Brand advocacy is an important part of today's social marketing framework. A business cannot expect to be in every place at once, and smaller organizations often don't have the advertising or lead generation budgets to quickly build up their brand profile. They depend on brand advocates to stimulate interest and awareness through positive word of mouth. There are many ways to engage with potential advocates and turn interest into vocal loyalty, and the trade show is definitely one of the most important. After all, it's the place where organizations can interact with supporters in person, a more intimate way to establish a connection than digital social interactions can offer.
Why the trade show is the perfect venue
So much marketing today is done digitally - via email blasts, social following or online attention. The effort and resources now lavished on social marketing have to come from somewhere. For many companies, it means diverting spending away from more traditional forms of marketing - including the trade show. While expanding horizons is often a good thing, too much of a focus on social can compromise an organization's effort to resonate meaningfully with customers. If its trade show presence is perfunctory - or worse, if it doesn't go at all - it loses the opportunity to interact person-to-person with potential in brand advocates.
In a world where a deluge of social media can obscure possible connections with noise, the trade show actually becomes more important as an alternative mode of engagement. Done right, a trade show presence can appeal to interested customers on a meaningful level. This is a much more effective means of establishing brand advocates who will continue to support the organization, explained Business 2 Community contributor Michael Cohn. An attendee will remember a meaningful conversation, an opinion he or she offered that the exhibitor took seriously or an exciting, interactive activity. The attendee recognizes the tangible value of the face-to-face interaction and remembers it in digital channels later on.
How to create brand advocates from nothing
Unless companies are headed by celebrities, virtually no new organizations have a sizeable base of built-in brand advocates. They have to be earned. Viewing the trade show as an opportunity to make connections is one thing, but actually doing it is something else entirely. Social Annex contributor Alinn Louv wrote that the approach should be open and democratic, but focused on relationship-building. Brand loyalists want to express themselves, so it makes sense to give them targeted opportunities to do it. That doesn't mean relentless email letters or providing too much information - it means offering a forum for discussion or allowing them to exercise their vote.
At a trade show, an organization could engage potential advocates with a voting game, an interactive activity or options for cool take-home items. This gives customers a real, in-person experience that they take with them when they discuss the brand in the future. Companies should follow up after the event to keep building these relationships and eventually win these advocates over.