Building the Perfect Trade Show Strategy

Trade Show Trenches
September 17, 2020

Participating in a trade show is a major commitment– it requires considerable energy and financial investment before, during, and after the show.

How will you know if participating is worth the effort? To make the most of a trade show, you’ll have to do a lot more than simply show up on the day of the event. You will need to develop a detailed and strategic plan that will help you achieve your specific trade show goals. Without a solid plan of action, your business will surely miss out on opportunities and leads.

To help get you started, we put together some winning tips and strategies from our seasoned trade show experts that will put you on the path to success.

Trade Show Strategy Plan

Following the tips below will guide your exhibition experience towards success. It does take some work and investment, but following tips like these and creating internal systems for your company to thrive will improve your trade show results year after year.

Keep in mind, these general tips are a great place to start, but you will also want to develop strategies that align with the specific goals of your business and your reasons for participating in the trade show. For example, if your primary goal is to network with other businesses, your strategy should look different than if your goal was to generate new leads.

Before the Trade Show

  • Engage with leads to help pay for the event: Dig out contacts, old leads, and current customers and make as many appointments as you can. This will go a long way in offsetting the cost of the event.
  • Contact previous attendees: Studies show that obtaining a list of prior year show attendees and sending a pre-show mailer will increase the chance that attendees will stop by your booth by 23%.
  • Train your staff: Your team members are a crucial aspect of your trade show. Make sure they know how to approach attendees, engage them, represent your brand, qualify leads, and politely end fruitless conversations. It’s important that your team members exude energy, excitement, and confidence throughout the event.
  • Get in the show guide: Most trade shows have an online and/or print show guide for attendees to see who is exhibiting. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to generate early interest. Especially considering the fact that, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, approximately 70% of show attendees will create a list of what brands/booths they want to visit before they arrive!
  • Come up with a standout trade show exhibit design: This is a crucial part of the overall equation. Make sure that your stand, booth, or exhibit is visually appealing, welcoming to attendees, and in line with your brand. You want your messaging to be eye-catching, clear, and easily understood. When designing a trade show exhibit, you should think of it as an immersive experience rather than just an informational booth.

During the Trade Show

  • Look sharp and stay fresh: Whatever the dress code, make sure you’re well-groomed and your appearance is clean and professional. Don’t sit down, slouch, or leave food around your stand.
  • Use promotional giveaways: The right promo items will massively increase brand exposure, draw people to your stand, and keep working for you after the event. To come up with a great promo item, think of your ideal customer and what would incentivize them.

After the Trade Show

  • Remember to convert your leads: You should follow up on any generated leads within 48 hours to get ahead of the competition, starting with the most valuable leads first.
  • Personalize your after-show sales: Consult your notes from the event and research each lead before you contact them so that you can personalize your approach. A copy and paste approach won’t help you stand out.
  • Conduct a post-show evaluation: You can improve your future show effectiveness by gathering and examining comments and feedback from the event as well as measuring ROI.

You may have noticed one crucial element missing from the steps above: social media marketing. Social media has become such an integral part of trade show strategies in recent years that we had to dedicate a whole section to it below.


Trade Show Social Media Strategy

Social media presents incredible opportunities to generate interest and increase your exposure at trade shows. It’s important to use social media strategically before, during, and after a trade show event.

Below are some tips to help get your trade show social media strategy started:


Before the Trade Show
  • Check-in with the trade show event organizers about their social media promotion and see how you can participate, get involved, or be featured. Start working on this several weeks prior to the event.
  • Think strategically about which social media platforms will help you achieve your goals and focus on those. For example, if your goal is to network with other businesses, you may want to focus on LinkedIn as one of your primary platforms.
  • Before the show, highlight products or offerings you’ll be featuring to generate interest. Think about what you can do to incentivize people to show up at your booth.
  • If the trade show event has hashtags, be sure to use them! This can help you connect and network with other exhibitors and will increase the visibility of your tweets. Additionally, consider creating a unique hashtag to promote your company specifically.
  • Use social media to build brand awareness. Be sure to stick to the same branding (colors, logos, etc.) you will be using for your trade show exhibit so that people will easily recognize your company at the event.
  • Consider scheduling some social media posts in advance in case you get too busy during the event to post.


During the Trade Show
  • Consider holding a competition or giveaway on social media to increase engagement. For example, you could have people post a selfie at your booth or with your products on the day of the trade show for a chance to win a prize.
  • Post live updates at the event itself, including posts featuring customers engaging with your brand, to generate interest. With their permission, sharing photos and quotes or testimonials from your customers is an authentic way to promote your products or services.


After the Trade Show
  • After the show, be sure to connect on social media with the people you interacted with.
  • Consider sharing a blog post or summary of the event with your networks via social media and email. If you have any videos or photos to share from the event, be sure to include them.

If you’re not a social media expert, this may seem overwhelming. But if you can be creative, authentic, and active on social media, it will go a long way in helping you achieve your trade show goals.

Mastering Your Trade Show Marketing Strategy

Trade show marketing is not one-dimensional; it involves many moving parts and different types of marketing. These include but are not limited to digital marketing, face-to-face, in-person marketing, printed marketing materials, and the branding of your exhibit or trade show booth itself. That’s why it’s so important to think strategically and develop a clear trade show plan ahead of time.

Furthermore, trade shows are always evolving, becoming more interactive, and incorporating new technologies, so it’s important that you evolve your strategies in order to stay relevant and compete. Virtual trade shows are one example of how trade shows are changing and adapting in the digital era. In order to succeed, be sure you’re keeping up-to-date on the latest trade show developments and trends.


Your Trade Show Strategy Experts 

As you can see, there are many moving parts to consider when developing the perfect trade show strategy, and the tips in this article just scratch the surface. Partnering with trade show experts who can create custom strategies for your company and your specific goals is the best way to ensure your overall success.

At Exhibits Northwest, we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all type solutions, but rather individual solutions that fit your unique brand and goals. We imagine your most successful show and then work backwards, using your vision and experience to create the perfect trade show exhibit for you.

Have questions about your trade show exhibition strategy? Visit our homepage to learn more about our trade show exhibit design and rental services or contact us today!

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If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form, and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call
If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form and we’ll contact you shortly.