Marketing for Trade Shows


Trade shows are well-known as industry networking events that help promote brands and products. They can make meeting new clients, as well as developing market position and learning about other dealers within your industry easier and even enjoyable.  Establishing credibility, relationship and reputation takes the right strategy, but should be the main objective when you are exhibiting at a show. It is essential to develop an effective trade show marketing strategy and understand what you or your company’s goals are to maximize your experience.

Exhibiting at a trade show or conference is all about projecting a consistent image that is appealing to the clients and partners that you want to attract.  When you host a trade show or conference display, you’re in full public view. From start to finish, from floor to ceiling, everything about your trade-show participation must support the company’s other marketing efforts.


So, what image do you want to project? Does the public perceive your business as “creative”, “technical”, or “construction”? Your booth, presence and all collateral material for the show should project that perception.  If you are viewed as “stuffy” and you would rather be seen as “hip”…By all means get hip, just make sure that you evolve your company-wide marketing strategy to match.


Exhibitors have a 3-second window of opportunity to capture an attendee’s attention at a trade show.  With this in mind, below are 10 basic trade show tips that exhibitors should consider:


Staff your booth with the right people

Someone should be at your booth representing your company at all times.  They are there to greet browsers, engage them in conversation, and take their questions. Ensuring you have quality staff at your booth at all times can be tricky (don’t forget to factor in meals and bathroom breaks). Many companies will send their “rookies” to trade shows, but sending new staff people is not always the wisest decision.  They may not have all the answers about your products or services you offer or present your company image correctly. If you do send a new staff member, be sure to have an experienced employee there as well.  That way, newer staff will be able to watch and learn.


Get out from behind your booth and get off your phone/computer

Trade shows are all about creating engagement and relationship. Often, exhibitors sit behind their tables while attendees stand looking down at them, this does nothing to encourage engagement with potential clients.  Also, get off your phone or computer. Nothing is worse than watching one of our exhibitors miss valuable exhibitor time because he or she is one the phone. There are typically periods of down time during any conference to follow up on voicemail or e-mails. Unless a true emergency comes up, nothing should interfere with your participation at the trade show.


Have a stock of promotion items that you can use as giveaways at your booth

Small items that people can take away and use (while being reminded about your business) can be the best marketing you can buy. Be sure you place these items in a location where people will have to walk into or through your trade show display to get them.  Handing out baubles, trinkets, squishy balls, teeny notebooks and a whole lot of other branded junk, might not be the best option. If you want to be remembered, make your giveaway items represent your company and something your attendees will actually use.


Make sure you have plenty of collateral material on hand

You’ll want to have a good supply of color fliers and brochures as well as order forms, price sheets and business cards that you can hand out to booth visitors. Make it easy for them to find the information on your company after the show is finished. Prepare and order handouts well in advance so that they will be ready for attendees to take them home. Keep your trade show marketing messages simple and be sure to include contact information. Business cards and flyers are low cost, yet very effective marketing tools. Make sure your business cards stand out, so that they don’t get lost in a pile.


Actively engage trade booth visitors

Give people who approach your trade show display a friendly greeting and welcome their questions. Don’t try to sell everyone that approaches or seem overbearing and desperate. Try to engage each person to encourage a relationship.  Be sure that your body language is friendly. Chat with booth visitors, and find out what aspect of your business they’re most interested in. Be prepared to offer specific solutions to their questions, but don’t try to sell them, let them sell themselves. The trick is to draw them in without intimidating or overwhelming them.


Create a Social Media Plan

Social Media is an incredible tool to use while doing trade shows, but making sure that there is a strategy established is the key.  Before the show starts, you can promote it to all of your contacts and prospects.  This is a great way for them to see you in the setting you have control of.  During the trade show, having a social media dialog can be an attractive way to bring people to your booth.  Don’t forget to have your booth attendees to follow you on Social Media.  After the show, social media is a way to stay in touch with promotions and other opportunities to connect.


Qualify your leads

Just because an attendee walks up to take a piece of candy from your bowl, doesn’t mean they’re someone you need to add to your sales database. Talk to the attendee. Pre-qualify them. Remember, quality; not quantity.  Make notes and rank all the leads you collect.  Often a simple “Hot”, “Warm”, “Cold” classification system works, make sure you connect with your “Hot” leads as soon as possible.


Don’t tear down early!

68% of salespeople surveyed indicate that they meet a quality prospect during the last half-hour of the exhibit day.


Follow up on your leads!

Lead generation is usually the #1 reason why a company chooses to exhibit; however, it’s often times the one thing that isn’t followed up with after the show.  It is expensive to exhibit at trade shows, so make sure you connect with people after the show as soon as possible.  At your booth, invite people to share their contact information, or at least their email addresses.  After the show, send out letters and follow-up messages, giving them a personal touch when possible. Just remember that those sales don’t come easy, so you have to work hard to generate and maintain relationships.


Use a prize draw or contest

Having some kind of prize drawing or contest is a great way to both attract attendees to your booth, as well as, collect contact information from booth visitors. You can give away promotional items to encourage people to participate, but the more attractive the prize, the more participation you will have.


Trade shows can be a very effective way to market your business, but many business owners don’t think about putting a comprehensive strategy in place.  The more consistent your strategy is, the more effective your trade show or event will be.