Trade Show Marketing in Today’s Economy

By Dave Jentz, Vice President, Exhibit Systems,

Trade shows are the best place to discover the latest trends in your industry, launch new product and learn about the latest technical innovations. Trade Shows are great ways to get your products and services in front of your potential customers. Face-to-face selling, hands-on demonstrations and networking are still some of the best opportunities to expand your client base and to grow your business. Given today’s challenging economic times, it’s a good time to review your trade show marketing plans and get the most out of your resources.

First a few of the latest facts concerning the trade show industry from the past year, according to Trade Show Week

  • Net square footage of floor space has increased
  • Number of exhibitors has increased
  • Slight decrease in the number of attendees, a 1.3% drop
  • While some shows have been cancelled, there have been several new shows launched in the past year

It is very important to evaluate the shows you’re interested in. Do a little research. Is the show the correct one for your product? Find out how it was attended last year and who is exhibiting. If your competition is there, don’t you think you should be there too? However, if there’s some question about exhibiting due to budget cuts, think twice about it. A cutback in the size and scope of your exhibit is far better than not being there at all. Your absence would be conspicuous and would send a poor message to your customers.

It is also important to know your customers. These are the people who will be attending. When you’re on the show floor, try not to talk only with your old friends in the industry, but stretch out and meet some new people.

Lately companies have been sending fewer people to trade shows. The combined costs of airfare, hotels and food always seem to be going up. Although there may be fewer attendees at the shows, the ones that are there are more qualified to talk business. While exhibiting at a trade show, you can expect to meet an average of 6-10 customers per day. That’s pretty good when you think that you don’t have to travel to their location to make your sales pitch.

Getting the attendees to stop by your booth is the next challenge. Give them a reason to find you. You can send pre-show mailings, e-mail blasts and use social media to let these potential clients know that you have a new product to showcase, or that you have special show pricing or are giving away valuable prizes. And when they are in your booth, make sure your exhibit is well-designed and serves your needs.

Don’t forget, you should have well -trained staff in the booth, looking presentable and ready to engage. Remind them that there is no eating in the booth, and to keep their cell phones on vibrate.  Use chairs only if you’re meeting with someone personally. 

A critical element to the success of your show is to follow-up your leads after the show.  If the show offers the badge scanners, it’s a good idea to pay a little extra and rent one. You’ll get a printout and a digital file so you can add the names to your mailing list back at the office.

Trade shows are still a very good method of finding new clients, reacquainting yourself with existing clients and building your network of leads and venders. Nothing can beat the handshake when it comes to doing business today.   


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