An Introduction to Trade Show Marketing

Professionals at a trade show.
Trade shows used to conjure images of folding chairs and endless booths of salespeople. But now, trade shows involve glitz and glamour as companies invest major resources to creatively showcase their industries’ products and services to attendees.

Major trade shows around the globe may feature anything, like performances by famous musicians, innovative multimedia exhibits from the largest corporations in the world, keynote speeches from tech influencers, and all of the energy and excitement of a Hollywood movie premiere to boot, according to event company GES.

Why and how should companies approach trade show marketing? Explore the following sections for more.

Why Exhibit at a Trade Show?

Peter Symonds, a trade show marketing expert from U.K. display stand company Display Wizard, offers four reasons why companies should exhibit at a trade show.

Earn Lucrative, Highly Targeted Leads

With the right strategy, trade show leads are much more worthwhile than names and numbers plucked from a business directory. Trade show marketing may have the highest cost per lead for any promotional activity at $250, but in 2013, the average return on investment for a trade show was $4.99 for each dollar spent.

Learn What Is and Isn’t Working

Symonds recommends leaving your booth during a slow period to learn what your competitors are doing right and wrong. Look at giveaways, price lists and information to gauge your competition. You’ll gain insight into how you can tweak your tactics. Posing as a customer can give you a taste of how they approach these types of interactions.

Develop and Strengthen Your Brand

“Branding is a huge aspect of business success, especially in industries that depend on trust and reputation,” Symonds said. “Exhibiting at a trade show is a wonderful way to tell your industry that your company is serious, reliable and large enough to afford its own presence at leading events and conferences.” Use eye-catching display banners and be sure to include social media information on your exhibit.

Close Sales Without Causing Resentment

People don’t like to be on the receiving end of direct marketing approaches like telesales or direct mail. Trade show marketing offers the same level of access (or more), but without potential resentment and intrusion, because customers are typically in a buying- or research-focused mood at trade shows. Capitalize on the opportunity to close sales. If that doesn’t happen, try to set up appointments soon after the trade show to discuss business with potential customers.

Trade Show Marketing Best Practices

Here are a few tips for success at trade show marketing.

Connect with Your Customers in Advance

Send an email invitation to customers and prospects with a reason to seek out your booth, such as a show discount. If you send a pre-show mailing, take extra care that it’s worth their while. It needs to be something meaningful, and it should be reserved for high-value targets.

Develop a Strong Product Demonstration

This can make or break any buzz you hope to generate at the show. Make it exciting and present a central benefit that speaks to your audience. Have supplemental videos, brochures, spec sheets and more ready to go for customers.

Deliver an Experience

You have minutes (or seconds) to make an impact. Focus on a relevant, eye-opening sales pitch that will resonate with your audience. Skip the gimmicks and hooks that are irrelevant and attract visitors instead of prospects.

Host a Supplemental Event

A breakfast or happy hour can provide another opportunity to speak with prospects. It can extend your efforts in the trade show, offering you another way to follow through on connecting with your audience.

Advancing Your Marketing Career

A graduate degree can help you meet your professional goals and give you greater leverage in your career. The fully online master’s in management program at Brescia University is designed to build on your current work experience to prepare you for leadership roles in a competitive workplace. Brescia University was named one of the best online colleges for 2017 by