Before you decide that a trade show is for you…
Before you decide to exhibit at a trade show do your research and make sure that you choose a show that will
bring you a good return on your investment.
Just because a trade show is in your area and has been advertised as addressing your target market, you need
to be sure that this is the best way forward for you, your company image and your brand.
• What other shows have they done?
• How are they going to market the show?
• Who are they going to bring in?
• What kind of advertising tools are they using? Newspapers? Direct mail? TV ads? Radio ads?
• What is their marketing plan? How much are they spending on marketing?
• Does the show you are interested in have a dedicated Web site?
• Is anyone registered or pre-registered to-date? Exhibitors? Attendees?
All this is important, because if you are going to spend the money to be at a show, you want some results. You
want a good ROI so you have to ask these hard questions.
If this is not a first time show, see previous exhibitor lists (usually available on the website along with
attendance). Some trade show organizers are even prepared to provide you with a list of attendees from the
previous year/s – not necessarily the actual names of attendees, but the companies that registered or attended
and the titles of the attendees.
If this is a first time show, you can expect that the turnout will not be as good as predicted and that there many
be empty or unsold stands. If you really feel that this show will be attractive to your target audience, make sure
that you negotiate a good deal with the organizer – possibly including a rebate if the attendance level are not as
high as those projected.
It is always a good idea to attend a show first to discover:
• What type of attendees and decision makers are actually there
• Are your clients or potential clients attending the trade show
• Are your competitors exhibiting and how do they seem to be doing
• What booths seem to attract the most visitors
• What would you do to attract the right people to your booth
By attending the first year, you can go to seminars, walk the floor, and pick up tradeshow materials from
exhibitors. Doing your homework will pay off in the long run, and go a long way in planning a solid exhibit the
next year. If you should decide that exhibiting is your best option, keep these Tradeshow Musts in mind to
maximize your tradeshow budget.
7 Tradeshow Musts…
1 → Define Your Show Objective
Describe in quantitative terms what you expect to gain from exhibiting. Are you after brand awareness? Are you
launching a new product or demoing an existing one? For example, you should have a clear idea of the number
of samples you want to hand out at your booth, or a sales goal you want to reach by the last day. If you are not
allowed to sell on the floor, maybe you need to sign up 3 new reviewers to send your product to when you get
back. Or maybe you want to lead a focus group with at least 20 attendees. Whatever your goal is, carefully plan
your objectives and execution before hand.
2 → Clearly Display Your Brand and Message
It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to look sharp at a tradeshow, but you need to think about what is
essential to your image. Your booth space and design is a reflection of your company and brand, and needs to
“look the part”. Will your message for the audience be clear?
Do you need posters, banners, sales sheets? How will your booth personnel be dressed? Think from the
perspective of the attendees, and pay attention to the exhibitors that make the best impression on you. A
cohesive look portrays a professional image and a company that cares about being at this tradeshow.
3 → Give Attendees a Reason to Visit Your Booth
Examine the possibility of securing an attendee list prior to the show to launch your pre-show marketing plan.
Invite your clients to visit you at the show. Contact potential clients and make an appointment with them during
show hours. Take a look at investing in a “stuffer” to be placed in all attendee bags - announce a show special,
prize drawings, focus groups, etc.
If these are in your budget, do your best to pick prime placement for your booth, and do everything you can to
make your booth a desirable stop. Once visitors are there, you need to keep them interested beyond grabbing
the free pens off the table - pull them in for a demo, ask them to answer a survey for a prize, let them talk about
what they are looking for & LISTEN.
4 → Put Your Best Foot Forward
Depending on the focus of your exhibit, you may need sales oriented folks, or someone who is involved in
product development. Everyone at the booth should be able to provide a synopsis of the company, the
products / services and particularly the product / service that you are highlighting at the show. Make sure they
know what is expected in way of your goals, that they are clear on the booth setup, and that they are prepared to
collect information from the attendees – not only business cards, but information on what they are interested in
thereby making the follow-up personal and targeted to their needs.
