Trade shows are a great way to get yourself in front of an engaged audience that’s already started their journey down the sales funnel.

You’ll want to capitalize on the opportunity to interact directly with potential customers at these large-scale industry events. But in order to make a strong impression, you’ll need a pretty great trade show marketing strategy.

What Is Trade Show Marketing?

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Trade show marketing is a very hands-on approach to presenting your business, product or service, and value at an industry event.

Not only are you introducing yourself to potential customers in attendance, but you’re also making yourself known to competitors and carving out your space in the market.

Your marketing efforts for a trade show, both online and off, need to be strategic and impactful. This is where you go toe to toe with your competition in one big room.

As high stakes as they can be, they can offer incredible return for your business. With a successful trade show marketing campaign, you can:

  • Build relationships with potential customers and partners
  • Increase revenue
  • Boost brand awareness
  • Differentiate yourself from competition
  • Perform market research

The key thing to remember is that most trade shows are industry specific. When deciding if you want to attend one that comes into your area, you’ll want to factor in whether your presence is going to be relevant and therefore cost effective.

If it’s a good match and you feel that you’ll gain something from the experience, then here’s how you can really make it worth your while!

Trade Show Marketing Best Practices

There’s always tips and tricks you can follow to optimize any strategy, and trade shows are no exception. As you work on building out an effective marketing strategy, keep these best practices in mind.

Plan Ahead of Time.

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In order for your time to be truly strategic at a trade show, you’ll need to give yourself a head start. Last minute action rarely comes together for industry events, so it’s always best to plan in advance.

Do your research on which trade shows you want to participate in so you can book flights and hotels ahead of time for reasonable rates.

If you begin the strategy planning process early, you’ll be able to thoroughly flesh out every aspect of your pre-show, during, and post-show processes. The more meticulous you are, the smoother it’ll run.

Give yourself space to be detailed and prepared by planning ahead.

Be Present.

If you’ve ever attended a trade show as a customer or prospect, you may have encountered a booth where the vendor was totally unengaged.

They were just a body behind the table, making sure no one took too many free samples or stole the marketing collateral.

Not the best sell, right?

Your staff should be present and engaging throughout the day, attracting and interacting with potential customers willingly. Attendees are there to learn more about businesses in that industry or, at the very least, to network.

Let them get to know your company and its team as savvy, enthusiastic, and credible by being consciously present at the event.

Consider Booth Locations Carefully.

Booth location can be a defining factor in your trade show success.

Get a solid understanding of how the exhibit hall will be laid out and try to choose a spot that will experience high foot traffic. The more people passing by, the more opportunities you’ll have to engage with potential customers.

To get the best locations, though, you’ll need to register in advance. Again, we emphasize acting early and planning in advance. Last minute sign ups means taking whatever’s leftover.

Don’t forget to make your booth as welcoming as possible. Learn the regulations for your space (e.g., dimensions, lighting, electrical access, wifi) so you can set it up effectively. Keep your space open and enticing with room to walk into your booth and easy access to collateral and representatives.

Optimize Your Deliverables for Mobile Use.

Today, you won’t find a ton of people willing to carry around a ton of brochures, pamphlets, and business cards as they make their way from booth to booth.

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Sure, they may pick up a few from the vendors they’re really interested in, but it’s pretty uncommon to collect a lot of paper these days now that we have mini computers in our pockets.

Unless it’s free goodies. People will always take your free goods.

To help cater to that new habit and come across as more convenient and innovative, offer mobile deliverables.

Create QR codes that you can put on business cards, boards, or brochures that will direct potential customers to your website or even book meetings with your reps.

Encourage them to add you on LinkedIn rather than juggle (and inevitably lose) a business card.

How to Build a Trade Show Marketing Strategy

Now to the nitty gritty of it all.

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Putting an actual trade show marketing strategy together requires a great deal of research and planning. We’ll walk you through the steps on how to do it effectively.

1. Set Your Goals.

You’ve got to have something to aim for.

Planning your strategy around goals will help align all of your efforts toward one grand result. It will also help give your representatives a standard to try and reach so that they can make the trade show a successful investment.

Leverage the SMART goal framework to make sure you’re setting obtainable goals that will push your business forward.

