Trade (Show) Secrets: 5 Tips To Make the Most Of Your Investment

In honor of ASI Chicago, one of the major trade shows of our industry taking place this week, we would like to share some words of wisdom to help guide any professional towards putting their best foot forward at a trade show.


Trade shows can be a very powerful tool companies can leverage to reach their target audience. According to Statista, nearly 50% of trade show visitors plan to buy exhibited products or services. Face-to-face interaction is an invaluable platform, and trade shows can provide a unique opportunity to present a company’s true value to an engaged audience. Don’t forget – B2B customers are just like B2C – they are inundated with digital communications, ads, and emails, and crave real connections. Recent studies show that B2B marketers plan to spend most of their 2015 budget on trade shows, conferences, and events (Source: Forrester), and 69% of B2B marketers cite in-person events as the most effective B2B tactic (Source: CMI).

The impact of in-person interaction can surely be worth the investment, but it’s important to know how to make the most of the experience to receive the best return. Even at in-person events, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. Heeding the following five tips will help prepare for the most engaging and successful trade show experience.

1. Set measurable goals: what do you want to achieve by having a presence at a trade show? How can your trade show strategies align with your business goals? How many contacts or business cards collected will make the trip a success? Perhaps you will determine that spending more time per person doing demos will be more beneficial in the end. How many demos would make the time investment worth it?


2. Make a game plan: aside from logistics, there are other things that need to be planned ahead. Will you have the opportunity to drive people to your booth in advance either via social media channel hype or in trade show materials or signage? How will you maximize your space? What materials should you create or bring with you?


3. Be engaging: it will be important to staff up appropriately. Will you be able to handle the traffic to your booth? You don’t want to rush people off or be distracted when you are engaging with visitors. Providing attentive and dedicated service will mean the world. Even more so if you can be different from the rest – add something fun to your booth like a photo opp or social media contest with a compelling prize. Use technology as appropriate – especially if your business positions itself as savvy and forward-thinking.


4. Represent your brand well: this is not only reliant on bringing the right people, but also on the materials you bring. Collateral should be up-to-date and look polished and consistent, giving the best possible impression to anyone walking by or taking materials with them. Don’t try to cut costs with printing or displays – it’s too easy to skip over a booth that doesn’t immediately look appealing or professional. It doesn’t hurt to be creative either – how about giving away something that will be used over and over again (or even in the moment) like a phone charger or USB drive? How about providing something nice for visitors to use to carry their trade show collateral like a portfolio or bag?


5. Follow up: a personal follow up with a new contact can be especially meaningful to break through the noise of mass emails. Make a note about the people you meet to help you remember your conversation, and then bring up specifics in your follow-up. The fact that you remembered something like their business challenge will be hugely impactful, and leave a good impression.


As with most communication channels, making the most of your trade show presence requires a 360-degree approach. Armed with the right people, process, and technology, companies can make a lasting impression on their audience and forge real connections with those they meet.

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