Use these pre-trade show marketing ideas before the trade show to ensure quality booth traffic for more sales leads.

Trade show marketing ideas can help any small business owner or marketer. The promotional activities you execute prior to the show date are almost as important as marketing activities are done during the show.

These pre-trade show marketing ideas and the trade show marketing plan must be started well in advance of the show (about 8 to 12 weeks).

They are often lost in the stampede of the marketing manager’s other day-to-day marketing campaigns and projects. Nonetheless, experienced marketing managers know the importance of pre-show promotion, and we’ll take the time to get it done.

You spent time and money on the best trade show booth. Now your goal shifts.

The goal of pre-show promotion is simple. You want to let show visitors know about your product and your company, by giving them just enough information about both, so they remember your company when they’re at the show.

As a show exhibitor, you can obtain a mailing list of registered show attendees from the trade shows professional management, to send out mailing (both hard copy and email) time to arrive approximately one and a half weeks before the trade show date.

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A pre-show mailing is the most effective way to get the word out on your company and its product before the trade show, by reaching attendees in the relative peace and quiet of their own offices.

By printing your company sales message in the mind of your prospects ahead of the show, you give your company a better chance of cutting through the noise and confusion created by the hundreds of other companies who will be competing for attention once the show is on their way.

All you need to accomplish with pre-show promotion is to make the show attendees mildly aware of your company and your product, so when they see your booth at the show you will know a little more about you than they do about the other companies around you.

Pre-trade show marketing ideas: Trade show postcard mailings

The best-printed marketing deliverable to use for a pre-show mailing is a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 wide color glossy postcard, mailed to the shows mailing list by first class mail so it arrives approximately one and a half weeks before the first day of the trade show.

This allows just enough time for your prospect to see your postcard before the show, without arriving so early that your prospect will forget about it by the time they arrived at the trade show.

best trade shows

Key postcard elements

The sales copy benefits and features used in your pre-show promotion postcard is to give prospects just enough information about your company’s product in bulleted form so that some key benefits or features will stick in the mind of your prospect when he’s walking down your aisle at the show.

Your postcard should contain these elements:

  • Show name and date. Let the prospect know that your postcard retains to his upcoming attendance at the show, which is already important to him because it’s on his travel schedule
  • Your booth number. This is important and obvious, but it’s surprising how many marketers forget to print their company’s booth number on pre-show promotion deliverables. How your prospects where your company will be at the show, so they’ll know where to find you
  • Sales headline on the front of the card. As with any direct mail piece, leave the front of your card with your products main sales benefit
  • Bulleted sales benefits and product features. Put enough of your product’s key sales benefits and product features on the reverse side of the card to tease the reader, by briefly describing your company, its product, and their benefits to the prospect. Set the key benefits in boldface type, so they stand out from the rest of the text, and are skim-readable.
  • Contact info, website, and booth number. Put your company’s phone number, web address, and email address on the back of the card, so prospects who are very interested in your product can check out your company in advance of the show. Repeat the name of the show and your company’s booth number on this address block
  • Free premium. Optionally, you can offer the postcard recipient a free sample of your company’s product, or some other free gift or premium, when they visit your booth at the show.

When specifying a trade show postcard to your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant, think of it as a quick reading, condensed version of your company’s larger, standard product sales brochure. In fact, when you’re writing the outline or spec for your agency, you can lift and adapt key benefits to another sales copy from your sales brochure and use it on the postcard.

Timing and execution

With a generous allowance for scheduling, if you allow one week for printing, one week in your letter shop, and one week for arrival to attendees, your postcard artwork should be completed by your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant, and ready for the printer 4 1/2 weeks before the date of the show.

This will ensure that your postcard will arrive approximately one and a half weeks before the trade show date.

Email campaigns: Emailing trade show announcements to existing sales prospects

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Pre-trade show marketing ideas like email campaigns are perfect for trade show marketing.

Trade shows are a unique opportunity for your sales reps to me with our existing sales prospects and close sales at the show.

It’s likely that many of your company’s existing prospects and customers, whose contact information is already stored in your sales and marketing database, will also be attending the show.

In addition to mail in your pre-show promotional postcard, you should also plan to send out an HTML format email announcement to this group of prospects and customers in your sales database.

The announcement should take the form of an invitation from your sales rep to the prospective customer to visit your company’s booth at the trade show. It requires extra programming on the part of your web staff, but the email invitation should, if possible, personally address to the prospect in the body of the email message.

Like printed postcards, email promotional invitation should be sent to your current prospecting customer’s list so they arrive approximately 1 1/2 weeks before the show date.

You may also be tempted to send these email messages to the attendee list you receive from the trade show management, it’s not a good idea since attendees are likely to view your messages unsolicited spam email. It’s not a good pre-trade show marketing idea.

Advertising and trade show dailies

Some of the largest trade shows, such as CES, publish dailies, newspaper format publications distributed to attendees once during the show. Although this is an added promotional opportunity for your company, show dailies aren’t read by many attendees at the show, and they probably aren’t worth the extra expense compared to postcard mailings or other targeted show marketing activities.

Sometimes trade show exhibitors are given a free ad placement in the show daily or show guide, which is included in the booth space rental for the show. If this is the case for you, or if you’ve decided to pay the extra cost to advertise in the show daily, spec out a basic tombstone ad for this placement opportunity.

