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Trade shows and exhibitions can be tremendous marketing channels for product launches. They allow both B2B and B2C sellers to generate buzz and catalyze media coverage to capture the attention of buyers. But given the physical face-to-face nature, does digital marketing even belong in the conversation about optimizing your set-up for consumer acquisition? Absolutely. Let’s review.

How Brands Can Use Digital Marketing to Support On-Site Promotions at Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Create and Maintain Buzz on Social Media

Leverage Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your up-and-coming presence at each and every trade show. Create visually striking images that hint at exciting new products (or service features, etc.) being introduced at a given event. Push out a promoted post one-month prior to the date, then at least one promoted post for each week until opening day. Remember that social media marketing for trade show participation doesn’t stop at opening day. Once it begins you will pivot to showcase images/video of your exhibit along with your personnel in-action. You can even grow your social profiles while at the event. Do so by encouraging attendees to Follow your social profiles in exchange for discounts or the free swag that they came to your booth for.

While social media can be effective in building anticipation for, and sustaining attention during, trade shows, there is one caveat. You need to create eye-catching and interactive booths and product displays. Otherwise, your social media posts will get zero interest and engagement (likes, shares, and comments). Sure, this creates more work, but digital exposure encourages you to step up your on-site game. In doing so, you will also garner greater buyer interest at the event.

Provide Digitally Interactive Ways to Acquire On-Site Buyers

Who hands out cardboard business cards and brochures anymore? Contact and product/service information is now shared digitally.

QR Codes and SnapTags

Display QR codes at your exhibit so that people can scan them with their smartphones to learn more about the brand and individual products/services. Admittedly, QR codes may look a little bland for your brand. If so, consider SnapTags instead. SnapTags are 2D barcodes which function like QR codes, but instead of a series of black and white squares, you can insert an icon or logo.


To further impress, adopt near-field communication (NFC) technology. NFC is short-range wireless connectivity tech that lets enabled devices communicate with one another other. All that an attendee needs to do is tap their phone against your NFC tag to trigger the programmed action. The action can take them directly to a web page where they can learn more (or buy) a product or book an appointment (etc.). Some people won’t know how to enable NFC, so learn how to update settings on iPhone and Samsung or other Android to walk them through it.

Product Image Recognition

If you really want to level-up your trade show digital marketing game, employ CPU and camera technologies that allow attendees to access content about your products from their phones via image recognition. This occurs in-app (your app), so prospective buyers are encouraged to quickly download the app to “play”. All they need to do is snap a photo of a product they are interested in (which most already do) and the image recognition technology will take them to the desired page. Keep in mind that it’s not about getting people to buy the product right there at the trade show (although they can). Instead, it can provide them with a digital coupon to be redeemed later. It can also enter them into an exclusive contest or connect your social profile to theirs. Compared to more simplified QR codes, SnapTags, and NFC technology there is more investment required to capitalize on product image recognition. However, it can deliver significant ROI in tangible purchases and enhanced branding.


Lastly, we look at the hottest trend in digital transactions – NFTs. An NFT (or non-fungible token) is a financial security consisting of digital data (typically digital art) stored in a blockchain. It is purchased via cryptocurrency. With nearly 30% of Canadians aged 18-34 (22% for those aged 35-49) intending to use cryptocurrency in the next year to buy goods/services, this is no far-fetched trade show strategy. At the very least it’s an alluring concept that shows attendees that you’re more advanced than your competitors. Until you’re not, and at that point you’ll have no choice but to join the fold. You may as well start now and lead the pack.

The most intriguing thing about selling NFTs is the concept of a recurring royalty. Traditionally, if you sell a product at a trade show, the buyer owns it. If they decide to resell it, the revenue is theirs and theirs alone. You do not get to participate in subsequent transactions. But with NFTs you get a piece of the pie for all future recurring transactions. That’s a great reason to get into it, but how can you use NFTs to promote/sell products at your next trade show?

Create digital art (the NFT) for certain products you want to generate major buzz for. For example, if selling e-bikes at the show, have a limited edition (10-20 is a good number) digital rendition of the bike (the NFT). If someone wants to make a purchase then and there, they buy the NFT which will serve as a digital receipt for the bike upon exit of the show (if you have on-site inventory). Alternatively, the NFT can be used as proof of payment to initiate delivery. But instead of tossing away the NFT like a paper receipt, it gets added as one of their collector items / investments. The NFT is transferred into their crypto-wallet, like this. The kicker, is that not only do they own the product, they own the NFT, which they can resell to generate revenue of their own – which you get a percentage of!

It may sound confusing, but all that you need to do is have your graphics personnel create a cool looking digital rendition of featured products. From there, create a profile on one of these trusted NFT Marketplaces and create on-site signage for your trade show to let buyers know that you’re offering limited NFTs with special purchases. They can then access to the NFTs in your Marketplace for purchase via a QR Code or SnapTag. That’s it – you’re all set!

One of the biggest hurdles for companies at trade shows, is getting noticed amidst the white noise that is so prevalent within an exhibition center. The strategies above will not only help increase conversion, they will set your brand apart from all of the rest. Contact Strategis Consulting Group for a consultation in digital and trade show marketing, which today, are one in the same.