Trade Show Marketing


The top tips to make your company stand out from the crowd at your next exhibition. Discover what you need to do to achieve targeted trade show results.

Before the show, set your Objectives

Before you even consider attending a trade show, you need to ask yourself a simple question – why? Trade shows are an expensive form of advertising so attending a show needs to be very well justified.

Try to identify what opportunities and benefits the show will create for your business. For example, you may wish to gain recognition is a new space by attending a show you haven’t attended before.

Try to be specific. For example, your objective is to develop X number of new leads, which will lead to X number of conversions. You may also wish to conduct X number of customer meetings at the show to justify the cost.

Choose the Correct Show

In every industry, there is a wide choice of trade-shows available. Some are more established and recognised, some are smaller and newer. So, how do you determine which one to attend? Don’t base your decision on ‘It’s where everyone else is exhibiting’ or ‘we’ve always attended so it will look bad if we don’t’.

Do some research. Talk to your customers and get their feedback. Large shows don’t always mean large impact. Sometimes a well thought-out strategy involves attending a smaller show that is targeting a niche group of prospective clients. Your lead-conversion may actually prove to be higher as attendees will have more time available to spend at each stand.

Pre-Event Marketing

At larger shows, its more and more difficult to get noticed. So, it’s even more important to direct traffic to your stand prior to your show.

There are several ways to achieve this.

Firstly, make sure you send your clients personalised invites to attend the show – either by email or direct mail. Set up meetings where possible. A busy stand always creates a good impression and encourages more people to visit.

If you can introduce a new feature to your stand or feature products or services that people have not seen before, this will act as an incentive to attend. People need to have an incentive to visit your stand.

Email lists are usually available to purchase from the trade-show organsiers, so if you are investing a lot of resources in the show, it is worth looking into the costs of this service. This will give you access to the attendees to capture their attention before the show and draw them to your stand.

At the show

Do your own Research

Many people who attend tradeshows, attend year-on-year. It’s a long 3-5 days so you should make the most of your time there. One useful thing to do is to ‘walk the show’ yourself.

Check where you are naturally drawn and why? Come into the exhibit from outside as a consumer and observe what you see, what natural path you follow etc. Observe other stands and see what works. Don’t be afraid to take pictures.

On a separate trip around the show, observe what other people are doing. Take note of where they are stopping, how they interact etc. All of this should help you build a good trade show strategy.

Write everything down and include this in your plan, which will be implemented at this show or the next show you attend.

Designing Your Stand

The key to designing a trade show stand is to remember that you have a matter of seconds to capture the visitors attention or imagination.

The human brain processes colour and images faster than words so its logical to plan your stand around images images and colour, not words. Limit messages – people don’t stand in front of your booth reading text. They are usually too afraid of being pounced on by a sales person. If you can grab attention and appeal to people in a less invasive manner, this will create stronger results. Use images to describe what you do. Better still, use actual live product demonstrations or movies to gain interest and help people interact with your stand.

Don’t forget about overhead signage. You’re paying a premium for every inch of your exhibit space so use it. Check what height restrictions apply to your stand and use the full height possible. This will give visibility to your stand from a distance and enhance your exposure at the show.

Add lighting to your stand where possible. A simple stand with good lighting can make a great impact.

 Try Something Different

If you’ve been to a large trade show before, you’ll know how difficult it is to differentiate one stand from another. So, don’t be afraid to try something different. Make sure it’s relevant to your target market and your product/service.

For example, you could set up your stand with a series of Expert Pods, where your key staff are divided into areas of expertise across the stand. That way, the audience will know who to approach with a key question and can feel assured that sales talk will be kept to a minimum.

Make your stand as tactile as possible. If your stand is flat and boring, your company will appear so too. Encourage visitor participation if possible. Incorporate an interactive booth, where people can see the product in action. Add videos and movies to your stand to create movement. Provide tasty nibbles on your stand to entice people to stop and relax.

Dress to Impress

If you are spending the money investing in a good stand for your exhibition, then it makes sense to also examine how your booth staff will look. This is a branding exercise so your staff should also be branded. Even a well-branded badge will work well and will help people easily identify your key staff members.

Training Your Booth Staff

When you book space at an exhibition, consider in advance who should manage the booth. Who are you trying to appeal to? Engineers? Men? Women? Consider who they would like to talk to? – A technical expert? Someone who’s been there before?
Know the busy times of the show and staff up accordingly. Don’t huddle in groups.
Define what it is your staff should be trying to achieve. Create targeted trade show techniques, which will help your staff to sell your products/ services. For example:

  • Engage- Provide products and props that will help your staff engage with passers-by. Don’t rely on clichés, such as “Is there anything I can help you with today?”

  • Screen – Prompt relevant questions that determine the prospects motive.

  • Present – Provide sound bites for staff to help them present the company effectively. Ensure all staff know your positioning statement. Provide 2-3 key strengths that everyone should highlight, where appropriate. Keep this to a minimum.

  • Solicit action – e.g. Ensure staff know how to create a follow-up, such as acquire contact details. Provide standard inquiry forms to allow staff record information immediately following a prospect visit.

Remember to employ tools to keep your staff interested. If your stand is buzzing, moving and electric, your staff will be too. Try to change stand elements on a daily basis so your staff have new items to highlight. Or rotate your staff over the course of the show to give a new lease of life to the stand.

After the show
Devise Your Follow-Up Strategy in Advance

In order to ensure that you get the most from any trade show, you need to follow-up prospects quickly. Categorise leads every day, don’t wait till the end of the show.
Create a standard follow-up emailer, which can be sent to trade show participants 2-3 days after the stand. Ensure that your hot-prospects receive a personal follow-up call within this time-frame.

Define follow-up roles to ensure that all prospects are contacted quickly and effectively.

Article submitted by Edel Robinson, Sales & Marketing Manager, Proactive