Trade Show Display Marketing Tips and Advice

5 trade show marketing mistakes

Posted on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

The U.S. trade show industry is BIG. In 2012, there were 10,900 trade shows that drew 27 million attendees. While the overall industry has grown 2-3% in 2014, not all shows have seen this increase. Many are not growing and/or seeing a decrease in their margin/profit.  Part of the challenge today for trade show marketers is to cost effectively attract attendees.

Read More

Topics: chicago trade show services, generating leads at trade shows, exhibit investment, trades show results, tradeshow success

Trade Shows and Referrals are the Best B2B Lead Generators

Posted on Thu, Nov 06, 2014

According to the annual B2B Demand Generation Benchmark report from Software Advice, to understand which channels, offers, content types and technologies used and most effective for demand generation programs, trade shows were most commonly cited as generating both the most and the best: 77% of marketers said they generated a “somewhat” or “very high” quantity of leads, and 82% said they generated leads of “good” or “excellent” quality.

Marketers found trade shows, referral marketing and in-house email marketing to be the best channels for generating large numbers of high-quality leads.  According to Michele Linn, content development director at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) “… Trade shows are always the tactic that marketers rate as the most effective… there’s something exceptionally powerful about doing in-person events… if done well…” It is important to note that this article references that trade shows are on the expensive side - which I totally agree with.  That is why a plan MUST be in place to make this venue an effective one.

Read More

Topics: Trade Show Marketing Tips, tradeshow marketing, tradeshow success, 10x20 trade show display

Gamify my Trade Show Booth

Posted on Thu, Sep 04, 2014

It used to be that a great personality was enough to capture the attention of a trade show visitor. But, what worked once may not be applicable today.  We are faced with a fast changing demographic of trade show attendee. The traditional baby boomers are quickly being replaced by GenXers and Millennials who are different in many ways from their elders. They are more demanding, more skeptical and more tech savvy. Attempting to capture their attention in ways that once worked for boomers simply no longer will work. One of the techniques that is growing in popularity is the use of games. While games such as a putting contest or a draw have been used for years, today’s visitors demand more from the activities that attract them. The rock group Abba said it best in the refrain to their hit song “The Name of the Game”.

  1. What's the name of the game
  2. Does it mean anything to you
  3. What's the name of the game
  4. Can you feel it the way I do

What Abba taught fans in the 70’s is still applicable to the use of games at a trade show booth. Here are some of the things you should consider as you Gamify:

1) Keep it relevant

When choosing a game make sure its challenging enough to keep the visitor’s competitive nature piqued. The first step is to understand the demographics of your visitors.  If you are noticing that you are attracting more GenXers and Millennials than check out the games they play. Ninety percent of apps are game oriented and that’s what your trade show game is competing with.

Your visitors can participate in a timed game where scores are compared to other visitors or they can play against an unknown competitor on the internet. 

2)  Make sure that the message matters

One of the problems many exhibitors have faced in the past is that the technology or in our case games can be so much fun and interesting that all the visitors remember is the game. Before choosing a game make sure you can articulate the message you want your visitor to walk away with.  The purpose of the game is to attract attention and engage visitors who you ultimately hope will become loyal customers. To ensure the message is received, the game should make reference your company and the features of your product. Perhaps you can have them move along an electronic corridor where every door features some product information. Or, if they are doing something hands-on like assembling a product and competing against other visitors, then the product needs to be one of yours.

3) Tie it into the show

Because shows are filled with interesting ideas you don’t want to confuse your visitors with ideas that add to the overload of information they already have. To avoid this simple tie-in your game to what’s happening at the show. Is the show themed? Who are the key-note speakers? What is interesting about the location of the show (city and country)? By researching all the stimuli the visitor is being exposed to you can reveal interesting ideas that you can use to Gamify.

4) Get inspired

The world is filled with wonderful ideas. When you are looking for something of interest tap into your past and present. Your past will include games that amused you as a child or young adult such as Monopoly, Etch-a-Sketch and Balderdash. Each of these games can be used as they were intended or in abbreviated forms. The present is filled with games and reality television. The Survivor series comes to mind instantly but don’t forget Storage Wars or The Bachelor. There are also countless game shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire that can be easily adapted into an interesting game. Don’t forget the world of digital games where you can find thousands of interesting ideas to tap into.   

