Marketing Trade Shows as Content

Having recently participated in several debates about leveraging content marketing and face-to-face events as part of a content marketing strategy, helped me visualise trade shows as content.

As such, trade show organisers should begin to think about new ways to market their events and build their communities by becoming content curators, viewing their exhibitors as content producers, and positioning the live event as the “product” being offered for sale.

To adopt this line of thinking, exhibition organisers must take one very big leap of faith by believing that the distribution of exhibitor content outside the framework of the live event will NOT diminish the value of the face-to-face event (the old “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” adage) and will, in fact, drive attendance and exhibitor participation at the event.

In the “tradeshows as content” strategy, exhibitors are reservoirs of content, filled to the brim with product brochures, white papers, product demos, press kits, video tutorials, and sales presentations.

Organisers curate, and re-purpose this collateral into a continuous flow of solution-generating, idea-sparking, and valuable content that sells the event.

The concept of exhibition organisers as content curators isn’t anything new. A decade ago, trade publications, owned by or in partnership with the exhibition producers, filled the role of curators by pushing exhibitors and visitors to the live event with ads, case studies, and editorial.

Today, event organisers have transcended print magazines (in many cases) and moved to other more profitable or far-reaching platforms for exhibitor content distribution: portals, webinars, online publications, blogs, and mobile apps. This move has solidified their positions as curators.

Here are some specific ways that exhibition organisers can tap into the vast content resources at their disposal to drive business:

  • Create an online (accessible, searchable) resource library of exhibitor white papers, eBooks, case studies, how-to articles, and video tutorials.
  • Appoint a content marketing manager to sift through exhibitor content and re-shape the resources to meet the needs of the audience.
  • Make all of the content shareable on social media channels.
  • Stop selling the event and start sharing the information.
  • Create a steady (daily) flow of content accessible through one portal—the organiser or event blog.
  • Offer only excellent and relevent content.
  • Ask exhibitors to guest blog.
  • Develop an editorial calendar that covers content from all of the market segments the show covers.
  • Send frequent emails of curated exhibitor content (links back to the event site) to an opt-in list of recipients.
  • Highlight and promote content that exhibitors have created and posted on their own websites through the event blog.
  • Take the content marketing to the exhibition floor, simply by asking exhibitors to demonstrate how they are innovators and providing more informal education on site

With all content marketing initiatives, there are benefits when the program is executed well. Content lives on after the event concludes. Good content brings good SEO to the organiser’s website. Using exhibitors as resources helps create a pipeline of content that organisers won’t have to develop from scratch.

Exhibitors receive additional exposure and niche content positions the event as a central resource for information on a market segment—the Holy Grail for associations and independents. Oh, and it sells more product, i.e., booths and attendee registration.

The Takeaway:

Not all exhibitors and sponsors will have received the “share, don’t sell” memo about content.

Organisers will have to provide guidance and work with them to convert their traditional sales pitches into desirable content for potential visitors; however, this extra effort can be monetised.

That said, organisers have two choices: they can charge exhibitors for the curation service as part of a promotional package and realise some short-term benefit,

OR they can go for the long game (by not charging) and consider it an investment toward consolidating their communities of stakeholders and positioning their events at the centre of the conversation all year round.


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