Know Your Trade Show - Preparation is the Key to Success

Exhibiting in a tradeshow can be a great way to showcase your products to potential buyers, but knowing which shows to exhibit in and planning your show are essential to a successful tradeshow marketing strategy.  Here’s how to get the best return on investment (ROI) from small shows to large.


So why do you want to be in a particular tradeshow?  Trade shows can be an expensive proposition so it is key to know why you want to exhibit.  Are you selling your products at the show itself or is it to build your brand image for future sales?   Will this show bring out the best target market for you in relation to your product(s)?   Will there be many competitors selling the same product as you and if so, what are you going to do to make your booth special?  You can have more than one goal in mind, but the point is that you need to be clear about what your participation in a specific trade show is going to achieve.


There may be many shows at which you would like to exhibit, but due to budget constraints, you may only be able to afford just one or two in a given year or season.  Each show’s promoters should provide a breakdown of prospective attendees, costs, and list of the previous year’s exhibitors.  Does the show have a website?  Check it out to learn the most about a show before you decide to exhibit your wares.  What will be your total out of pocket cost for each show?  Remember, it’s not just the exhibiting fee to consider but other issues as well.  There are specialty advertising products you may want to give away to attendees, booth staffing requirements, and booth set-up charges (particularly if the show requires union labor).   Typically, the smaller shows have lower participation costs as well as set-up charges.  Which size show is right for you and what kind of booth is right for you? Again, know your tradeshow!


Maybe you don’t need a mega size booth at a given show.  Anticipate the crowd at the show, know where you are in relation to the shows layout, and plan accordingly.  Will you be near the front entrance where giving out poly bags is a smart move?  Obviously, if your booth is at the back of a show, attendees will likely already have give-away poly bags so consider another give-away.  Is the trade show audience primarily made up of information seekers?  Then make sure you have plenty of information to give potential buyers after you have made your introduction.  And most importantly, don’t forget to get follow up information for each visitor.  If you will be selling at the show, make sure to have a credit card machine and bags for purchases if applicable.

These are potential buyers so names and phone numbers are key!  If you can get their email addresses also, great!  Send them a regular edition of your newsletter if you have one or a “thank you” for stopping by the booth.  If you are exhibiting at a “mega” show, make sure your booth stands out in size and possesses the latest in technology and graphics.  Nothing says “lame” about a company that possesses a booth that is dwarfed by other exhibitors that happened to go all out.  Remember, different audiences “shop” trade shows differently, and will likely have different needs.


Pre-show publicity is often overlooked by companies when a decision is made to exhibit at a show.  Let the world know about the fact that you will be exhibiting at a given show.  Effective public relations efforts go a long way in getting the word out that you will be an exhibitor.  Always mention the booth number of your exhibit so attendees can find you and don’t forget that your website is a wonderful source to advertise your upcoming attendance.  Hire a public relations firm to get the biggest bang out of your trade show buck also for post-show publicity efforts.  Maybe you introduced a new product at a show?  Let the world know about it!

So now your marketing plan has been given a big shot in the arm as it is ready for an upcoming show(s).  The next things to consider are booth staffing training, giveaway ordering, and a strategic plan to make the most of your tradeshow experience.  Good luck!