5) Get your staff on board

One obstacle to the success of a game is your booth staff. They either get so involved with the game they forget why they are really there or ignore visitors who are waiting in line to play. The trick is training. Gamification’s success lies in a harmonious integration of the game and your human resources. Training ensures your staff knows why you have chosen a game, what you expect from it and what skills they need to ensure that your investment pays off.

6) Test before a major roll-out

Everything in marketing involves a gamble. We do our best to understand the demographic of our visitor and what will attract their attention. We make an educated guess then test the initiative to see if we are on track. Sometimes we hit the mark initially, more often our marketing initiatives need a bit of honing before they can be applied to our entire marketing program. The same rationale applies to the use of games. If you have an aggressive trade show program, try your game in one or two locations first. Then gather feedback on how well it was accepted by your visitors and make whatever changes are necessary before you roll it out to your entire program.

By ensuring that your game is relevant, staying focused on your key messages, tying your game into the show activities, getting inspired, training your staff and testing and you will learn what Abba taught us decades ago when they sang it’s “The Name of the Game".

Guest Blogger: Barry Siskind.  Barry is a trade show consultanttrainer, speaker and internationally recognized expert in trade and consumer shows.

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: marketing at trade shows, trade show success, exhibit investment, trade show booth planning, trade show results, tradeshow success

It is a 96 Billion Dollar Industry - are you getting your share?

Posted on Tue, May 27, 2014

The trade show business is a 96 billion dollar industry - everything from convention centers to the trade show booth and space.  Someone must be doing something right if this industry continues to grow.  If you are not using face to face trade show events to generate leads for your business, you might want to think about adding this type of marketing tool to your overall business plan.  CEIR says that 86% of trade show attendees will be new prospects for you with a less costly return on investment if they close.  Something to think about!

Read More

Topics: tradeshow marketing, marketing at trade shows, trade show trends, trade show results, tradeshow success

Safety first at a trade show marketing event

Posted on Mon, Feb 03, 2014

I’ve been conducting training programs for a long time. I recently worked with a client whose focus on staff safety impressed me. Before my workshop began a complete set of instructions for the participants was issued around fire safety, escape routes and the location of portable defibrillators.  When companies walk the safety talk they have in effect created a safety culture which every employee lives and breathes.  But, what if there were an emergency at a trade show or in your booth. Would these same employees know what to do and where to go for help?

Read More

Topics: trade show success, trade show tips, tradeshow success, trade show management

Throw your Performance Metrics out the Window

Posted on Thu, Dec 05, 2013

Is the practice of setting measurable and achievable sales objectives at a trade show the most effective way to plan?  Think about it. Most exhibitors look to justify the exhibit expense by trying to fit their results into a neat ROI package. There are also exhibitors who acknowledge that their primary rationale for exhibiting is something other than selling. These exhibitors look to justify the expenditure with a ROO calculation which is guesswork at best. So does the quest for immediate measurable results still make sense? Maybe not.  Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Read More

Topics: trade show plan, trade show tips, trade show consulting, trade show results, tradeshow success

Are You Making These Promotions Mistakes?

Posted on Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Common mistakes exhibitors make when it comes to promotions, perhaps the biggest one of all is the fact that so many neglect to do anything at all to promote! They somehow think that attendees will just magically show up at their booth, or perhaps that attendees are already aware of — and eager to meet – them.  Unfortunately, these exhibitors are only fooling themselves. Promoting the fact that you are exhibiting is key to building traffic to your booth, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

Here are some other mistakes exhibitors make regarding promotions:

