you find most interesting. After the show, ask for input and provide suggestions for ways to learn more about some of the major topics at the show.
  • On Facebook, look for the show's page and "like it."  Comment on posts and share what you're most interested in or details about your plans at the show by focusing on how it will enhance the show experience for attendees.
  • On LinkedIn, share your plans for the show with your own followers, and consider creating an event page for any side-activities you've planned during the show.  Look for the show's presence in any LinkedIn groups and join them.  As on Facebook, comment in the group's discussions on topics that are raised and relate it back to your enthusiasm for the show.  Highlight the ways your plans for the show will enhance the experience for attendees.

3.  Provide speakers for a session or two

Research the process for submitting abstracts for speaking opportunities and submit multiple on as many topics as is relevant.  Ask about the show's themes and what the major topics are for which show organizers need content.  Try to engage one of your customers whose experience will be most interesting for the audience, or find a thought leader to speak if your budget allows it.  A noted author with a recently published book is a good choice because you can include a drawing for signed copies of the book in the session.

During the session, introduce the speaker to the audience in a way that explains the connection between what your company does and why it made sense to sponsor the speaker.  Keep it short and to the point (60 - 90 seconds) and do not do a sales pitch - it's an explanation why the sponsorship makes sense to the audience.  Close the session with an invitation to subscribe to your blog or a link to visit and learn more - make it easy for the audience to opt-in to ongoing impact.

4.  Throw a party

Unless your target market has restrictions on hospitality (such as governments), a reception or executive dinner is a great way to enhance your target market's experience at the show.  Even if they are unable to accept, you'll have made an impression simply by extending the invitation.  Plan it so that it supports the content in any speaking sessions at the show you're sponsoring, and/or include your speakers as the featured speaker.  This is yet another opportunity for customers to self-qualify by accepting your invitation, and then it gives you the chance to have a more in-depth conversation away from the hustle & bustle of an exhibition hall.  Make sure you have enough people from your company so that each attendee at the hospitality event gets some attention and boosts the inclination to have an ongoing relationship.

5.  Preserve the content and share it

My perspective is that video recording your speaking session and having the rights to promote the content is the best way to drive ongoing impact at a tradeshow .  There are many, many reasons why I believe that and here are some of them:

  • Doing that is a great way to engage the folks who may have wanted to attend the event, but somehow could not be there.
  • You can offer the video as a post-show "thank you" gesture. One nice example was detailed by Justin Huntsman in his post which includes an embedded YouTube link about our session at the 2011 eMetrics Optimization Summit in San Francisco.
  • A video recording can also be transcripted and the content can be re-cast as a summary paper, which is downloadable or printable at will to read even when not online. These can be wonderfully engaging documents. even on potentially dry topics.  A great example is from that same session at eMetricsm, which we was turned into a paper titled, "How to Stop Annoying Your Customers."
  • You can also take the audio feed of the session and turn it into a podcast - some people prefer this medium.  As an example, here is the link to a podcast series from a session we hosted at the 2011 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference.
  • Having the fresh content gives you a good reason to reach out to your contacts to share it, and you can amplify that impact by tying it to a lead nurturing campaign.  Or you can even use it to spark interest in your support of the show the following year.
  • Doing all of the above gives you lots of searchable content - so find all the ways you can make it searchable and you'll really have ongoing impact.

On the topic of search, consider this - YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, but it is a separate search "ecosystem" than Internet search.  Knowing that, you can surface your content in both worlds by posting the video recording both to YouTube and on your Website.  With relevant tagging, you've put a toe-hold for your company in both search ecosystems on that topic, and you've also tied it to that large tradeshow in both places. Bada-bing!

Here's an example of how we did that with David Meerman Scott's Thought Leadership session at DMA:2011, which we posted to both YouTube and to  What's even nicer is that David included the recording in a blog post of his own and our friends at the DMA have included the asset on the DMA Knowledge Center.  We're also crafting a whitepaper from this content and it's nearly finished so check back and I'll post the link in a comment below.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and especially your ideas.  Let's add to this list with other examples of what you've done or may have seen others do well.  As always, thank you for following!


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


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    • John Balla
      John Balla on

      Isn't it funny how goody bags have ongoing appeal? For me, the best kind of goody bags have branded items that will be used frequently/repeatedly in the places where they are likely to be thinking of your brand. For instance, I think the best premiums for a B2B company are office supplies, such as staplers and notepads, which are more likely to stay at your customers' desk and not be given to their toddler and get lost in the playroom at home.
      Thanks for your comment!

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