Trade Show Marketing: Six Rules for Success

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Trade Show Marketing: Six Rules for Success

trade show marketing

Trade Show Marketing: Six Rules for Success

Do you exhibit at trade shows? Are you interested in learning how to stand out from the crowd and get noticed?

This blog is for you. Trade show marketing can be easy and effective, if done properly.

spoke at a conference in Nashville a couple years ago, and along with speaking, I had the opportunity to exhibit during the expo portions of the event. What stood out to me on the expo floor were the similarities between all the vendor booths, and those manning the booths.

And, I have certainly fallen into the trap of doing the same.

But, I’ve learned and applied several tips myself that have helped ensure a successful trade show.

1. Step in Front of the Table

Imagine a keynote speaker whose session topic is sales. How would you envision him in his booth? A rock star, right? Apparently not. True story. While the guy had a fabulous keynote presentation on sales and the selling process, he literally sat in a chair behind the table in his booth the entire time during the expo. Even when people walked up to his booth, he talked to them from the chair!

Do Not Sit Behind the Table.

If you have a table in your booth space, come out from behind it; stand in the isle or at least in front of the table. Even if you have materials to present/pass out, have them on the table BEHIND you, and direct folks there once you know you can help the person you’re talking with.

2. Engage in Small Talk

When someone approaches your booth, the worst thing you can do is say, “Is your flux capacitor giving you trouble? Come check this out!”

Instead, engage the individual in small talk:

  • “What brings you to the show today?
  • “Did you get a chance to check out downtown last night?”
  • “What kind of business are you in?”
  • “What have you learned at the conference so far?”

Don’t sell the second someone is within five feet of your booth. Bring them in with small talk; be personable; start a conversation. You’ll get to the selling part if they need your product/service. Find some common ground and gain a little trust first.

3. Do Something Outrageous

I’ve seen anything from bikini-clad women on stilts to handing out squishy brain-shaped stress balls!

We use a fun statement that’s bold and a little in your face. It says, “Your Website Sucks!” We didn’t spend a whole lot of money, though. We designed and purchased a stand-up banner from Post-Up Stand (great product and service!) for $250. And then we created a postcard that connected with the “Your Website Sucks!” theme and included the 14 reasons why your website probably sucks on the back, with a simple call to action. It works like a charm!

website design

4. Talk with Your Fellow Exhibitors

Whether it’s during set-up or when traffic slows a bit, talk to the exhibitors next to you and across the isle. If possible, walk around a little yourself and stop by other booths to learn more about their products and services.

You’re clearly targeting the same audience; you never know what kinds of opportunities are out there to partner with or help another business on the expo floor.

5. Offer Something of Value

Free t-shirts, pens, and company literature aren’t necessarily offering value. Although it can drive people to your booth, it’s likely you’re drawing many people who would never be a customer, but they’re interested in winning the free iPad.

Instead, produce something of true value to your ideal customer:

  • A free e-book or whitepaper
  • A complimentary consultation
  • An exclusive deal
  • A “tool” related to their job
  • A live demonstration

6. Follow Up

Research shows that between 70 to 80 percent of leads generated through trade shows are never follow up on. That’s not you, is it? PLEASE tell me it’s not!

Follow-up is essential. If you’ve followed the first five tips here, then you’ll be walking away from the show with a ton of great new prospects. But, they won’t do you any good if they sit on your desk in a pile.

Create a specific follow-up process. Marketing automation is a great tool to help with this. With marketing automation, you create a system that allows you to just enter a new prospect’s name and email address (and whatever other data you collected on her), and then an automated set of steps takes place – an email is sent out two days later; a trigger reminds you to call a week later; another email pushes out 10 days after the show ends; the prospect is added to your list of Trade Show Marketing Contacts in your system, so you can send future messaging targeted specifically to that group of contacts. In the end, all you had to do was enter their name and check a few boxes, and the prospect is “touched” multiple times over the next few weeks with little to no effort on your part.

Follow these tips to make the most of exhibiting at a trade show. Good luck!


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