By Mike Schmidt, AEM Industry Advisor Editor

Digital MarketingIf the goal of exhibiting at trade shows is to maximize engagement with customers, then why do so few companies possess a marketing strategy for achieving desired results?

A tremendous amount of time and resources are spent on exhibition efforts, and developments in technology are helping companies of all types and sizes with engagement. However, according to the Institute of Sales and Marketing, 65 percent of exhibitors do not possess any semblance of a strategy to assist them in getting the most out of their time on the show floor.

“It is really a major problem, and it is also a lost opportunity,” said Gail Weinstein, director of marketing for Vonazon, Inc., a Los Angeles-based digital marketing firm. “Not only of time and resources, but it is also lost opportunity in terms of marketing and engagement.”

Technology is transforming the way in which exhibitors increase and improve engagement on the show floor. But in order to properly employ and leverage digital tools for capturing valuable information about attendees and address the informational needs and expectations of customers, companies must have a well-conceived and actionable digital strategy in place.

“Prospective customers’ expecations of how they are going to interact in a booth, when leaving a booth, and when they are back at their office have changed,” said Weinstein. “Exhibitors need to be prepared to not only meet those expectations, but exceed them.”

According to Weinstein and Vonazon President and CEO Kevin England, there are a few key considerations exhibitors should be aware of when looking to leverage digital technology to create an effective trade show strategy.

1. Trade shows do not change, but the technology used by exhibitors is changing all the time. – Paper used be found everywhere on show floors. Now, however, much of it has been replaced by mobile devices, tablets and other touchscreen technology. A task like badge scanning, for example, is completely different in today’s tech-centric age. When a badge is scanned, the information can be absorbed up into the cloud and transported into a company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

“The attendee can then get an email thanking them for stopping by the booth, and the email can also provide the person with links to all sorts of brochures they no longer have to pick up on the trade show floor,” said England. "That is really where digital has made a difference. Instantaneously, that badge scan has turned into a marketing effort.”

Exhibitors cannot afford to overlook the latest tools to drive engagement on the show floor, and they need to be willing and able to develop and execute a strategy for being able to get the most out of any investments they make in technology. 

2. It is very difficult to compete in today's business environment without a digital marketing strategy. – Data is everywhere, and the companies able to capture it and provide it to their prospective customers enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage over their industry peers. Exhibitors must find ways to extend engagement beyond the show floor and into the digital realm.

“They need to provide it to their customers over a period of time,” said Weinstein. “Prior to the event, during the event, and even after the event. If they can do so consistently, companies will keep a potential customer engaged with their product and brand for a longer period of time.”

3. It is all about engagement. – “Companies ask us all the time why digital technology is important in terms of trade show marketing efforts,” said Weinstein. “The most important point we can convey to them is it is all about engagement.”

Ultimately, exhibitors must recognize there is value in establishing a digital marketing strategy. And while added cost and complexity is a factor in any business endeavor, leveraging technology to maximize customer engagement on the show floor does not have to be an expensive or difficult one. The technology is readily available for investment and use, exhibitors just need to be smart about putting the right plan in place. 

“The takeaway here is understanding the value of possessing the knowledge of how to implement a digital strategy in and around a trade show,” said England. “You need to be able to say, ‘I know how to do that, and I have been given a plan and support to accomplish that plan.”

Want to learn more? Vonazon's Kevin England and Gail Weinstein will present a session entitled "Create a Comprehensive Trade Show Marketing" at the upcoming EXHIBITORLIVE Trade Show and Corporate Marketing Conference. EXIHBITORLIVE runs February 25 – March 1, 2018 in Las Vegas.

Exclusive offer to AEM members and exhibitors, receive a 25 percent discount off the cost of registration! Simply go to the EXHIBITORLIVE website ( to register and enter code AEM25 in the Special Promotion Code box to receive the discount.