Looking to get back into the trade show circuit in 2022? If you’re like 82% of the tech companies we surveyed, the answer is YES!

That said, it would be pretty naive to think that the trade show experience this year will be anything like it was in 2019 and before. (Hand shakes? Packed auditoriums? Germ central!)

That’s why in our recent HubSpot User Group for B2B Technology USA we learned about hi-tech ways today's tech marketers can communicate with attendees in a post-pandemic world from Mike Richwalsky of Gas Mark 8.

From texting, to geofencing, to beacons and beyond, here’s a recap of Mike’s innovative (and touchless!) ideas to make your next trade show a success…all while staying safe.

 

Geofencing

As the name suggests, geofencing is essentially putting a virtual perimeter around a physical area and then advertising to anyone who walks through it. 

While lots of brick and mortar retailers use this tactic, it’s not normally useful for B2B tech marketers…until your company is at a trade show! 

Geofencing is pretty easy to set up:

  1. Set up a paid campaign on the platform of your choice (Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
  2. Designate the geographic area (the convention center, connected hotel, off-site event locations, etc.). Note that most platforms let you specify a small radius, but not the specific building.
  3. Run your campaign only during the dates/times your specific audience will be at these places.
  4. Bonus: you can retarget users who click on an ad for even stronger lead nurturing.

Voilà—anyone who enters your “fence” will now see an ad for your company! And for a much lower cost than advertising in that expensive program guide, which will probably get chucked in the trash anyway.

QR Codes

In America, QR code adoption was slow before the pandemic. But now that many businesses are using these graphics as a “touchless” option (think menus in restaurants), your everyday consumer is more comfortable with the technology.

Why not adopt the same tools at trade shows? Ditch the “business-card-in-a-box” tactic and go hi-tech by following these steps:

  1. Create a (mobile-friendly!) landing page with a simple form that redirects to further product info after submission.
  2. Create a QR code using one of the many free software options available. (Seriously…just Google it. There’s a million.)
  3. Print a stand-up poster with the QR code on it to display at your booth.
  4. No really, that’s it. Visitors will scan the code, get redirected to your landing page and fill out a form (which will push info to your CRM). No business card needed!

One thing that’s worth noting: marketers LOVE their UTM parameters, but the “complexity” of a QR code is based on the number of characters in the redirected URL. So, lots of UTMs = longer page url = more complex QR code = more chance for error when scanning. Keep it as simple as possible while still getting the tracking info you absolutely need!

QR code length comparison

SMS (yes, text messaging!)

As a tech marketer, you want to meet your prospects where they are…and at a trade show, you know that’s on their smartphone!

Now we know B2B tech companies are normally pretty skeptical about this tactic, but consider this: SMS messages have a very high open and action rate compared to email or PPC. These are easy-to-customize messages and responses, and you can push contacts to a specific URL, lead capture form, drip campaign and more. Plus it’s all trackable…a marketer’s dream!

And remember: you don’t HAVE to continue texting people after an event is over if that makes you feel icky…you can use this tactic just for timely, relevant updates during the trade show. For example, you could send texts that read:

  • Remember to stop by our booth at 3 p.m. for the iPad drawing.
  • Show this message at the bar for one free drink during our networking event tonight.
  • Our CEO is talking today at 11 a.m. — bring back a signed event program to our booth and we’ll give you a special prize.

Wait…you don’t have phone numbers for people at the trade show? Good thing we showed you how to use a QR code/landing page above…hint, hint.

Need a recommendation for a texting platform that integrates with HubSpot? We like Sakari or Salesmsg.

Beacons

Looking for an easy way to measure how many people stopped by your booth? The answer is a beacon—a battery-operated bluetooth device that’s kind of like a reverse AirTag. The battery life is long (~3-5 years) and the price point is low at $15-$40 per beacon. Check out Estimote or Kontakt.io for some options.

How does a beacon work?

If you have an app for your business, placing a beacon in your booth will count who is nearby (usually within one meter). You could even use this geographic information to send a push notification to their mobile device.

If you don’t have an app for your business, don’t worry…check with your data vendor to see if you can collect that info through another 3rd party app using your beacon.

Concerned about the legality of this all? “There’s definitely some privacy conversations and data conversations we could have here,” says Mike. And because of that, we recommend talking to your lawyer first.

Anonymous Traffic Technology

If beacons aren’t quite what you’re looking for, Mike said there are other monitoring systems available that will collect Bluetooth and WiFi signals in an area to collect anonymous data. This will allow you to read the signals devices put out as people move near your booth, giving you an idea of the amount of traffic that came to your booth. 

Portal Beam: Nothing to do with Facebook’s portal device, this machine uses ML/AI to track Bluetooth, temperature, air quality and people…all without facial scanning or other identifiable data. If you put this device at the top of your booth, you’ll get an idea of where people were congregating (and for how long)—how cool!

Meshlium Scanner: Best for a large area vs. a 10x10 booth, this scanner can detect signals emitted by mobile devices to show the flow of people into a given area. So while this wouldn’t work well for an individual exhibitor, an event sponsor could get great data for how people moved about the whole trade show floor.

Conclusion

Interested in more advice on trade shows for tech marketers? Download our free “Trade Shows in the Real World” survey report to see how you stack up against other tech and software companies.

Tech Marketing Survey Series: Trade Show in the Real World