10 Tips For Trade Show Success

For many organizations, trade shows are a tool in the marketing toolbox.  And, if you pick one that serves your perfect customers, it can be a great investment.  But make no mistake…it is an investment.  It certainly costs money.  But it’s also the investment of time.  So if you are going to make that investment, you want it to be worth it.  So here are 10 tips to ensure Trade Show Success.


Before the Trade Show

Tip #1: Get the list of registered attendees

If it is at all possible, get a list of everyone who has confirmed they are coming to the show. Though trade shows do have a lot of last-minute sign-ups, they should have a great list of attendees who are registered and ready to attend that you, as an exhibitor, can get access to before the event.

In the lead-up to the show, these registered attendees are themselves preparing for the show. If they’re smart, they’re creating a strategy for working the show themselves.

So, the first tip is to simply get that list! As a matter of fact, some of my clients do not even exhibit at trade shows if the organizers don’t provide a list of attendees, it’s that valuable to them. Now that you have the list, on to the next tip.

Tip #2: Send each attendee an email inviting them to come to your booth

Make sure this email is attractive, creative, and personal. Try to whet their appetite. What great promotional item do you have on offer? What’s your fun theme? Are you giving out free beer? Whatever it is, let them know that you want them to come and see you.

Tell attendees where your booth will be located, what’s in it for them, and why they should look for you. If you have enough lead time before the show, you can even send more than one email.

Tip #3: Send a direct mail piece which mirrors the email

This direct mail piece should match the theme of your booth. I like this direct mail piece to be either a postcard (so they don’t have to open it to see it) or a personal card. If you make this direct mail piece impactful, you’ll see returns in better attendance at your booth.

During the Trade Show

Tip #4: Send great people (and people who are familiar with your sales process.)

It’s essential that the people manning your booth know the product or service you provide, and that they are comfortable selling at the booth. Often companies just put “warm bodies” at the booth, or send people who aren’t familiar with the sales process. This detracts from the credibility of the company. So, to get the most return on your investment in the trade show, be thoughtful about who will be staffing your booth.

Tip #5: Have a theme

Let’s be honest. Trade shows can be a little … monotonous. Creating an attractive and memorable theme for your booth (ideally one that’s aligned with or somehow reinforces what makes your company unique) will make you stand out among the long rows of the Trade Show Masses. In addition, having a theme can help you plan out how to dress and what to hand out, making your trade show planning process go more smoothly (and more fun, too!)

Tip #6: Bring a great handout

With this, you want to have a plan too! Handouts, done well, can drive traffic to the booth. Great, thoughtful, and useful gifts have an impact that lasts long after the show is done. If you choose to bring the same old promotional items as everyone else, that pen with your logo in it is going to end up at the bottom of the trade show bag, and might never come out again.

It’s up to you… think about the audience, the item, and its impact. Stuck for ideas? Call a promotional consultant, who can help you think this through. (If you don’t have a promotional consultant, please let us at Hasseman Marketing know! We would love to help.)

Tip #7: Have a VIP Gift

Sometimes at a trade show, one of your current customers will stop by the booth. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a big deal about their business and to thank them with a special VIP gift.

You also might have leads that you have a connection with or who show a real interest in your product or service. This is a great time to reach below the table and get out a VIP gift.

For a current customer, you might say: “Stan, I really appreciate your business and for taking the time to stop and see me today. I am not giving this to everyone, but please take this as a small token of my appreciation.”

With a prospect, the conversation might go like this: “Janice, I think we are on the same page. I know you have a lot of folks you want to see today, but I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. I am not giving these to everyone, but please take this and I will follow up with you after the show.”

These VIP gifts should be something a little nicer than what you’re handing out to everyone, and you don’t need hundreds of them. Used sparingly, they leave a big impression on your special contacts and customers, making them feel like the VIP’s they are!

After the Trade Show

What’s the secret to trade show success?

It’s what happens once you get back to the office.

The fortune is in the follow-up.

Tip #8: Follow Up Quickly with Email

Truthfully, email follow-ups are really just the bare minimum, but it’s an essential step. Make sure you have a rock-solid system in place to follow up with everyone that stopped by your booth. Thank them for coming, and remind them who you are and what you do.

Trade show attendees meet a lot of people in a short period of time, so do your best to remind them of you. If you remember the conversation it would be great to reference it in the personal email you send.  Time is of the essence. The sooner after the show you follow up, the more you convey that you and your company are “on it!”

Tip #9: Follow Up with a Card

Everyone sends emails. You should send a card. It’s a really nice personal touch. Now, I understand, if you need to contact thousands of people this might not be a realistic goal. If you can’t send a card, consider at least sending a direct mail postcard. This is one more way to get across their desk and to remind them of your awesomeness. The personal card, when appropriate can REALLY make you stand out!

If the idea of writing, stamping, and sending all of those cards makes you squeamish, look into automated ways of doing it. At Hasseman Marketing, we use a system called Send Out Cards. It’s perfect for personal follow-ups like these.

Tip #10: Follow Up with a Call

You probably saw this coming. Now it’s time to call them. After going through this process, a call is a great way to make the final personal touch. It’s time to reel them in!

So there you go…these are my top 10 trade show tips to ensure success.

Depending on how many emails you send in the email steps, if you follow all my tips you will have “touched” each prospect between 7 and 12 times. Studies show it takes, on average, 7 touches before a prospect buys … so follow all 10 tips and you’ve done a complete job!

It’s not rocket science, but to make the most of your investment in a trade show you need to have a plan.

As always, we want to provide you with value.  So if you want to create marketing campaigns (and appreciation gifts) that hit the TARGET, check out our TARGET marketing playbook here.

Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.