A Marketers Guide to Trade Shows

In-person tradeshows were brutally shutdown by the Coronavirus. Well guess what? They’re on the comeback!

Our clients have begun to prepare for the return of in-person trade shows and so should you. As you do, it’s helpful to think of tradeshows like any other marketing campaign which means you have to Plan, Attract, Engage, Follow Up, and Analyze. Here are some helpful thoughts and tips!


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

  • Begin holding planning meetings with marketing and sales participation 4-6 months ahead of a tradeshow.
  • Review what went well in the past, so you can build on that success, and what went wrong, so you can learn from it.
  • Set goals (i.e. number of meetings, leads generated, presentation attendees) and figure out how you are going to achieve them.
  • Part of achieving the goals will involve promoting what is new (i.e. new products, a service program) and part of it will be based on the creativity and diligence of your sales and marketing teams.
  • Messaging in the booth (signs, videos, etc.) will need to be changed/prepared to synch up with the themes and promotions.


"The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort." (Colin Powell)

  • You must never forget that you are competing for the attention of your prospects with all the companies at the conference – not just your competitors.
  • Unless you are a new company your efforts will be split between reconnecting with existing customers and attracting prospects.


  • Don’t take your customers for granted. Have your sales people invite them to stop by the booth or join you for lunch or dinner.
  • Sometimes having a customer advisory council around or during the meeting will give you the opportunity to gain valuable insights from your best customers on how your company is perceived and what you can do better.
  • Marketing can tease customers with what they will see at the conference and/or offer an incentive (i.e. free gift) if they stop by the booth. (Close coordination between marketing and sales is essential.)


  • Your sales staff can set up appointments with identified, high-value prospects ahead of time to maximize their opportunity to convert them to customers.
  • Marketing can work the trade show list (direct mail, email) and conference advertising opportunities to tease new products, etc. and drive booth traffic.
  • Don’t forget to feature your Trade Show Schedule, with Booth Numbers, on your website.


“It’s showtime” (Betelguise)

If you have done all your planning well the tradeshow itself will be more about execution. That being said:

  • Hold a pre-show meeting with the sales team to make sure they are comfortable with the new products, show themes, promotions, customer gifts, etc.
  • Encourage a sense of camaraderie within your sales team. While they compete with one another they are on the same team and should do everything in their power to help one another out.
  • Remember all the promotion doesn’t take place before the show. There are lots of opportunities for marketing to sponsor break areas, have advertising on elevators/escalators, advertise in the conference program, etc.
  • Hold a recap after each day to see what’s going well and what needs tweaking.

Follow Up

“Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.” (Michelle Moore)

  • After the exhaustion of a tradeshow it’s easy to make the mistake of moving on without properly following up with the leads that have been generated.
  • Marketing should identify and record all the leads generated and distribute them out to the sales teams ASAP so they can “strike while the irons hot”.


“In God we trust, all others bring data.” (W Edwards Deming)

  • At some point you are going to have to justify the rather significant expenditure associated with each tradeshow. These discussions are always made easier if you can show an ROI.
  • Check how you performed not just in terms of ROI but in terms of all the subsidiary goals (meetings, demos, leads, etc.) that led to your actual performance.

In Summary

Tradeshows are a great opportunity to meet with customers and prospects face-to-face. In today’s world where cold calling and direct marketing are becoming ever more challenging, tradeshows provide a high-leverage moment to change the dynamic in the relationship with customers and prospects. With careful planning, execution, and follow up tradeshows can be one of your most effective sales/marketing tools.

SFA Marketing can help you get the most out of your tradeshow by coming up with strategies, offers, sales tools, videos/animations, and tradeshow booths that help you get results. Feel free to contact us at [email protected].

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