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The 6 golden rules of trade show marketing

Thinking of putting some marketing budget into a trade show? Read on for six great ways to get the most for your money

When done right, trade shows and conferences can be an extremely effective marketing tool for companies.

Far from just acting as just a lead generator, trade shows create buzz about new products, introduce new customers to your company, lead to fruitful partnerships and engender meaningful relationships.

But when done wrong, trade shows can be expensive (and sometimes damaging) holidays for ill-prepared staff.

The following are the six golden rules of how best to market your company at a trade show:

1. Be picky

In the last decade, the number of trade shows around the world has increased tenfold. There are benefits to both big and small-scale events so it depends on what you want to achieve.

It is essential to understand the profile of your fellow attendees; organisers should have demographic information to hand and be happy to share it with you.

If you are simply looking for exposure, choose the most prestigious conferences within your industry. If you want to attract the eye of a specific client then see what events they plan to attend.

Try to understand why those events have interested them and tailor your presence around that. Product launches, similarly, should target end-buyers, so think laterally and be creative in your selection.

2. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

Negotiation is key to guaranteeing successful exposure at trade shows. When you are talking to organisers, remember you are the customer in this relationship and think about it like an investment.

Each conference is slightly different, but generally you can get extra bonuses aside from your speaking engagement, your booth or event sponsorship.

Ask about what literature the event will provide and see if you can get a free article or advertising space, enquire about other social engagements they have planned and bag yourself a complimentary pass, and most importantly be precise about the timing of your speech or the position of your booth.

3. Be social before

Never underestimate the power of social media before an event. Use previous contacts and the trade show itself as platforms to further your message and to increase your brand’s recognition.

Try to organise as many meetings in advance as possible. The earlier during the show the better; that way you will have time to build the relationship during the event.

4. Be social there

Be firm, assertive and friendly, dress well and make sure your staff does too. Don’t just presume your employees are ready; hold training sessions to prepare for client interaction. If it is only senior management attending, have a clear, consistent and clean message.

Keep your booth tidy and have colourful graphics. Make it interactive; have iPads available with friendly user-interface and don’t forget the good old fish bowl for collecting business cards.

And finally, link your booth, your presentation and your people – small pins with the brand’s logo will make you identifiable even at after-events when name badges disappear.

5. Speak

Speaking at the right time and about the right topic at a trade show can have innumerable benefits. It is vital to send a competent public speaker.

If a less senior member of staff is your best speaker, don’t be afraid to use them – just don’t forget to mention that management will be ready for questions at the end. And don’t just try to sell your products, give information that can be useful.

6. Be responsive

Post-show don’t waste all that time and money invested by not following up on leads. Relationships you establish at trade shows are only the beginning and maintaining connections you have made will be the real winning game.

Keep notes on business cards you receive throughout the show and personalise replies. Nobody reads those generic circulars anyway.

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