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  • Writer's pictureVincent Grippi

How to Build Successful Marketing Strategies for Healthcare Trade Shows

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

As a healthcare marketer, you know the importance of getting your brand in front of the right people. And what better way to do that than by attending conferences?

These events are packed with potential customers, partners and networking opportunities, which makes them the perfect place to promote your business.

But with so many other brands competing for attention, how can you make sure that your marketing efforts stand out? In this post, we will show you how to implement a winning trade show marketing strategy that maximizes opportunity and returns.

Healthcare trade show floor

What is Trade Show Marketing and Why is it Important?

Trade show marketing is the practice of marketing a product or service at an industry-specific event, such as a conference or exhibition. This type of marketing leverages well-attended events to create awareness and promote engagement with the product or business in order to generate leads.

The advantage of trade show marketing is that it allows businesses to gain visibility and interact with their customers face-to-face. Additionally, trade shows are excellent opportunities for generating valuable for marketing research and audience feedback.

Leveraging digital marketing and in-person booths, attendees are able to see how your products/services work and get a better understanding of your brand's mission, vision and values.

The downside to trade shows are that they can be very expensive. So, when it comes to marketing at these events, it's super important that you build your strategy on the foundation of maximizing and quantifying ROI.

Preparing for a Conference or Trade Show

Before you develop your marketing strategy for any trade show, you need to do a little prep work first. This prep work can be categorized into 3 elements:

  1. Define goals

  2. Conduct research

  3. Align with your sales team

Let's quickly explore what these 3 elements are and why they are so important to prepping your strategy.

Define Your Goals

Before you commit any x's and o's to the whiteboard, you need to identify your SMART marketing goals. The four most common goals of trade show marketing are:

  1. Lead generation

  2. Brand awareness

  3. Competitive benchmarking (sector intelligence)

  4. Networking

You will need to build your strategy around one or more of these goals. It's imperative that you choose goals that can be linked to quantifiable ROI. This is the only way you'll be able to effectively measure and communicate your success.

💡 Tip: If you can't show ROI, you're essentially throwing money into the wind - not wise! Set measurable goals so that you can show real impact.

Consider which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you will use to help measure your success and make sure you have the appropriate resources in place to capture them.

The 4 Goals of Trade Show Marketing

Conducting Research

When it comes to marketing in a conference or trade show setting, research is your North Star - it will guide the course of your strategy.

Knowing the theme(s) of the show and being familiar with the interests, needs, and wants of the attendees gives smart marketers an essential edge when it comes to marketing on a trade show floor. Without proper research, companies are going in blind, failing to target the right people with their strategy.

Sales and Marketing Team Alignment

End-to-end alignment between a company's sales and marketing teams is a common pitfall when it comes to trade shows and conventions. Sales and marketing are the two biggest players when it comes to trade shows and conventions. It is important for both departments to align on everything from the trade show marketing strategy, goals, responsibilities and more.

Here are a few tips to help your marketing and sales team collaborate more effectively for trade shows and conventions:

  1. Set out a comprehensive calendar of all trade shows you intend to attend

  2. Compile attendee research that can be distributed to each team prior to each event

  3. Allocate responsibilities, make sure each department has a primary function and that all departments understand how their efforts must synergize

  4. Create a list of the KPIs relevant to each goal and distribute them to the responsible departments

  5. Ensure the managers of each team agree on and understand all of the above

Now that we have our prep work out of the way, let's start building strategies around the 5 different trade show marketing goals. This is the fun part, so keep reading!

Trade Show Lead Generation Strategies

Lead generation is the most commonly used goal of trade show marketing. When it comes to lead generation at trade shows, the concept is pretty simple: provide your target some form of value in exchange for their information.

If I'm one of your targets, you need to give me a good reason to willingly hand over my contact details. That good reason is value. And if you did your attendee research properly, you will have a pretty good idea what I find valuable.

In the case of lead generation marketing, this value proposition is presented in the form of a lead magnet. If you are able to provide real value, your targets will not hesitate to give you their contact information so you can provide more value.

The lead magnets provided by your marketing team must be well-researched and highly contextual. Examples include case studies, whitepapers, reports, free consultations, and more.

💡 Tip: If you're going to succeed at lead generation, you need to know what types of lead magnets are most effective for your target audience.

To maximize the potential of lead generation at conferences and trade shows, utilize a comprehensive strategy that delves into both digital and physical tactics. Consider creating target-specific landing pages or forms online to capture leads remotely. Alternatively, set up your company's booth with business card scanners or QR codes for easy data collection in person.

Post-Trade Show Lead Generation Strategies

When the conference or trade show ends, this does not mean that your lead generation strategy ends as well. If you make this mistake, you could be leaving potential leads on the table! Here are some strategies to keep the lead gen train rolling full-steam after the exhibition floor clears...

  • Follow-up blogs/articles highlighting key takeaways and insights from the conference.

  • Host a poll/survey around the event and create a comprehensive report that analyzes the results. You can host these polls/surveys during the event itself (if you planned ahead) or online after the event wraps.

  • Podcasts and interviews are very effective options that can help your post-trade show content stand out from the crowd. Every year at the HLTH, CareTalk Podcast records a live interview series at the event itself and releases the episodes soon after it concludes.

Be sure that this content contains lead generation opportunities within them in the form of a lead magnet. To maximize exposure and impact, share this content via email newsletters and social media. You can even share the content through direct outreach on channels such as LinkedIn. If you're feeling really good about the strength of this content, it couldn't hurt to further support it with a paid media push.

Trade show Keynote

Trade Show Brand Awareness Strategies

The idea behind this is really quite simple: brand awareness means being seen and heard wherever possible (in a positive light, of course!).

