10 Must-Dos for Effective Trade Show Marketing

Posted by Brent Gross on Nov 9, 2017 11:19:05 AM
Brent Gross

Have you developed an effective marketing plan for your next trade show? Trade shows offer an unmatched resource for acquiring new clients, businesses, and opportunities; that is, if you remember to follow these simple Must-Do tips for effective trade show marketing.


1. Engage Social Media Early & Often

Keep your brand's online presence churning throughout the show-- many trade show attendees interact on social media as much (if not more) as e-mail or phone. Bridge the in-person experience with your online brand through things like "tagging" attendees or new contacts' pages on your brand's posts, or remind new contacts who you and your brand are by following up on social media after the first meet. Social media also allows you to continue developing business relationships and interest in your services outside of normal trade show hours. Keep track of any new contacts during the show, and promptly add them to your brand's network (within 24 hours if possible!)

2. Get a Head Start

Just because the show hasn't started doesn't mean you need to wait. Many trade show venues offer vendor or guest lists well before the start date, and arriving a day or two early gives you a chance to meet face-to-face with potential contacts during setup or outside normal business hours. Doing some networking before the official start time lets you get a foot in the door without having to compete with crowds on the show floor. This also goes for Tip #1 above-- use social media to get a head start building connections and interest, and you'll be ahead of the curve when the doors open on day one.

3. Set Definite Goals

The best return on time investment goes to attendees with a concrete goal in mind. Rather than something vague like "I will hustle to meet as many contacts as possible," aim for reasonable targets; i.e., "I will schedule a follow-up phone meeting with 10 new vendors," or "I will provide advertising materials to 25 new startups." This mindset will allow you to focus on the most important opportunities for your business, and avoid falling into a routine that lacks direction.

4. Make a Solid First Impression

Our first opinion of someone forms in only one tenth of a second. The first impression you make on a potential new client can often last through even an extended long-term relationship; worse, in many cases, there is a crowd of competitors offering the same service, meaning you cannot afford to fumble the first approach. Besides conducting yourself with confidence and etiquette, think of ways you can stand out-- what makes your service different? What can you do others can't? By framing your first interaction in a way that sets you apart, new potential clients will keep you in the back of their mind.

5. Learn from Competition

There is certainly something to be said for networking with competitors at trade shows. Besides developing a positive business relationship with some good-natured socializing, your competitors can also offer you some keen insights into what makes their product attractive. Compare your marketing model with those that are working well for other businesses-- what are they doing differently that you could copy or improve on? While competitors are unlikely to use your services or provide a new opportunity through networking, there is still a wealth of knowledge that can be acquired through some basic inquiries.

6. Show, Don't Tell

Trade shows require lots of talking. Often, too much so-- simply pitching your service to prospective clients is unlikely to differ substantially from others'. Visual or, even better, interactive materials are a preferable way to market. Show materials you've provided for other clients, charts illustrating the return on investment in your service, or another way of getting clients to see, rather than hear, what you can offer.

7. Listen More, Speak Less

Continuing from above, a sure-fire way to stand out is to spend less time selling what you have and more time listening to what a prospective contact needs. Listening is not only conducive to significantly better long-term business relationships; it also lets you identify exactly what products or services a contact is looking for, or what potential clients might not be a productive use of your time.

8. Generate a Crowd

"Social proof" is the principle that people tend to want what they see other people want. If you are operating a booth, make sure to get a solid group generating buzz around you. Provide refreshments or entertainment, invite guests passing by, or even ask employees or colleagues to attend in plainclothes to hang around your booth. Make sure there are always employees or activities available to engage with visitors, and do everything you can to avoid a quiet table.

9. Give Mementos

Pitches, business cards, and promises are fleeting at trade shows. Promotional giveaways or unique advertising materials, however, are your chance to stand out. It doesn't have to be much-- event low-cost products like wearables or trinkets can be effective. If your memento is a physical token people want to take home, particularly if it is unique, you're one step ahead in getting a productive callback.

10. Be Quick to Follow Up

Regardless of your trade show interactions, unless you're getting a contract signed in-person, the most important step isn't over. Attendees will interact with countless business connections, and often the defining characteristic of the brand that gets their business is whomever followed up first. It is a mistake to wait on potential new business, as the odds are usually not in your favor without direct and, often, repeated follow-ups. It is not inappropriate to re-connect with new contacts the day after the show; this maximizes the odds they will remember you, and your interactions will still be fresh in their minds. Aggressively following up with every potential source of new business will be the determinative factor for a positive return on investment for your trade show efforts.

With those tips in mind, you are more than ready to conquer the next trade show. Contact us to find out more about how to maximize the return on your marketing investment.

Topics: Strategy

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