11 Tips for a Successful Trade Show

January 23, 2015






Trade shows are an extremely effective way to get new leads, connect with customers, learn more about your industry, get up to speed on trends, develop skills through continuing education, and even scout out the competition. Exhibiting at a trade show can be a huge investment for your company, so you want to ensure that you are maximizing every dollar that you spend to attend. How do you do that? We’ve put together or top 11 tips to make your trade show experience worth the investment and generate new business for your company.


1. Find the Right Venue

Deciding what show to exhibit at is the first step among many. There may be industry specific shows that are obvious choices for you to attend or you may need to do a little research to determine where your target customers are. Determining the right venue to promote your business and find potential clients in your target market is crucial.


2. Location, Location, Location

When you register for your trade show, take a look at the show floor map and find the best possible location. You don’t want to get stuck in the back corner of a partial aisle where there is little foot traffic. Front and center when you walk onto the show floor, a corner booth in a major aisle, or near the food or refreshment area are all great locations. Depending on how much space you require, make sure your location is in a place where you get the most exposure possible. Remember, when attendees hit the floor running, they will usually start at the far left or the far right of the show floor and work their way in the other direction. Consider adding a hanging banner above your booth so that people can see where you are from all the way across the show floor. Availability may vary with shows, but generally you can pay to gain added visibility for your booth.


3. Purchase Attendee Lists

Many trade shows offer the opportunity to purchase pre-show registration lists as well as post-show attendee lists. Consider purchasing a list and sending out email notifications or postcards with your booth number and an incentive for them to stop at your booth. Post show lists are a great way to capture everyone that attended the show.


4. Look Professional

Showing up at a trade show without a professional booth is like going to the Prom wearing ripped jeans and a dirty t-shirt. You might stand out, but probably not for the right reasons. Purchasing a trade show booth with striking graphics that clearly convey who you are and what you do is the key to looking professional at a trade show event. You may not need a massive custom built booth, but investing in a pop up booth with full color graphics, lighting, table covers and literature shelves is worth your investment. Make sure your staff is dressed appropriately with company branded apparel, business attire or mix it up and choose a theme and dress accordingly (super hero capes?).


5. Be Welcoming

So many times, people working a trade show booth are hiding in the back of their booth staring at their laptop or phone as hundreds of potential new customers walk right on by. Stand in the aisles and engage people as they walk by. Have a funny or interesting ice breaker that you can ask people as they glance up at your booth to draw them in. Have product samples or giveaways in your hands. You generally only have a few seconds to intrigue someone enough to come in to your booth and learn more. Then you can sell.


6. Set up Meetings with Your Top Customers

If you have room, have a small table and chairs in your booth to allow for meeting space where you can sit down with current customers or meet with potential new clients. Trade shows are a great place to reveal new products and added capabilities or equipment. They are also a great venue to learn more about your clients and where you might be able to grow your business with them. Be prepared for your meetings with sales figures, new product or service suggestions and be aware of any past issues that may have occurred with that client. You don’t want to be surprised by an unhappy client and unprepared to reconcile the situation.


7. Have Sales Materials on Hand

Trade show attendees are there to find innovative new products or services and to learn more about what their existing vendors can do for them. If they like what you have to offer, make sure they remember it. After all, they are likely stopping at hundreds if not thousands of booths and probably wont’ remember everything that they saw or everyone that they talked to. Have selling materials on hand to give out: catalogs, brochures, sell sheets, business cards, presentation folders, samples of new products or best sellers, and swag. Make sure that they remember you.


8. Send the Right People

Who are the best people to represent your company at a trade show? If you have a sales staff, then they are the likely candidates. If you don’t, sending someone that rarely deals with customers or has little sales experience is not the best idea. Send your customer service staff, your marketing person, or members of your management team. Make sure that you have a clear plan for what you are promoting, how to engage and talk to people and even how to deal with an unhappy customer if they happen to stop by.


9. Take Advantage of Speaking and Educational Opportunities

Many conventions and trade shows offer education sessions for professional development, keynote speeches, or workshops where exhibitors can share success stories or sales tips. If you have good content to be able to offer up one of these, jump on it. Not only will it get you added exposure at the show but it will likely draw more people to your booth and position you as an expert that they may want to work with. Talk to your show representative to see if there are such opportunities available. 


10. Capture Your Leads

Having hundreds of people stop at your booth is great only if you are able to capture their information. Most trade shows offer lead retrieval systems that you can rent, or you may even have your own. The ability to scan someone’s badge, capture their contact information and even enter in custom notes on how to follow up (send a catalog, send samples, quote a project, set up a meeting, etc.) is essential in making your trade show a success. If you can’t use a lead retrieval system, at the very least ask for people’s business cards and take really good notes on following up with them.


11. Follow Up and Follow Through

Once you’ve captured all of those leads, what are you going to do with them? Have a clear plan on how you will follow up, who will be doing the follow up and when. Don’t wait too long to follow up or the leads you captured may have already forgotten about you. If you had a great conversation with a new lead, a personal follow up from you is a great idea. Send an email to your lead list thanking them for stopping at the booth and providing them a reminder and a call to action about what you were promoting at the show. Don’t let those leads just sit there…move quickly and smartly to convert as many of those leads to new business as possible.












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