With the average trade show attendee clocking only about seven minutes of dwell time per booth, B2B trade shows naturally create an environment that looks a lot like a high-stakes speed-dating exercise. If you’ve got a powerful brand story to tell, time is not on your side. So why limit the conversation to a seven-minute, in-booth engagement?
Expand Your Reach with Off-Floor Marketing
Using off-floor marketing techniques, exhibitors can deploy a more holistic marketing plan with multiple prospect touchpoints for a 360-degree target reach. Free of the confines of purely in-booth marketing, exhibitors can start building relationship and trust with a prospect almost from the moment he/she lands at the airport.
In fact, that’s exactly what Caterpillar Inc. did back in 2016 as part of their plan to dominate the Minexpo show in Las Vegas. Using both print and digital signage, Caterpillar drenched the baggage claim area at McCarran International Airport with their message of “world-class support.”

Caterpillar signs and banners at the McCarran International Airport in 2016. Photo courtesy of Exhibitor magazine.

Popular Venues Where Off-Floor Marketing Is Permitted
Most show organizers and convention centers, as well as host cities and municipalities, have rules in place regarding off-floor marketing (also known as off-floor activation), and many prohibit this type of activity entirely. The City of Las Vegas, for example, is fairly restrictive when it comes to off-floor activations.
The good news is, there are plenty of other venues around the U.S. that are off-floor marketing friendly. According to ALT TERRAIN, an agency specializing in outdoor guerilla marketing and “street team” promotions, the following convention centers allow a variety of on-street advertising and marketing activities with the proper city permits:

  • McCormick Place in Chicago
  • Moscone Center in San Francisco
  • Javits Center in New York City
  • San Diego Convention Center
  • Washington D.C. Convention Center
  • Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio
  • Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta
  • Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
  • Philadelphia Convention Center

A street team works outside the convention center in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of ALT Terrain.

Is Off-Floor Marketing Right for You?
The real beauty of off-floor marketing is that it allows exhibitors a unique opportunity to:

  • Control the environment, energy and ambiance by engaging with prospects away from the chaos of the trade show floor
  • Create a memorable, compelling experience for attendees
  • Increase brand awareness and mindshare
  • Stand apart from the competition
  • Measure engagement quickly and easily

And contrary to popular belief, off-floor event marketing is not just for large corporations. In fact, no matter what your budget, there’s a good chance you can afford to invest in some level of off-floor marketing at your next trade show or conference, whether it’s a simple hotel room drop or a free pedicab ride.

San Francisco-based Cabrio Taxi offers exhibitors additional opportunities for brand exposure beyond the booth.

In addition to airport and pedicab advertising, exhibitors looking to add off-floor campaigns to their marketing mix may be able to take advantage of hotel marketing opportunities — particularly if you’ve signed up to be an event sponsor. Service providers such as San Diego-based VIP Outdoor Media specialize in offering a variety of hotel marketing tactics, including:

  • Hotel and building wraps
  • Elevator and escalator clings
  • Guest check-in promotions
  • Branded hotel key cards
  • Hotel room drops

Plus, some hotel bars and restaurants allow placement of branded coasters or napkins for event sponsors in coordination with the show or business conference organizer.

A hotel room drop package created by DocuSign. Photo courtesy of VIP Outdoor Media.

Digital Off-Floor Marketing
Even if a particular trade show or convention hall doesn’t allow physical off-floor marketing activities, you can — and should — offer continuous touchpoints and opportunities for engagement with prospects before, during and after the event via social media, email campaigns and mobile event apps.
Anything you can do (digitally) to help attendees find their way around the conference, easily connect and network with their peers, or win a free prize at your booth will engender goodwill, while also demonstrating the type of commitment and caring that prospects can expect to receive once they become a customer.
Don’t Forget the Theme
If you’re moving into a new market and your primary goal is simply to increase brand awareness, you might be tempted to just print your company logo on all of your off-floor marketing pieces and be done with it.
However, the best-performing tradeshow marketing campaigns, whether on- or off-floor, all have one thing in common: They deliver a theme or a gimmick. Clever themes and gimmicks will help to keep your brand top-of-mind and drive more traffic to your booth.
When devising a theme, be sure to:

  • Make it fun and memorable by using humor, if possible
  • Make it timely so that it dovetails with current trends or hot topics in your industry
  • Make it relatable by illustrating how your product or service can benefit the prospect
  • Make it consistent across all of your marketing collateral
  • Make it measurable by always including an incentive for folks to stop by your booth

Above all, make sure the message of your theme reflects well on and complements your brand.
No Time Limits
Off-floor marketing is exciting because it gives exhibitors a chance to extend the scope of the conversation between your sales team and your prospective client beyond the booth. By combining a well-branded trade show display with off-floor marketing plus social media, email marketing and mobile event apps, exhibitors are no longer constrained by the traditional seven-minute attendee booth visit timeline.

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