  • Not tying in with the overall marketing message or brand personality - Trade shows are not a separate part of your marketing campaigns. They should be an extension of all your other marketing, meaning that they reinforce your message and bring it to life in 3-D. By enhancing that message, you’re increasing the level of authenticity and memorability.
  • Trying too hard to stay under budget - There are two ways to cut costs: being clever with your resources or coming across as cheap. While there are many low-cost ways you could use to market your presence at the event, remember to stay focused on the message and audience, not the tool. In other words, just because e-mail is basically free doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to reach people these days. That could be one technique, but if you rely solely on it, you may not get the response you hoped for.
  • Not using social media - These tools are free and attendees are already on them, so why wouldn’t you want to use them? Often it comes down to comfort level. But you’ve got to find a way to either get comfortable with the tools, or recruit someone who is to help. Prior to the show, promote the fact that you’ll be exhibiting and create anticipation for what attendees will discover in your booth. That could take the form of tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, or photos on Facebook.
  • Avoiding “old-school tools” - This is the opposite problem, where exhibitors believe there’s no point in using tools such as direct mail and the phone (good old-fashioned phone calls, not just mobile apps). But if you think about it, which do you get more of in a day, e-mail or physical mail? These days, if you want to stand out, your chances are much greater in a person’s physical mailbox. And what about a simple phone call to personally invite someone?
  • Failing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by show management - To correct this mistake, it’s often as simple as asking. Do you know what tools they offer to assist exhibitors? You may be able to access the attendee pre-registration list (or last year’s list), reach out to members of the media at the show, or participate in sponsorships that put your business and message in the spotlight.

The bottom line is you shouldn’t rely too much on any one method of promotion, and don’t assume it’s the show manager’s job to promote for you. Develop a well-balanced approach that includes e-mail, direct mail, personal invitations, social media and other online tools. We’ll be covering promotions in depth during our featured Strategy of the Month calls for July in the Exhibit Marketers Café. You’ll gain lots of creative ideas to build a buzz about your booth without spending a fortune. 

What are your biggest challenges regarding promotions?


About Marlys Arnold

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. She travels the country consulting and training both exhibitors and show managers. She's the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, host of the Trade Show Insights blog-cast and creator of the ExhibitorEd Success System, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the Exhibit Marketers Café. To request an “Extra Shot of Exhibit Success” go to

Read More

Topics: prospecting at trade shows, generating leads at trade shows, marketing at trade shows, trade show tips, tradeshow success

Decrease the no-show rate of pre-booked appointments

Posted on Wed, Mar 06, 2013

Setting up specific appointments to meet with high-value contacts during a trade show, is a common and well recommended practice. These companies have the advantage of targeting key individuals and the time to prepare a presentation in advance.  It’s similar to having a prospective client visit your office where you can plan your presentation and hospitality to make a positive impression. However, one of the challenges these same exhibitors face is the increasing number of no-shows.  The first question is to identify the reasons for the no-shows. These might include:

Read More

Topics: trade show leads, Trade Show Ideas, Trade Show Planning, trades show results, tradeshow success

The harsh realities of trade show display lead follow-up

Posted on Thu, Dec 06, 2012

In my last article titled “Where did the trade show profits go”, I referred to a recent research study by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research called “Exhibitor Sales Lead Capture and Follow-up Practice Trends.” The research was the result of interviews conducted in June 2012 with 198 trade show booth exhibitors. The findings highlight a problem that has plagued exhibitors for decades – how to get measurable results from the show investment.

Read More

Topics: trade show leads, Trade Show Marketing Tips, trade show advice, trade show success, effective trade show business, tradeshow success

iPad Technology Solutions for Your Trade Show Booth

Posted on Thu, Nov 15, 2012

An iPad.  A handheld tablet-computing device from Apple Inc. The iPad is designed for consumers who want a mobile device that is bigger than a smart phone but smaller than a laptop for entertainment multimedia.  But how can you as a marketing manager use these devices effectively and efficiently within your trade show exhibit space? Here are some of the top benefits that most people receive when using an iPad to engage trade show visitors at their booth:

Read More

Topics: trade show trends, trade show technology, trade show success, trade show tips, tradeshow success

Need More Help?

1. Sign Up For Monthly Tips!

2.  Request a Catalog

custom exhibit catalog

Trade Show Blog