Should You Bet It All on a Trade Show Launch?

May 10, 2017

When it comes to product launches, many companies hang their hat on making a big splash at the biggest trade show in their industry. And then they are disappointed.

For those targeting the healthcare IT market, that usually means HIMSS. For those targeting providers, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) show is often cited as a great launching pad.

For payers, it’s the Association of Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute & Expo. For a life science/pharma audience, eyeforpharma Barcelona is a perennial favorite due to the heavy pharma presence in Europe.

But as Caterina Lui of PR Newswire points out on the Beyond PR blog, launching during a big show is not always ideal. And in another Beyond PR post, she provides excellent insights on whether your solution is even truly ready to launch.

One of the biggest drawbacks to launching at such large industry trade shows and conferences is the sheer number of companies who are planning to do likewise. This becomes an even more pronounced challenge if your company is launching a minor upgrade to its platform or app, or if your company is a newcomer or relative unknown in the market.

In both cases, a launch as much as a month or even two months before a trade show can help build momentum going into the show, instead of being crowded out by all the PR noise generated during the show. It allows you a greater opportunity to secure quality time with reporters whose conference schedules (covering educational sessions, filing stories, doing social media posts, etc.) are pretty crammed during the conference. It also allows you to brief analysts at the top firms ahead of the launch.

Here are some other best practices for trade show launches from my Amendola colleagues:

Lisa Chernikoff, Account Director In the best-case scenario for a product launch at a trade show, you can not only include results and ROI from a beta customer or pilot site in the press release, but also have that client available for an interview at the show (or before or after). Clients speaking about their experience with the product is much more beneficial than company execs talking about features and functionality.

Also, make sure that the new product info highlights not only what it is, but also why it really matters for the target audience. What are the larger implications for the market? How does it relate to industry trends and issues?

Chad Van Alstin, Content & Media Relations Manager As a former editor, I always found it challenging to cover product launches at trade shows without some kind of prior knowledge. Simply telling me a company was going to announce a product pretty much melded together with all the other launches after a while.

There has to be some kind of teaser or hook a spoiler that many companies are often hesitant to give away ahead of the show that is released to the media a week or two in advance. Otherwise, it all just becomes noise after a while, especially with a huge show like HIMSS. I think too many companies rely on the fact that editors will simply want to cover whatever it is the company is doing but in a market with so many new names added to a long list every year, that’s just never the case. You have to spoil things a little bit in order to drum up interest.

Amy Koehlmoos, Senior Account Director Leverage the power of social media – create a Twitter campaign around the product launch and use the show’s #hashtag to reach attendees. As with any campaign, frequency is key, but be sure to follow best practices and include plenty of non-promotional tweets to maintain an optimal content mix.

Rich media (images, videos and graphics) will help your tweets stand out above the noise, and don’t be afraid to get creative. People are much more likely to share a clever meme than a picture of a widget.

Stephanie Janard, Senior Writer — If you’re launching a new software solution, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to actually demo it. In this era of value-based care, why not stage a demo that shows how life can be better as a result of using your newly launched software or app? Likewise, if you have a tangible, physical product to demo, make a real show of it preferably with a real-life example. If you can get champion customers on the act, all the better.

So there you have it from the A-Team experts (and PR Newswire). Should you bet it all on a trade show launch or not? It may be a crapshoot, but make sure you evaluate all your options both at the show and in other timeframes before committing your entire marketing budget to the effort. And please share your thoughts below on what you have seen that works well for a product launch either at, before or after a trade show.

Tim Boivin

Tim Boivin is a seasoned PR strategist with experience across a dozen vertical markets including healthcare, technology and supply chain. Tim's diverse skill set includes leading accounts, managing teams and budgets, developing and implementing communications strategies, as well as hands-on, results-oriented public relations and social media programs. Tim's career in media and public relations began in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning journalist and public affairs professional. Prior to joining Amendola, Tim spent 12 years at Tech Image, Chicago's leading independent high-tech public relations firm, where he managed agency operations and led an award-winning team.