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What trade shows can teach us about content marketing


Sympatex booth

Have you ever planned a trade show? I don’t mean ordered some banners, set up a 6-foot table and put out some brochures. I mean really sat down and planned out everything from the look and feel to what kind of people you staff the booth with to what exactly they’ll say.

High-dollar trade show strategy typically yields much better results than just setting up a sales booth. There are dozens – perhaps hundreds – of hours put into such an effort. Everything from the color of carpets and stools to the size of computer monitors to the fabric draped over the tables is scrutinized. The “performance” of the slide shows or videos is written, edited, re-written. The scripts the booth staff works from are rehearsed as much as a Broadway show opening.

Sympatex booth

The Sympatex booth shows the company is clearly going for more than a sales table. They’re building an experience for the audience.

Why would a company do this? Well, at certain trade shows – CES, SEMA and more – the value of a sale could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Make 10 or 20 and you’re talking millions. So spending a few hundred thousand for the right theatre to convert makes sense.

This is the mentality your business should have about content marketing. Sure, you can sit  for an hour a week and squeeze out a blog post about your industry. You can post a daily coupon code to Twitter and Facebook. You can also put your salesman and a box of brochures on a nondescript table in the middle of the exhibition hall, too.

In order to get more and better eyeballs – those that are most valuable to your business – you may find that you need to invest some dollars. Is it enough to pay $25 per post for some free-lance writer who isn’t immersed in your business for blog content? Would it be better to pay $150 per post for someone who is, or at least takes a research and journalism approach to his or her work and adds much more meat to the meal?

Is it enough to stand in your break room an film a co-worker’s funny story about a customer call? Would it be better to hire a film crew, bring in some professional lighting, edit the story together with screen grabs of the Tweets that followed the conversation and package it as if it were appearing on the evening news?

Is it enough to pull together a few bullet points in a slide deck for that big presentation. Would it be better if you at least hired a designer to build a custom PowerPoint template for your company that made you look a little more professional?

Remember that we are attempting to be signal in a sea of noise. If the message (the content) is right, we don’t have to be perfect or polished or professional in presentation. But if you have the chance to add layers of perfect, polish or professionalism to the content, shouldn’t you?

We need every bit of help we can get to put our messages in front of consumers. Planning out the experience of approaching our content, what it will say, how it will persuade the reader to react and yes, even stressing about the color of carpet they stand on when the consume it, is a lesson we could all take from the top-dollar trade show strategists.

At the very least, it can’t make the content we have work less.

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