If you send more than one person to man the booth, someone should take the time to walk the floor, to check
out the competition, and scope out strategic alliances. If they spot an existing client or someone that you may be
interested in making a client, this person must be confident to approach these persons, introduce themselves
and lead them back to your booth.
5 → Get & Stay in Touch with Attendees after the Show
Most of the effort that goes into a tradeshow comes at the front end, deciding on the show, the right message,
the best booth design, graphics etc… By the time the show is over, most people are exhausted and proud they
made it through the whole experience in one piece. Unfortunately the battle is only half over, and it’s this last half
that leads to sales.
• Plan Ahead for Follow Up
Without an effective plan to guide you, you may get overwhelmed. Before you go to the show plan on
exactly what your method will be to follow up with prospects. Are you sending a letter? Phoning them? A
predetermined plan effectively not only forces you into a follow-up routine, it will also help you in gathering
information from trade show attendees which are your potential clients.
• Follow Up Immediately
The only way to get a good response is to follow up immediately with prospects. The longer you wait the
less likely you are to be remembered. And that initial contact sets you apart from everyone else at the show.
• Segment Your Leads, Follow Up Accordingly
Email all booth attendees who provided contact information (regardless of whether we think they are good
prospects or not) within 48 hours.
o Say "Thank You" for stopping by your booth
o Extend the offer of the trade show
o Offer your product/service solutions
If you've done the trade show properly, you should have notes about certain hot prospects...what they want,
a general overview of their company, connections that you've made and important things to do – especially
if you’ve promised to send them a report, a white paper, etc. Separate these from the rest of the leads and
start with these first. If you have indeed made that connection at the trade show, you will likely be
remembered. Something most trade show exhibitors forget is that not all leads can or should be followed-
up in the same way. Prioritize them.
Call the most serious prospects first. You should follow-up with theses within 48 hours of the show by email
or phone. If you opted for a first contact by e-mail, state that you will be following up with a call to arrange
Most importantly, do not disqualify a lead or prospect without making contact. Some people are just not
comfortable discussing their business or future objectives in a public forum and may become a serious
prospect after just one call.
• Have an Actionable Item for Turn Down’s
Obviously you want all your leads to immediately buy your product or service, but that isn’t realistic. There
should be an alternative to purchase, such as a web cast, whitepaper, or other offering that will keep
prospects engaged. By nurturing these leads after the tradeshow is over, you’ll keep them around until they
are ready to purchase.
6 → Trade Show ROI
Consider that each trade show lead has a cost, a cost you have already spent. If you spend $5000 on your
trade show and came away with 500 leads, then every lead cost you $10. If on average you convert 25% of
those leads, then each new customer cost you $50. On the other hand, if you don't manage your trade show
leads and 75% of them aren't followed up on quickly; your conversion can cost you four times as much $200!
7 → Trade Show Evaluation
In addition to following up with leads obtained at your trade show, one of the most important post show activities
is to conduct a post show analysis. By answering some basic questions you will identify things that will help you
when planning future events. Some of the key questions to ask are:
• What worked? What didn't?
• Was the booth functional?
• Was it in the right location?
• Was this right for our business?
• Did we meet the right people?
• What did we learn from others?
• What did we learn about the competition?
• Did we achieve our objectives?
At some point you will be able to call the effect of the trade show complete and measure your results against
your initial objectives. This is when you have exhausted all leads and closed all the business that has resulted
directly from the trade show itself. If you kept good records of this activity, you should now be able to evaluate
the effects of this particular show. After all, if you are going to put this much work and money into anything, don't
you want to make sure that it's worth it?
Although ROI is one of the ways to measure your success, you should always consider the other benefits as
well. These benefits can include establishing your brand, community awareness, educating the public and
building new relationships and alliances with other companies. You will have to do your own analysis on these
Good luck in making the most of your tradeshow investment to bring in customers, sales and to drive brand
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Modal Consulting Inc; www.modal.biz.