Getting the Most Out of Trade Show Marketing

March 31, 2010

trade show floor

Once you have made the commitment to market your products and /or services through trade shows you need to make sure that you are getting the most for your investment. Trade shows can be an effective means of advertising and generating sales, but unless you develop a plan to carry out your trade show, it may not be as beneficial to your organization as it could be. Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the most out of participating in trade show events:

Before the show:  

1. Determine the image you want to portray at the trade show event.

Just like creating a business plan you need a plan when participating in trade shows. Talk with your marketing/advertising personnel to make sure that the themes you have in print advertising and literature are the same ones you want to portray at the trade show event. Keep the focus the same (usually big ticket items or the primary product/ service you are offering) and make sure your messages can be conveyed easily to a new prospect. Most people walking by your booth look at it for five seconds and determine if it is of interest to them – make sure you get the prospects you want to stop at your booth.  

2. Determine how you are going to utilize your show space. The bigger the space you have the more area you have to show your products and services. Some people just want to hand out literature and start with a skirted table. Others have either an 8’ or 10’ display with some shelves and graphics to display their products and services. Still others go custom with larger spaces that allow them to have several “areas’ within their trade show exhibit booth to showcase different products and/or services. How you utilize the space is dependent on the message and image you want to convey to the potential prospect. So for example, if you want to convey the message that you are the number one company in this market – your space better be large and bold.

3. Understand the exhibitor manual guide to the show

The exhibitors guide can help you understand how to conduct yourself at trade shows and what you can and can not do with your booth space. It should also provide you with a list of companies participating (who could be prospects as well) along with a floor plan and a schedule of when the show floor is opened. Try to get your booth space in the corners, entrance ways, or anywhere near high traffic areas. You want to see a steady flow of traffic by your exhibit booth.

4. Have a meeting well in advance to the show to prepare.

In order to make your trade show participation runs effectively you need to make sure that you communicate your plans. Make sure the right sales people are available to work the booth, determine what you will hand out to the prospects, get a display purchased or rented, and make sure you have the booth area decorated to match your advertising theme and image.

5. Set objectives and measure the results

Once your plans have been set you need to establish how the results are to be measured. It can be as simple as “one closed sale” to collecting 50 “A” leads. Make sure you identify what an “A” lead is and if possible document that information at the show. Determine who and how you are going to follow-up on all leads. Are you sending out literature, contacting all leads, or a combination of the two? Whatever it is, make sure you determine how you are going to measure the success of the participating in any particular trade show event.

During the show:

6. Quickly qualify potential customers

As prospects come to your booth be prepared to ask them some qualifying questions that will help you quickly determine if the person is a good candidate for your products and/or services. Once you determine if they are a good candidate make sure to collect their contact information either through a business card or lead retrieval system and then document on that card information about your conversation for future reference. Do not try and collect everyone’s business card, focus on the ones that are interested in what you have to offer and fit the criteria of a strong prospective customer.

7. Don’t just hand out the literature to anyone

Most literature at trade shows is never read. It is sometimes more prudent to provide a one page flyer or to offer to send the literature via email or mail. Even better to ask if you can hand-deliver the prospect a brochure after the show and have a meeting to discuss the information in more detail. Regardless, limit the amount of literature you hand out at shows. 8. Create a “trade-show demo” Instead of standing around asking the prospect sales type questions, it would be more beneficial to create a “trade show demo”. The demo could be a rehearsed list of your products major features and benefits that can be communicated to a prospect in less then five minutes. Make sure everyone at your booth can recite this demo for any prospect.

After the show:

9. Follow-up on the qualified leads you obtained.

Call each qualified prospect (as identified in the beginning of this process) and arrange a follow-up call or meeting. You need to make sure you call them within a week of the show while you are fresh in their minds.

10. Conduct a post show evaluation

With everyone’s input that worked the show, find out how you can improve on your company’s participation in future trade shows. Did your booth attract the right audience? Was your booth strategically placed? Did you ask the right questions and obtain qualified leads? Should you participate in this show again in the future – or look for new shows with a different target market? How did you compare against your major competition?

Using these simple tips can help you better market your products and/or services through any trade show event. Good luck! Contact us if you are interested in learning more at



Download one of our Resource Guide Catalogs!

Our custom, modular, portable, and rental exhibits catalogs are a great resource for trade show information as well as exhibit designs.

Download A Catalog

We promise that we won't SPAM you.