Insights

8 Tips for Making the Most of Your Trade Show Investment

12.19.2017
  • Victoria Silow

Trade shows are the perfect opportunity to mingle with customers and prospects, soak in thought leadership, and bring home an avalanche of new leads and potentially win new business. If you’re planning to exhibit at an industry event, all of these benefits are possible. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss out on most of these opportunities and watch helplessly as your ROI plummets if you don’t prepare properly.

Exhibiting at a trade show is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. It starts with building a strategy that rolls up to your organizational goals, supported by tactics that some of your fellow exhibitors may not have considered.

At Trellist, we’ve helped clients in the Fortune 1000 refine their approach to trade shows to make a bigger impact, from attracting new prospects at the top of the funnel to showcasing their thought leadership in front of industry decision makers.


Making the Most of Your Trade Show Investment

The following tips have been taken and distilled down from strategies that have worked for our clients:

Tip 1: Have Clear Objectives in Mind

As they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. In order to assess the success of your trade show experience, you must have clear objectives in mind before you ever leave the office. Do you want to position your CEO as a thought leader through a keynote appearance? Is your goal to drive lead-generation through your booth? Are you launching a new product or fielding market research? Regardless of what the goal is, you should have it clearly in mind along with a plan to capture and measure results.

Tip 2: Market Before, During, and After the Show

Your marketing efforts for the trade show should start well before the exhibit hall opens. You should be marketing your presence there through the appropriate digital channels—on your website, through email, social, and the other online watering holes where you’re likely to find your audience. If you’re a sponsor at the show, you’ll likely receive an opportunity to reach registered attendees before the show through a blast sent out by the show organizers, inclusion of your materials in attendee bags, and more. Don’t waste these opportunities.

At the show, make sure you have a publicly posted list of activities and events happening at your booth. This will entice people to come back.

After the show, the real work of engaging and nurturing the leads you captured begins. Continual outreach is important to help reinforce your company’s value proposition and awareness for your products and services. At Trellist, we’ve helped clients avoid much of the heavy lifting around these efforts by helping them build a nurturing strategy fueled by thought leadership content and executing through a CRM and marketing automation tool.

Tip 3: Double Down and Cut Out What Doesn’t Work

There’s no need to attend every industry trade show. We understand that this can be a scary thought for veteran exhibitors used to having a presence at every event, but the alternative is worse: instead of making a big splash at a key show, you’ll be doomed to a lackluster presence at many shows. Rather than spread your budget too thin across multiple shows, the better strategy is to double down on the most important one. Reallocate your budget and use it to capture additional opportunities at that key show that you may have otherwise missed out on.

No one remembers the bit player who served as the supporting actor in hundreds of movies throughout his or her career, but you can be sure the audience remembers the breakout star in last year’s summer blockbuster. That’s the impact you’re trying to make at a trade show.

Tip 4: Location, Location, Location

If you follow the advice in Tip 3 and save your budget for one or two big shows, you’ll have more flexibility with your booth size and location. You don’t want the 10x10 at the back of the hall. Instead, you should target larger booth spaces at:

  • The entrance of the exhibit hall
  • Near show sponsors and other activities
  • Near or in the pathway to bathrooms and food vendors
  • Away from your competitors

For shows in the United States, the back left corner of the show floor is a dead zone. Visitors are used to driving on the right side of the road and reading left-to-right, so traffic naturally flows in this direction on the exhibit floor.

Tip 5: Create Energy in and Around the Booth

It’s human nature that we’re attracted to novelty and things that stimulate our senses. You should keep this in mind when deciding how to build and stage your booth. Tactics like interesting lighting, music, giveaways, and demonstrations will get visitors to linger long enough for you to give your 30-second elevator pitch before they’re off to the next booth.

A client ran with this idea by including a small oven in their booth and baked chocolate chip cookies during the entire show. The smell was so delicious, patrons couldn’t ignore it. (Of course, the requisite disclaimer is to always follow the exhibit hall rules for what you can and can’t do at the show).

Tip 6: What Would You Say You Do Here?

So many companies fall into the trap of making their value proposition indecipherable to casual visitors who wander by the booth. What you do should be clearly stated on your booth, so that it catches the attention of even the shyest visitor who may not want to make eye contact with your booth rep. People cruise around trade show floors with one or two “must visit” booths in mind, and simply pick up treats and tchotchkes at the rest. If you have a billboard-worthy slogan that clearly states “we do this for you,” you just may catch a new customer that would have otherwise walked on by. Make sure that statement clearly indicates how you can help them perform better or solve a common pain point in your industry.

Tip 7: Get Your Best People Out Front

You’re at the trade show for a purpose—to drive your business forward. To do that, you need your best company representatives in, and preferably around and in front of, your booth. They should be engaging with visitors as they walk by, breaking the ice with questions and offering insights. While the glitz and glam of the booth can help stop them, your representatives should have a high level of subject matter expertise to properly represent your brand.

Naturally you’ll think of your top salespeople for this opportunity, which may be the right fit. However, don’t discount the idea of bringing a customer service representative, product designer, or an engineer. Your subject matter experts exist in every department and have something to offer customers. As an added bonus, attending a trade show helps these team members develop a broader perspective on the industry, your competitors, and what matters most to customers.

Tip 8: Don’t Let Leads Linger

Finally, make sure you follow up on leads shortly after the show, ideally in the first five business days after you return. This includes both leads that came through the booth and contacts you made with people on a more personal level during networking events and standing in line for coffee. If you wait much longer than a week, the memory of who you are and what you do will fade. Again, to reiterate our point on marketing after the show in Tip 2, your follow-up and nurturing efforts should include multiple touchpoints, since one “thank you for visiting the booth” may not be sticky enough. Customers and prospects need to see your message multiple times in order to remember it.

Whether you’re a trade show veteran or coordinating your first show, Trellist is here to help turn these general tips into a customized strategy for your organization.

To learn more about how Trellist can help you get the most out of your trade show investments, please contact Victoria Silow