It's a no-brainer that you'll want your brand to be noticed by trade show foot traffic. But you also want to be noticed on the web and social channels like LinkedIn or Twitter, which lend themselves to the dynamics of trade shows. The ideal trade show brand awareness strategy is bi-directional: leads move from real-world events onto your web channels and vice versa.

While the event and all the "buzz" around it takes place, it’s critical that you have team members actively representing your brand on social media. Those team members should be actively sharing content and inciting further engagement with people following the event.

Here are some content ideas that never fail to drum up engagement and awareness at trade shows:

  • Share speaker/keynote quotes to LinkedIn and Twitter, tagging the appropriate individuals to incite discussion

  • Social media posts and blog articles rounding up notable trends and learnings

  • Take pictures from the event and share them across various platforms

  • Leveraging hashtags, location-tagging and branded social media stickers

  • Sharing branded content relevant to the trade show topics and attendees

  • Paid ads targeting the people attending and surrounding the event

  • Leverage a live streaming tool, like ThinkStreamGrow or StreamYard, for real-time product announcements, live Q&A's from the event, and more

Taking a comprehensive approach will help ensure maximum visibility and engagement with potential customers. Establishing thought-provoking displays and incorporating marketing materials, such as flyers, can help draw a crowd's attention. Offering product demos can also be effective in the showing strengths and advantages of your offerings, while engaging customers in dialog with knowledgeable staff is another way to generate interest in your products or services.

Trade Show Networking Strategies

Your networking strategy should account for three components of a trade show:

  1. Pre-show

  2. During show

  3. Post-show

Pre-Show Networking

Most conferences provide attendee lists and networking tools before the event. Many of these networking tools enable you to engage with other attendees and setup appointments in advance. All of these resources are designed to boost networking opportunities - take advantage of them.

Taking advantage of LinkedIn can be a great way to make the most of trade show networking. Utilizing available attendee lists and LinkedIn search filters such as job title, industry or geographic location will help you find stronger network prospects relevant to your business. Start by initiating a friendly dialog and/or share informative content. The latter could help you establish a personalized introduction and offer value early in the conversation. If all goes well, you can propose an in-person meeting at the event itself.

Connecting on LinkedIn prior to an event is beneficial not only since you can establish relationships before stepping foot at the show, but because it strengthens your credibility with those you eventually meet in person. Keeping your profile content and engagement up-to-date ensures customer confidence and shows the effort you put into leading digital conversations with them.

During Show Networking

Networking at trade show events can be a great way to connect with like-minded professionals in your industry, as well as inspire potential business opportunities. Before attending, it’s important to set an objective for the conversations you wish to have and map out key talking points.

Remember, these meetings will only be productive if both parties involved can benefit from the conversation in some way. Networking at trade show events is ultimately about building relationships: understanding what other people may need and being able to provide solutions where possible.

💡 Tip: Time is of the essence. Try to pre-schedule your appointments and have key talking points mapped out.

Even though you've now scheduled a bunch of appointments in advance, you'll still want to be prepared for networking opportunities on the exhibit floor. Study the exhibitor map in advance and plan which booths you want to visit when you're at the event. To network more efficiently, have conversation starters in-mind and try to leverage tools like digital business cards, which let you exchange information more quickly. Traditional business cards can be a hassle to receive and carry - plus it's easier to lose them.

Post-Show Networking

After the event, use a spreadsheet to organize the contacts you’ve made. Send them personalized emails or LinkedIn DMs. It’s important to remember that these contacts are busy too, often with follow-ups of their own.

Competitor Benchmarking at Trade Shows

Attending a trade show is often a great opportunity to compare the performance of your products or services against those of competitors within your industry. Competitor benchmarking is similar in principle to competitive landscape analysis. In the case of trade shows, competitor benchmarking involves thoroughly researching the booths, displays, and presentations of rival companies, as well as collecting information about their products, pricing, buyers' interests, and sales techniques.

By paying careful attention to market dynamics at the event, you can properly plan and adjust your marketing campaigns accordingly while keeping an eye on what works best for your competition. Armed with this intel, you'll be better prepared to react swiftly and decisively in order to remain competitive.

💡 Tip: Don't limit your benchmarking to competitors. Try to gather intel on adjacent sectors and familiarize yourself with new brands that are doing exciting things.

Monitor the Buzz

Social listening at trade shows can help brands maximize their presence and capitalize on conversations happening in real time. By leveraging social media analytics tools, marketers can listen to conversations about their brand, competitors, or industry - enabling them to quickly adapt strategies to engage with potential customers’ expectations and trends.

Take Notes

Take notes on what you hear during the speaking sessions and what you see at the booths you visit. What pain points are the others highlighting? How does their audience respond?

You should also note any common trends that can help you boost your trade show presence and broader digital marketing strategies.

Compile an Intelligence Report

Lastly, you need to compile all of the above information and turn it into something useful that you can share internally at your company. Try creating a deck that organizes all of your top-line takeaways, supported with bulleted points, images, charts and screenshots. Make sure you connect these learnings back to your company in a constructive way. Think about why you are sharing this information and how it should inspire the colleagues you're sharing it with.

These types of reports are important resources for your company. The more thought you put into them, the greater the impact.

Ready to Level Up Your Trade Show Marketing?

Trade shows can be an incredibly valuable investment for any healthcare company, big or small. Not only can businesses generate leads and acquire sector intelligence, but it also provides a great opportunity to network and build relationships with potential partners.

Using the practices that we've provided, you will be able to develop an effective marketing strategy to ensure your business can get its money's worth from every trade show attended.


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