Marketing Services Blog

Trade Show Marketing Strategy: More than Just Dinner and a Show (Part 1 of 3)

Trade shows are a unique form of marketing that generally gets sales teams licking their chops at the thought of hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of pre-qualified prospects in the same room for three solid days. And to a large degree this is true. Trade show marketing presents an extremely targeted venue in which to further your marketing strategy – be it to drive sales, generate leads, increase brand awareness, or all of the above.


trade show marketing strategyHowever, it is important to note a few caveats to this banquet of potential. First, the room is typically quite large and very crowded. Second, your competition will likely be attending the feast as well. And third, the so-called “pre-qualified prospects” may not all be Grade A quality. Thus, it is imperative that any company considering trade show marketing put forth the due diligence to ensure show objectives can be met and a desired return on investment can be achieved.


This three-part blog will touch on the three critical areas of trade show marketing –


Part 1: Pre-Trade Show Planning

Part 2: At-Show Strategies

Part 3: Post-Trade Show Marketing


Pre-trade show planning & marketing is the most complex and critical of all. Trade show planning begins with proper show selection, which is more important now than ever as budgets have tightened and the demand for good returns has risen. Adequate research and analysis of show attendance is key to the development of meaningful show objectives. Realistic budgeting provides the foundation for accurate ROI calculation.


Once it is determined that a show is worth attending, it is important to develop objectives for the show; what is the end result of attending the show? You need to make sure the team understands these objectives. Pre-show planning is also critical – Who is on the team? What is their role? What is the budget? It is suggested that you have regular team meetings month ahead of time. 

Creating a pre-trade-show marketing strategy to drive traffic to your booth is the next step – this is much like a retailer drives traffic to their stores. Your message should speak directly to that show’s attendees, and should translate well to exhibit design all the way through post-show marketing. Pre-Show Marketing tactics can include direct mail, e-mail/e-newsletters, social media, print advertising, and in the best case, securing editorial content in industry-supporting publications. 


This pre-show marketing is critical. It typically makes the difference between a successful show or not. You should communicate messages to your customers, potential customers and trade press editors; inviting them to the show. You can generate target lists of potential customers via several online database tools. Don’t think you are saving money by skipping this step. There are free means to spread the word too, for example, posting the message to your web site and as the footer of your emails. 


Finally, quality exhibit design is essential to stand out on the show floor, and trends toward a more open, uncluttered space with a clear message. Some very important considerations for exhibit design are shipping and labor costs. There are many options today that are lightweight, simple to install and dismantle, and still are able to make a tremendous impact on the show floor.


Look for our next blog where we will discuss At-Show Strategies that are critical to trade show marketing success.


Part 2 of 3 – At-Show Strategies & Activities


Part 3 of 3 – Post-Trade Show Sales Strategies & Measurement


Need trade show marketing ideas or trade show marketing services? Click here to read the Trade Show Marketing Strategy e-book, or contact John Kallmeyer in Visual Marketing Services at 440-449-6800 for more information.

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