Trade Show Marketing

Trade shows are an excellent way to showcase your product or service. Used effectively, they can really make your business stand out from the competition and promote your brand.

It is important to choose the correct exhibition. A wide selection of options are available across all industries – some more established and well-attended than others. Do your research into exhibition visitors – a smaller show with a more targeted audience can sometimes be far more effective than a larger, more general expo, particularly for more niche industries.

Before attending your next exhibition, outline what you hope to achieve from your appearance.


Every company has their own agenda and objectives. Trade shows can be expensive, so justifying the cost will require tangible results. The more detailed your goal setting, the greater clarity around what success looks like for your company. For example, a startup seeking new business will have a different strategy to an established company expanding into new territories. In either case, we advise the SMART approach.

Specific – If your objective is to develop 15 new leads (which will lead to 5 conversions), that may require setting up 25 meetings.
Measurable – Collecting an email or phone number, or making a Linkedin connection or follow-up for a meeting, are all examples of metrics that can be recorded.
Achievable – Set realistic goals that require some effort, e.g. speaking with 10 prospects pre-lunch and 15 after lunch – people are more agreeable with a full stomach!
Relevant – Engaging with other vendors instead of your target audience is unlikely to generate new clients for your business. Stay focused.
Time-Bound – Time is money, especially in trade shows, which are not cheap. Use the allotted time effectively to generate those leads.

Pre-Event Marketing

Unless your company is a recent startup, it’s likely that you already have some hard-won customers or leads. Trade shows are a great way to strengthen those relationships. We recommend sending your clients personalised invites to the show in advance, either by email or direct mail.

A busy stand always creates a good first impression and encourages more people to visit.


Trade shows are an excellent way to gain exposure; they can also serve as a valuable tool to glean information from other vendors or competitors. By ‘walking the show’ in a casual visitor capacity, you can better understand people’s inclinations – where they stop, why, how they interact, and how the exhibitors use props to draw an audience. You can observe stalls with higher engagement and learn from these tactics.

This can inform any future appearances that your company makes at trade shows.

Designing Your Stand

In an exhibition, seconds count. Visitors are likely to make a snap judgement on whether they are interested in your stand in an instant. A lively, engaging stand offers social proof and can entice keen observers.

Exhibitors should plan their stand around images and colour – not words. People are reluctant to stand in front of a booth and read text, as they are often wary of being pounced on by a salesperson. A less invasive approach with live product demonstrations or videos can ease visitors into their comfort zone – your exhibit area.

Consider overhead signage. Companies pay a premium for every inch of the exhibit space, so use it fully. Check what height restrictions apply and maximise it. This ensures your stand can be seen from a distance and improves your exposure. Add light where possible to create an impactful first impression.

Stand out from the Crowd

Don’t be afraid to try something different. Make sure it’s relevant to your target audience and your products and services.

A stand that is divided into ‘Expert Pods’, for example, where key staff are split into areas of expertise, can help the audience approach the relevant subject matter expert and ensure that their questions are answered in a timely manner.

Encourage visitor participation if possible. An interactive booth where prospective customers can trial or test the product is an excellent way to generate interest. Even something as simple as offering tasty nibbles can encourage more foot traffic (social proof) and engagement.

Embrace Technology

To generate interest from an exhibition, you can leverage various tools that automate much of the lead collection process, freeing up your staff to network more effectively.

The use of audio-visual equipment, like touchscreen technology, can help visitors find out more about your product/service, and also collect their all-important contact details in the process.

If space is at a premium, you can also incorporate clever ways to maximise available storage. Books, guides and merchandise can be stored nearby, readily available to distribute to interested customers without breaking a sweat!

Look the Part

Exhibits are a way to position your brand to the world. How you dress will reflect – positively or negatively – on the company. This is where experience counts, especially knowledge about the exhibit and the types of companies that will feature. At a minimum, a well-branded badge will help people easily identify key staff members, especially at busier times.

It is important to consider the persona you are hoping to attract at the exhibit and dress accordingly. Men? Women? Techie? DIY enthusiast? Dressing correctly is just as important as how your staff approach visitors. First impressions count.

  • Engage. Provide products and props that make it easy for your staff to engage with passersby.
  • Screen. Prompt relevant questions that capture the prospects’ motive.
  • Present. Provide soundbites for staff to effectively communicate company or product strengths.
  • Solicit action. Ensure standardisation of processes for staff in recording customer interactions, tracking interest or capturing contact information.

Staff engagement should be high throughout the exhibition. Changing roles or stand elements on a daily basis can help freshen things up and ensure employees remain enthusiastic to the needs of visitors.

Post-Show Strategy

Those hard-fought leads shouldn’t be tucked away. Follow up quickly while the interactions and engagement are still in your prospects mind. If possible, tier the leads according to their level of interest in your service or product. Warm leads should be contacted directly with a call or personalised email.

‘Weaker’ leads could be nurtured differently. This could be a standard follow-up email, sent 2-3 days after the event. Leaving it longer than this can undo the good work that has been done in capturing their contact details in the first place.

Staff should be clear about their role with tasks delegated to ensure all prospects are contacted quickly and effectively.

Interested in working with Proactive to create a stand that speaks volumes about your brand?

You can learn more about our signage options here, or contact us directly to learn more about our offerings.