Because they are being handed out to readers who are more preoccupied with attending the show than reading your ad, ads for show dailies and other printed show guides contain a lot of sales copy text. Just print your company name, logo, 4-5 sales bullet points, your company contact info, and booth number.

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Printed marketing collateral for trade shows

As you prepare for your trade show, your pre-trade show marketing ideas should include the print marketing deliverables for your company sales reps to hand out at the trade show.

If your company is exhibiting at a major trade show with thousands of attendees, handing out thousands of copies of your company’s high-end four-color 11 by 17 sales brochure could become a big expense.

I recommend that the sales reps actually take a business card or use a scanner and send an email guiding them to their website or landing page to download any sales kits after the show. It’s another touchpoint that will help you build a relationship with that potential lead.

Single sheet flyers

A lower-cost alternative is a single sheet flyer highlighting your company’s product, or a series of flyers, each covering a specific product, or group of products. These one-sided flyers can be printed in 4 color on gloss stock for a relatively low price, that quantities of at least 5,000 copies.

These flyers are inexpensive enough so you can place a stack of them out on the table of your trade show booth for show attendees to pick up as a pass by your booth. You can then reserve a stash of your company’s higher quality sales brochures for sales reps to give to the more qualified prospects they speak to at the show.

You can also produce other types of single-sheet flyers to address certain aspects of your product sales benefits, functionality, or applications. For example, you could produce a Q&A flyer to answer the most asked questions for your company’s product, or series of single sheet application profile flyers to highlight the most common ways a prospect would use your product.

Here, the idea is to have an inexpensive printed piece that a sales rep can hand out in your booth, on the spot, when the prospect asks the question answered by the flyer.

Prospect inquiry coupon

Produce printed coupons for show attendees to fill in to receive additional information on your company’s products.

One type of card layout that works here is a perforated card that represents your company’s basic promotional information on half, and the feeling portion of the prospect’s contact info on the other half.

Your prospects fill in the card, dropped it off at your booth, and keeps a promotional half of the card.

These cards can also be used in combination with other marketing tactics like encourage people to sign up for a contest drawing, attend a show event, to provide an extra incentive for people to fill out their information and create an opportunity to meet.

Trade show premiums and drawings

When making pre-trade show marketing ideas and preparations, consider what, if any, trade show incentives to provide to attendees who visit your booth at the show.

These generally fall into two categories:

  • Show premiums are giveaways imprinted with your company’s logo, hand it out to anyone who visits the booth—t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, etc.
  • Show drawings are for more expensive items that a lucky attendee wins if they fill out and drop off one of your prospect inquiry cards, or dropped their business card into a fishbowl at your booth. If they win the drawing, either at the end of each show day or at the end of the entire show, they win the prize.

Many marketers feel obligated to hand out freebies and other premiums to anyone who visits their booth. These giveaways do nothing to help you collect mailing list information from interested prospects, and attract the kind of show visitor who goes from booth to booth, trolling for free stuff, and who aren’t really interested in your product.

If you’d like to hand out some premium giveaway items, by all means, do so—but only for attendees who provided contact info for your drawing.

A trade show drawing is a much better marketing incentive, in that there’s an equal exchange between your company in the prospect. You get the prospect’s contact info, and the prospect gets a chance to win the item. You may end up with contacts who aren’t currently prospects for your company’s products, but some of them may become prospects after receiving one of your standards follow up mail things in the future.

Items used for trade show drawings needn’t be expensive. Generally, any hot, high-tech gadget or sporting item that can be purchased under $500 that motivates your prospects to fill out an inquiry coupon, or drop their business card in a fishbowl at the booth, will do.

Drawing table sign

If you’re having a drawing, you’ll also need an easel backed table sign, the place next to the fishbowl for the table in your booth.


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We’ve met their students, eaten in their dining halls, and uncovered their differentiators.

Wrap-Up about trade show marketing ideas

The pre-show promotion goal is simple: You want to let show visitors know about your products and your company, by giving them just enough information about both, so that they remember your company when you’re at the trade show.

The promotional activities you do before the trade show date are as important as the marketing tasks done well at the trade show.

Since trade show activities must often be started about 8 to 12 weeks, they can off and get lost in the marketing manager’s other day-to-day marketing tasks.

We’re listening.

Have something to say about pre-trade show marketing ideas? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

General FAQ’s

What is a trade show?

trade show is an event held to draw together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.

What is a reasonable trade show budget?

The average cost to attend tradeshows varies from show to show. The industry average to purchase an individual transportable trade show booth is $100-$150 per square foot for larger displays. For example, 20×20 displays would cost between $40,000 and $60,000. Exhibit Rentals are about 35% of the hardware purchase cost. A tradeshow is expensive but can also have a considerable benefit if done right.

What to do as a rep attending a trade show?

Here are 7 proven tips.
1. Prepare 4 – 7 engaging questions before the show.
2. Create the right first impression.
3. Encourage visitors to want to spend time with you.
4. Be friendly, listen, and always be helping.
5. Build rapport.
6. Ask questions that stimulate thought and encourage conversation.
7. Follow-up.


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