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Go Ahead, (Trade)Show Off!

Branded Breadcrumbs Bring You Business

Mary Margaret Hogan
Mary Margaret Hogan
OCN Utah 2022
Originator Connect Network’s Utah Mortgage Show 2022.

Soon, many of us in the mortgage space will be in the thick of trade show season, but let it be known there’s no time to waste. The months leading up to trade shows should be utilized as a time to prioritize marketing strategy and establish greater brand presence.

With a comprehensive pre-show plan and effective on-site marketing efforts, your company and your brand will be able to make lasting impressions on all attendees. From curating digital campaigns, to creating comprehensive brand aesthetics, to event planning, there are necessary efforts that need to be taken to maximize your brand presence and ensure greater returns from your team’s attendance.

When signing up as exhibitors, the preparation starts long before stepping onto the trade show floor. In fact, it begins months in advance and requires a finely tuned schedule of digital campaigns informing both new and old audiences of your upcoming shows.

It is best to think of your pre-show marketing efforts as a trail of breadcrumbs: how can one lead potential clientele from their respective offices to your booth on the trade show floor? How can you drop tidbits of event information without being overbearing with pleas to join? It may come as no surprise, but the trail begins with social media.

Approximately one month or so before the start of each tradeshow, it is crucial to inform your followers across all social platforms of your company’s trade show schedule. These posts can range in elaboration, starting with more broad announcements (“We’re heading to Miami! Meet our team at booth 32!”) and soon trickle into more specific details of your contributions to the shows (“Don’t miss out on our speaking session!” and “Sign up here to save your spot for our cocktail hour!”)

To gain additional traction and attention, encourage attending team members to share on their own professional pages. Whatever the messaging may be, these posts should build excitement and anticipation without being too overwhelming in details. We’re aiming for breadcrumbs, not the whole loaf.

Timeline Variations

Your email marketing campaigns should be sent out in the same fashion but can have a varied timeline. Reaching out to your databases one month prior to an event will give folks enough time to start planning, but not enough time to forget the trade show all together. However, in cases of low attendance, sometimes one last push a week or so prior will be the ticket to filling up the registration list with your audience.

While social media aims to target audience beyond your reach, in contrast, email marketing efforts will be directed to a more targeted audience. In the case of trade show advertising, the audience should consist of contacts that are appropriate for the upcoming show. There is no need to alert a broker in California that there’s a correspondent lender show in Miami. Organizing these targeted audiences can be a chore, but once they are mastered these email promotions will continue the perfect path of bringing your clients directly to your sales team.

Once on-site, it is imperative your brand recognition efforts don’t suddenly halt at your booth set up. As attendees are passing through the exhibits, the architecture of your booth and its design will be the first thing to catch or divert their attention. If you do not feel confident in your booth’s ability to draw a crowd, it may be time to revisit the design of your booth setup. If designed thoughtfully, a booth can act as an extension of your company’s brand, values, and overall professionalism.

An eye-catching booth combined with some unique swag is not for mere aesthetics but bestows your team the tremendous privilege of gaining traction and face-to-face time on the trade show floor. There are so many variations of booth setups and swag available in this current market that could draw in a whole new realm of clientele and conversations. Take the time to transform your booth into a declarative brand statement and give your team all the tools they need on the floor to bring in business.

Set Visibility Goals

From the minute you sign on as an exhibitor, it is crucial to solidify your goals for brand visibility at each show. Brand awareness can be increased in a few ways such as panel participation, sponsorship opportunities, and networking events. The scale of your visibility should align with the size of the conference and seriously consider the potential return on investment. There’s no need to go all out with printed materials, swag, and beyond for occasions that are not going to be financially beneficial for you in the long run.

In terms of panels, having your company represented onstage is a feat of recognition. Any circumstance where your team can show off their expertise is an automatic win. On the other hand, sponsorship opportunities and networking events will require a lot more of marketing’s efforts. For certain sponsorship opportunities, like breakfasts or cocktail hours, very little will be required of your team’s efforts. The breakfast or cocktails will be served, and the staff will take care of most of the arrangements. Yet, there remains a lot of room for your brand to be centered beyond a sign that acknowledges your sponsorship.

When coordinating your contracts, investigate how your company can add a few personal touches to the atmosphere. It could be as simple as branded napkins, coasters, or koozies for the drinkware, or as extravagant as a photobooth setup that gives everyone pictures to take home with your logo all over it. The possibilities to show off your brand by creating engaging and interactive experiences for attendees are endless.

While the same branding opportunities are available when hosting networking events, depending on the extent of the occasion, there’s no stopping your creativity. If there are televisions or projections present, those are prime venues to feature your company name and/or icons. Is the party held in a Texan bar? How about adding in extra touches like branded cowboy hats? That space will become uniquely yours It’s casino themed? Sounds like it’s time to put your logo on a poker table.

Balance Work & Play

Your team should be prepared to create promotional materials and signage that exemplify the perfect balance of work and play.

Maximizing brand recognition at a trade show requires implementing a rigorous marketing schedule, mastering the art of a booth space, and thinking outside the box to make your name known. When these audiences are captured and informed, the groundwork is done. Your team will be able to step in front of a visually appealing booth with ease and confidence, knowing that leads are already coming their way.

While there may be some time before your team’s next bout of traveling, the preparation begins now. Do not hesitate to take advantage of every opportunity presented to make your company’s name widely recognizable. Long after the trade show is done and there are deals that need to be made, audiences will remember your company fondly and make sure to give you a call.

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine May 2023 issue.
Mary Margaret Hogan
Mary Margaret Hogan,
Event Marketing Specialist

Mary Margaret Hogan is an event marketing specialist at RCN Capital.

Published on
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