How Tradeshows Can Use Online Communities to Be More Effective

Businessman click on discuss button connected with a network of business

Events provide valuable face-to-face marketing and networking, but we all know the connections made at tradeshows don’t always turn into long-term opportunities. New contacts aren’t always contacted in a timely manner, sales fall through, and we forget about the event until next year.

Those are missed opportunities for everyone involved.

You need to make your events last when the live portion ends, which is where digital tools like online communities can step in. A healthy and dynamic online community can extend the impact of your event, making it easier to reach people and bring value to your audience.

Here are four ways you can use an online community to enhance tradeshows and other event experiences.

Advertise to relevant audiences.

Even established tradeshows can benefit from additional attendance, so supplement traditional event advertisements with digital tools in your online community. For instance, you could add banner advertisements to your homepage, do flash promotions via community email, and include an ad in your community’s daily digest or newsletter to get the word out.

These promotions will naturally reach your target audience, since your community already caters to your members and stakeholders. That makes it easy for you to more effectively distribute promotions.

You can also use your community to increase pre-event engagement in tandem with your advertising strategy. Publish tradeshow information including venue details, hotel information, and exhibitor guidelines in your file library to get people involved early and ensure they’re well informed before your event begins.

Help vendors do targeted marketing with attendee profiles.

Digital tools provide more information on members and event attendees than tradeshows have had in the past. For instance, an online community can give you information on the type of content, products, and vendors your members are interested in based on the pages they’re viewing and the content they’re consuming.

Combine that information with a member survey to gather more details:

  • What products and services members need immediately
  • What products and services members are interested in for the future
  • Where attendees fit into the buying process – are they decision makers or influencers?
  • Attendees’ preferred communication channels with vendors

This information can be used to create an attendee profile to distribute to vendors, helping them determine who should receive their emails and marketing messages ahead of the event.

By targeting communication only to attendees who fit their profile, vendors are able to start relevant conversations with people who are likely to get value from their messages. You’ll also reduce frustration among attendees, as they’ll get fewer emails from suppliers who are outside their geographic range or are offering irrelevant products.

Go beyond business cards to encourage lasting relationships.

People are busy. When we’re back in the office, it’s difficult to keep up with the contacts we make at events. We’ve all ended up with a stack of business cards that gather dust in a drawer or on the corner of our desks.

Make the shift to long-term networking by using your online community to provide an easy way for attendees to connect with peers and vendors before, during, and after an event. Include a list of attendees and vendors within the community for members to contact one another. Such a list can be kept confidential and only released to others who will be at the event.

A vendor directory or other tradeshow information kept in a private event community can also help. If you use an event community, you can even allow vendors to post educational articles as well as communicate with interested attendees via discussions.

Cut costs and improve the event experience with an app.

Communities, especially event communities, often offer apps to make on-the-go engagement easier during tradeshows. These apps use push notifications to increase participation and interactions – something studies show can increase engagement by a whopping 2,770 percent.

An app also provides easy access to event calendars, handouts, and announcements as well as maps of your venue and exhibit hall. By getting members to use virtual maps and handouts in your app, you can reduce the cost of printing maps and pamphlets for every attendee.

Leverage Digital Tools to Improve Your Event

Digital marketing and engagement strategies are natural ways for tradeshows and other industry events to increase their impact. They enhance already valuable experiences, making events more modern and relevant in today’s marketplace.

Online communities, which encourage the same type of engagement and personal connections as live events, are one of the best tools to use, ensuring longer-lasting benefits for attendees and vendors.

Higher Logic is an industry leader in cloud-based community and marketing automation platforms. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring people together by creating a community home online, where organizations can interact, share ideas, ask questions, and stay connected — no matter where they are located.

Rob Wenger is a successful entrepreneur and business executive with an outstanding 19-year track record in building, growing and leading high-tech companies. As the CEO of Higher Logic, his clients’ success is always top of mind. He works to positively impact each of Higher Logic’s clients using smart, collaborative technology. Opinions are his own. Connect with him on Twitter @rwenger or by email, rob@higherlogic.com.

 

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