Inner Circle

Digital Marketing  

Let’s Get Digital!

by Santana Inniss

Direct mail isn’t dead. Yet.

Savvy event marketers are, however, anticipating and preparing for the moment the direct mail death knell finally rings. As attendee demographics change, the way prospects are identified and nurtured through the buying cycle must also change. As mdg’s director of social + digital, I often guide trade show marketers through the conversion from print to digital, typically with dramatic results. Here are my top three recommendations for approaching a digital marketing transformation:


It’s a bit too soon to abandon print entirely, though that day may be on the marketing horizon. Diversifying your attendee acquisition campaign by reallocating some budget from direct mail to digital marketing can help your trade show get ahead of the curve. Unlike print, digital marketing budgets are flexible—if one effort isn’t working, simply move those dollars mid-campaign to those campaigns doing a better job. What’s the right mix for direct mail versus digital marketing in your attendee marketing budget? That’s sometimes a difficult balance to strike. Testing is key, so if your show is new to digital marketing, it’s OK to start modestly. Try nixing one direct mail piece to previous attendees and executing a paid social media campaign targeting your previous registration lists. You’ll see the benefits immediately: lower (and flexible) cost, instant results and verifiable conversions.

Pick Your Poison

The term “digital marketing” can cover a lot of ground. Search engine marketing (SEM), paid social media advertising, geotargeting or display retargeting are just a few examples of what advertising online looks like today. So how do you choose? Start with understanding your goal. Trying to reach a new marketing segment previously unacquainted with your show? Geotargeting a competitive event may be a good option. Looking to drive excitement for and word-of-mouth buzz around your show? An event-driven social media option may be your best bet. Looking for a wide-ranging option that will capture prospects that may not even be familiar with your brand? Search engine marketing is a solid choice. It is so important in marketing that we meet our prospects where they are. If you’re actively trying to court a younger demographic to your trade show, get in front of that group where they are and how they get their information—not where or how you’re used to doing it.

Execute and Measure

Once you’ve set your goals and determined your budget, it’s time to set up and execute your digital marketing initiative. More often than not, digital marketing consists of a wide range of tactics deployed over the show cycle and in tandem with other forms of traditional and non-traditional marketing. Developing a “full-stack” campaign is one half of the strategy. If you read our March article you’ll remember the phases of the attendee buying cycle. Keep this in mind when setting up and measuring digital marketing campaigns. Tactics well-suited to the discovery or evaluation phase may not drive conversions; judging the success of an awareness-driving tactic against a conversion-driving tactic won’t yield a fair or holistic understanding of a digital campaign’s success. Understanding what each tactic or platform is meant to offer will help you truly compare the results of digital marketing against more traditional forms of attendee acquisition.

Some parting advice … Don’t be afraid to try something new because course corrections are easy to make when it comes to digital campaigns. Also, when it comes to the off- to online attendee acquisition transition, remember to go at a pace that’s appropriate for your audience and event.

This content originally appeared in mdg’s News You Can Use article from Trade Show Executive, March 2017.