5 Steps To Build An Effective Trade Show Strategy

February 25, 2019 | Melanie Cook at Guy Brown

Topics: Small Business, Diverse Business, Marketing, Brand Strength, Trade Show, Sales


Trade show season is fast approaching, and many companies are finalizing their yearly show strategies. Trade shows are a great way for businesses to network and determine if they can find a way to work together. It is also a great way for small and diverse businesses to get face time with buyers from large corporations, which would normally be much more challenging. It is important to make the most out of your trade show experience and effective use of your time and money. Here are 5 steps to help you build an effective trade show marketing strategy that will maximize your ROI and hopefully result in new business for your company.


  1. 1. Find suitable shows for your industry/audience

When determining which trade shows will be the most valuable for your business, it is important to look at the big picture. Research which conferences are most applicable to your industry and which ones will allow you to best reach your target audience. For instance, if you are a diverse business it may be helpful to check out the events that certifying councils are hosting since corporations looking to do business with diverse companies may be in attendance.  

After confirming the events you will attend, it is helpful to establish a clear goal and call to action for each trade show. Some events may be more tailored to a specific industry or line of business, so it is important to understand how to market your business at each event. 


  1. 2. Plan ahead

We all know that conferences and trade shows can be expensive and may be a financial strain for some smaller businesses that do not have a large budget. The best way to make the most of your time and money and take advantage of the opportunities the event has to offer is to plan ahead. Many times, conferences will offer discounts to attendees who register early. This can result in savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars! Making travel plans early can also be a surefire way to save on the overall cost. Airfare is typically much more affordable if you book in advance and you can take advantage of hotel room blocks that conferences have available for attendees.

Another benefit to making plans in advance is that you have enough time to ensure the right people from your team are able to attend. This gives them the opportunity to conveniently set meetings with industry contacts and potential customers who will already be at the conference. Some conferences even offer Matchmaker opportunities where they will help match companies together that may be able to do business together. These meetings can prove to be extremely valuable, but most conferences will require you are registered before the early-bird deadline to be eligible to participate. 


  1. 3. Select ideal booth location & strategic booth design

One of the most effective ways to ensure your company has a good experience at a trade show is to be smart about selecting your booth location. If you are exhibiting at a large show, many people may not get a chance to stop by your booth if you are all the way in the back corner of the exhibit hall. Ideally you want your booth to be close to the front entrance or the center of the exhibit hall to have the best chance at the most foot traffic. If you are unable to snag a booth in an ideal location, try to strategically place your booth next to a company that you know will have a large and appealing display. Larger displays usually generate more foot traffic than smaller ones, so being placed close to a larger booth may give you a bit more visibility. However, it is generally best if you try to avoid having your booth placed too close to any competitors.

Strategic booth design is another important element to maximize your visibility and traffic. Make sure your booth has a powerful visual impact with clear and consistent messaging. With an effective booth design, people should be able to instantly understand what products or services your company provides. Additionally, all of your marketing collateral and booth giveaways should be consistent with your brand. Having your company name and logo represented consistently on all of your materials will show brand strength, which is appealing to potential customers.


  1. 4. Pre-show targeted marketing campaigns

Nowadays, most conferences utilize social media to publicize the event and provide information to attendees. By using custom hashtags specific to their event, conference organizers make it easy for attendees to join the conversation and promote their brand.

Another great way to connect with individuals ahead of the show is by utilizing the attendee lists the conference provides to registered exhibitors. Many times, the lists will have all the contact information necessary to create a targeted mail or email marketing campaign to specific companies. Sending a personalized letter or email inviting an individual to meet with you at the show will likely generate a better result than trying to seek out the person at the show. Note that some conferences have rules that prohibit them for distributing attendee lists with contact information. If that is the case, it may be helpful to use the conference booklet from the previous year (if your company attended) and manually gather the contact information from there.


  1. 5. Post-show follow up

After you've gone through all the trouble of registering, planning ahead, and making the most of your time at the trade show, it is important to follow-up with all of your leads in a timely manner. This ensures that the conversation is fresh in their minds and also helps to determine your company’s ROI. Ultimately, with the proper planning, the trade show should have a positive impact on your team and hopefully allow for future growth of your business.


Guy Brown is a certified small, minority and women owned business that offers tailored business solutions to meet your company needs - office products and workplace supplies, MRO and workwear, remanufactured ink and toner cartridges, and inspired office interiors. 

Melanie Cook at Guy Brown

Author: Melanie Cook at Guy Brown

Melanie is a Guy Brown marketing and communications staff member. She freely shares her expertise and experience in helping companies transform to a digital office and helps with the management of diversity and minority owned business supplier initiatives.