How to make a big splash at a trade show

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1. Pick the right trade shows

Empty trade show booth, symoblizing failed trade show marketing by a small business owner who should look at Words at Work for better ways to market a product or service in a tradeshow.
Not sure what to put in your trade show space? We can tell you how to create an eye-catching trade show booth, based on proven trade show strategies and tactics, that will stand out from all the rest for a fraction of what you expect to pay.

Big ones are often the best, but not always. Most of the trade shows that offer you a world stage occur in Europe. Trade shows in the United States can be big but not international enough to open world market doors for you. Visit the trade show website and scan through the exhibitors. (If they don't list exhibitors, don't go). See how many might be your competitors. (If none are, don't go.)

Look for figures on how many exhibitors and visitors the last show attracted. And what countries they were from. Find out if the show has a Press Chief for the media. (If they don't have one, don't go.) Or let us do all that work for you, just one more reason why we are called the Trade Show Guides.

2. Make a great first impression

The first thing any prospect will see is your trade show booth. So invest in it. Use a professional graphic designer and freelance writer. They will make sure your booth is eye-catching enough to pass the walk-by glance test. But three words of caution:

  • often less is more when it comes to trade show booth design
  • the bigger the booth, the more it costs to transport and set up
  • limiting the footprint of your booth will limit your space rental costs

3. Budget for trade show publicity

Retain a trade show publicist (you can ask for government funding). The publicist will raise your brand and product awareness at the show. And help you reach an audience around the world who weren't even at the show. The publicist will prepare and distribute your news releases. These releases focus on announcing what you're bringing to the show that's new. (Surveys show finding out what is new is the #1 reason why potential buyers attend trade fairs).

And if you can't think of what's new with your product or services, the publicist will help you find it. The publicist will also help you generate a series of news releases after the show. Ones that will keep your brand and innovations visible to the world for a year until the next show. And we have one of the best in the business: Andy Shaw.

4. Send your best people

The moment of truth comes when someone stops at your trade show booth. Make sure your greeter is a "people" person who is good one-on-one and knows your product inside out. Don't send anyone who will bore or confuse a prospect with a lot of jargon and terminology. Always staff your booth with two or more people. And not all men. Don't assume that you'll make a sale by handing out a brochure. Make sure your representatives know how to turn any visit into a sales opportunity.

5. Take the appropriate product and samples

Trade show visitors do not have a lot of patience for long-winded product descriptions. A short demonstration or video is always better. Remember: Seeing is believing.

6. Ensure those trade show booth contents arrive on time

Ensure everything you need for the trade show arrives on time. Expert help on freight transit guidelines are available from the trade fair organizer and your international freight forwarder. It's smart to build in time for slow-downs and remember to ask about import restrictions or any requirements to supply special documentation.

7. Set measurable targets for your show

It's not enough to attend the trade show. You need to set and meet revenue-related goals, such as new business introductions, requests for quotes and agreements to follow-up. This means your work on the trade show could last months or even years after the trade fair is over.

8. Use English in your sales literature

English is the universal language of the world's major trade shows. But if your product has marketability in countries where other languages are spoken, make sure someone staffing your booth can speak that language.

9. Follow up every lead as soon as you get home

History shows that many exhibitors miss out on sales because they failed to follow up soon after. Remember: even the hottest leads cool fast.

Andy Shaw, an expert in trade show marketing, presented courtesy of Words at Work, the best Toronto ad agency specializing in small business marketing and advertising, including social media advertising and marketing and video marketing.

Thanks to Andy Shaw for helping develop this content

Disclaimer     Last updated July 2018

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