Planning The Perfect Trade Show

Trade shows are a great way to build your brand, expand your market reach and make valuable industry connections. The key is to plan what has to be done before, during and after  the show to ensure your investment and attendance is a success. Let us walk you through it.


Setting goals

The very first thing you should do is set your goals for the show. What will make it a worthwhile investment? Your goals should be tangible and realistic. Share them with your team so they all know what the priority is. Is it sales, new customer leads, or visibility? 85% of your exhibit’s success relies on the exceptional performance of your staff so make sure you communicate with them. Once you’ve determined what your business goals are, determine what you need to do to accomplish them. Clear, actionable goals are easier to achieve.


Make sure you budget appropriately. It may seem obvious, but the last thing a business needs is to be over budget on a trade show as as result of  not preparing properly. After you have established the numbers (consider travel, giveaways, staffing, hotels, etc…) we have to discuss the booth. First, you must consider how much space you need to properly display your product. A custom booth is always a good idea as it will be tailored to your space and business.

Setting the Stage

Next, you want to maximize your impact to attract the right people for your goal. Decide whether you want to play music to help draw attention to your booth, play a game, have a contest etc… Make sure that any presentation is elevated so people can see, if it peaks their interest they will make their way towards your booth. When people start to flow in, make sure that 2 minute sales pitch you’ve been practicing is handy.


The graphics you choose for your exhibit should be simple, bold and clear as they will be the most effective. Also consider, the shorter your headline, the larger it can appear on your display. A customer should be able to tell in 3 seconds what your business does and what your brand stands for.  The most common branding mistake is not making it clear exactly what your business does and what the benefit to the attendee is.  Don’t get passed by for not being clear.


Filtering a Crowd

So you have drawn a crowd to your super great booth, now what? Trade shows attract many people, but not everyone is a potential lead for you. You need to know how to identify A, B and C leads.

In short, A level connections are the people who have a need for what you offer in the immediate future and have purchasing power. These are your biggest potential clients and should be followed up with immediately after the show.

The B level, represents the same purchasing power as an A-level with a less immediate need, perhaps a medium or long term timeline. Do not forget them though!

C level leads are those that do not really need what you offer or do not have the purchasing power. The attendees who are just browsing or trying to get inspired for a future project. They are commonly known as “tire kickers”. Be polite, hand them some marketing material and they will be on their way. You never know when they may be back as an A Level Customer.


Giveaways have become part of trade shows, but how do you avoid being just another branded pen? Don’t give pens. There are many ways to stand out, but it comes back to the goal. There are many creative ways to engage with potential customers besides giving another keychain,  try branded stickers, notebooks or snacks (food is always a big hit). If you want to go to the next level, aim for branded tote bags. People who are environmentally conscious will love it and they will be able to place all the other stuff they receive at the trade shows. You know that drone you got as a gift but have no time to use, fly it around the booth or offer it up as a prize in a raffle to attract more people.

Giveaways attract a lot of people and allow your staff to make contact with attendees and evaluate if they are A,B or C leads.

Business Cards

Stock up on business cards, give them to prospective clients and taken theirs (or their contact information), not only does it allow staff to engage with a client but even when the booths are dismantled, the work you put in after is absolutely crucial to the show’s success. Let’s talk money, the average cost to close a sale with an exhibition lead in 2010 was $2,224 and the total cost to close without a lead from the exhibition was $3,153.


Have a Meeting

Within 48 hours you should have a meeting with your team about the success of the trade show. The short timeline avoids staff getting caught up on the work they missed and allows management to collect feedback while it is still fresh. Check in on all of your social media outlets and see what people are saying about you. If any negative impressions arise address the problems immediately and make sure you improve upon them. Your company stands out amongst the competition when customers’ voices are heard.

Contact leads

This should be a no brainer considering the longer you wait to contact them, the faster they will forget about you and move on to the next company that peaks their interest. A leads should be contacted immediately, B leads should also be contacted, sent additional information so when they are ready, they have what it takes to make a decision. Make your leads a priority and show them the kind of impact they had on you at the exhibition.

Get Back to SEO

Accumulate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power. That means immediately updating your registration page. Provide links about the show you just attended, as well as links back to your website. An active company constantly trying to improve their brand is always attractive to prospective clients.

Archive resources & create new content

Generate new content about your most recent trade show experience. Highlight what was successful and what you could improve upon in the future and share this with your team. Acknowledging your most recent experiences whether good or bad is key to helping your company improve because a good company never achieves perfection, but constantly tries to achieve it no matter what.

Maintain buzz

We live in a world where our online presence determines how good of a company we are. So, continue being active on social media, monitor your hashtags because the more your company trends on social media, the better it is for your company, considering that it is mostly good of course.

Consider the following questions to evaluate the success of the show;

  1. Did you achieve your goal?
  2. What sort of people came into your booth?
  3. Do you have new leads/customers? Did they convert into sales?
  4. Do you have more direct and organic traffic to your website?
  5. How are your social media analytics?

If you can answer all of these questions in a positive manner, then the show paid off. Even if only half your answers are good ones that’s alright too because remember, companies constantly need to improve.