Engaging with non-attendees at trade shows


The target audience for most trade show marketers is the trade show attendee. However, many top prospects and customers don’t attend trade shows regularly or have other commitments or conflicts that prohibit attendance. Does your trade show marketing plan include a strategy to reach non-attendees?

Are You Engaging with Trade Show Non-Attendees?

While the importance of face-to-face interaction at events can’t be overlooked, neither should the opportunity to reach those who can’t visit your trade show booth in person. In its December 2013 white paper, “Future Trends Impacting the Exhibitions and Events Industry,” the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) included non-attendee engagement as a trend to watch in 2014 and beyond.1

And why not? Exhibition managers work diligently to build excitement around the events they produce, and exhibitors can build on this momentum to engage attendees and non-attendees alike.  There are a number of reasons that your current or potential customers won’t attend an upcoming show:

  • Budget constraints.
  • Unsure of value.
  • Schedule conflicts.
  • Unaware of the show, etc.

If you can create virtual events and online conversations that allow non-attendees to participate off site, you could boost your trade show ROI up a notch or two.

Exhibitors Can Benefit by Engaging with Non-Attendees

Being unable to attend doesn’t mean there isn’t value that non-attendees could gain from an exhibition. If your organization is proactive with your non-attendee marketing efforts, you can bring the show to them, which could:

  • Reinforce your organization’s brand to stay top of mind.
  • Help you gauge interest in your products and services or the industry niche.
  • Position your company as an industry leader.
  • Allow you to provide valuable insight in real time that non-attendees wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
  • Grow your prospect list through referrals or when current prospects share your information or links to virtual activities you have scheduled during a show.

The new opportunities created by non-attendee marketing are only limited by your willingness to proactively engage. If you’re on the fence about marketing to non-attendees, start small and expand efforts for future shows if results are positive.

Use Ingenuity, Technology and Social Media to Keep Budgets in Check

If your marketing budget is tight, you can reach this untapped audience with several cost-effective tactics. Marketing to non-attendees can piggyback off of your traditional trade show marketing efforts – just include a link to a home base (landing page, page added onto your main website, tab on your Facebook page, etc.) that features special events and activities for non-attendees.

Further your non-attendee marketing efforts by asking people to opt-in to a special email list that provides updates on the show and other opportunities for them to participate virtually. Offer a special prize or giveaway available to non-attendees only.

Fortunately, today’s ever-changing technology and social media sites offer multiple avenues to engage. Your organization has an arsenal of low-cost engagement tools it can access to interact with non-attendees, including:

  • Webinars.
  • Live streaming video during events.
  • Google+ Hangouts.
  • Tweetchats.
  • Facebook contests.
  • Online surveys.
  • Special offers and discounts.
  • Product giveaways and more.

Photo Source: Shutterstock


1. “IAEE White Paper Examines Future Trends in the Exhibitions and Events Industry” [press release and publication]. Houston, Texas; Dec. 11, 2013. International Association of Exhibitions and Events website www.iaee.com. Available at http://www.iaee.com/articles/detail/IAEE/IAEE-White-Paper-Examines-Future-Trends-in-the-Exhibitions-and-Events-Industry. Accessed Jan. 6, 2014.

The opinions expressed by the blogger authors in the Trade Secrets Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of The Trade Group, Inc. or any of it’s subsidiaries. The information in this weblog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

– See more at: http://www.tradegroup.com/are-you-engaging-with-trade-show-non-attendees/#sthash.6xtnQ2kG.dpuf