2. Identify Relevant Trade Shows.

With trade shows being so industry-specific, you’ll want to come up with a specific list of events to target.

There’s a distinct difference between trade shows meant for your industry and ones made for your target audience. This is where your goals really help out.

If you’re looking to boost brand awareness, make partnerships, and network, then the industry-focused expos are your best bet. But if customers are your priority, then you’ll want to head to trade shows that have the highest lead generation opportunities.

Both have their benefits, but you’ll have to set different expectations depending on which you attend.

3. Develop Your Call to Action.

Coming up with a CTA that you can track and measure will give you the metrics you need to determine the success of your strategy.

Have it be lead generation focused and start the conversation at your booth. Create a landing page for newsletter sign ups, contest entries, or even create a unique hashtag for your business.

You can feature the CTA at your booth and encourage visitors to engage with them. After the event, you can analyze the data to gauge how effective the trade show was for your business.

4. Prepare Your Collateral.

With the right team and equipment, you should be able to physically prepare for the trade show quickly.

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Invest in marketing collateral that will attract attention and stick with potential customers after they leave. This can be in the form of:

  • Banners
  • Display boards
  • Brochures
  • Business cards
  • Samples
  • Giveaways

Design your booth to be attractive to your ideal customer and stage it in a way that will capture the interest of those passing by.

Fair warning, though. If you do choose to offer giveaways or freebies, be conservative about it. Limit handing them out to those who provide contact info.

Giveaways are an expense that you don’t want to waste, so avoid passing them out to unqualified leads.

5. Follow Up Quickly.

You’ll want to chase whatever leads you get as soon as possible after the event ends. The sooner, the better in order to stay top of mind.

If a potential lead remembers you, they’ll respond much more favorably, so try to reach out before a week passes.

Upload or import customer lists into your CRM at the end of each day at the expo and send a follow up email to thank them for visiting and provide a bit more detail about your business.

6. Perform a Post-Mortem.

After it’s all said and done and the banners come down, take the time to go over the results of the trade show with your team.

Examine what went well, what didn’t, and what can be done to improve the next experience.

This is also a good time to go over the ROI of your trade show marketing strategy. Were you able to execute it effectively on your own? What obstacles did you face and do you anticipate them coming up again in the future? Was it a worthy investment?

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Broken up into steps, it may seem like a simple process, but each stage of planning, executing, and following through with a trade show requires a ton of time and resources.

If you feel like it’s out of your depth to accomplish, that doesn’t mean you should dash your dreams of getting up close and personal with leads and other businesses.

Instead, you can turn to an experienced marketing agency!

How to Assess Trade Show Marketing Agencies: 3 Good Signs to Look For

Marketing companies are a dime a dozen, but not all of them operate at equal capacities. Some have a wider portfolio than others, including trade show marketing.

You’ll want to take the time to research potential candidates that can actually help boost your brand presence at your industry event of choice.

The right marketing agency shows three great signs that highlight their credibility:

They Understand Digital Marketing.

Digital marketing is actually a big part of trade show marketing. Letting leads and prospects know that they can meet you face to face at a trade show in their area is a great way to pull foot traffic to your booth.

If you hire an agency, it can take a load off of your plate if they can develop and execute a digital marketing campaign for you.

They Demonstrate Their Experience.

Look for agencies that have reviews, testimonials, social proof, and case studies proving their effectiveness as marketers.

For example, our BandGrip and Bluleadz case study details exactly how we helped BandGrip stand out at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual meeting.

As much as we love an underdog, there’s no denying the value of real-world, professional experience. So try to stick with agencies that have worked trade shows before.

They Have A Strong Local Presence.

Whether you’re in the agency’s local area or not is besides the point. In most cases, that’s a minor obstacle that can be overcome with planning.

What you’re looking for is credibility here. It’s kind of hard to have high expectations for a marketing company that doesn’t market itself.

Agencies that are putting their time in, and doing it well, will have some sort of local recognition. Keep your eyes peeled for noteworthy awards or a consistent presence at local events.

Turning to an expert for your trade show strategy can save you a great deal of time, effort, and resources. While you handle the logistics of being an effective vendor, an agency like Bluleadz can get people to the table and shaking hands.

Together, an effective trade show marketing strategy can be developed to make your presence at any expo memorable!