CMO or marketing manager may benefit from trade show marketing.

Trade show marketing may be a great fit for your marketing and sales activities.

I’ve spent millions on trade shows over the years. And if you don’t do it right it can cost you money and creditability with your sales team quickly.

Good execution is even more critical in trade shows then with other marketing strategies in your marketing plan. But there is no time slippage allowed.

All of the activities associated with orchestrating a successful trade show appearance for your company include:

  • design
  • development
  • production

Production of your company’s booth, printed materials, pre-show promotion, and the logic of the trade show, must be planned, executed and coordinated. So they all come together in time for the first day of the show.  

A day’s delay on any one of these items can be a major embarrassment. A week late, the value of most trade show deliverables falls to zero.

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What is trade show marketing?

Trade show marketing refers to an exhibition (or trade fair) where companies in a specific industry showcase and demonstrate their new products and services. Trade shows usually are only open to those people who register, company representatives, or members of the media.

Why is trade show marketing important?

Trade shows are important because they offer you a venue to market to your target customers and then sell your product to those same target customers. However, these initial leads and sales will take time to nurture. The sales cycle is dependent on industry, business cycles, and sales complex.

What are the benefits of trade shows?

Here are some of the top benefits of attending trade shows:

  • Raise brand awareness.
  • Forge business relationships. 
  • Highly targeted leads.
  • Competitor analysis.
  • Education.

Trade shows: where markets come alive

tradeshow marketing technology

For a few days every year, an industry’s major trade show is a place where its markets come to life. At a trade show, companies, products, competitors, prospects, and customers visit your booth. They aren’t names scribed on a whiteboard or words and pictures in a brochure.

They’re living, breathing people working their booths and walking the aisles. Walk around any trade show floor in any industry and you’ll see markets at work. Sales reps and executives at hundreds of companies, vying for the attention of thousands of potential buyers attending the trade show.

Trade shows provide opportunities to present and sell products in ways that can’t be duplicated by advertising, email campaigns, direct mail, or other forms of marketing. A successful trade show appearance has launched many successful young companies.

And for certain types of businesses in certain industries, such as wholesale suppliers to retail markets, where a company gets its major sales orders for most of its annual business in a few days. So trade shows are a make-or-break sales opportunity for some companies.

Trade shows can be an essential part of any marketing campaign. They are a great opportunity for generating buzz with the trade show attendees, generating brand awareness, building relationships, and getting qualified leads.

Trade shows keep marketing manager sharp

As a marketing manager, trade shows are an invaluable experience because they put you face to face with your own prospects and customers. The very people who will see the ads, email campaigns, mailings, and other deliverables in your marketing program. A trade show is the one marketing event where your prospects come to see you and to hear what your company has to say about its products.

The marketing manager should work a trade show booth just as their company sales reps do. They should be speaking to interested prospects and presenting your company’s product or service. There’s no better way for you to learn the features and attributes of your company’s product or service that are the most (or at least) compelling. And how best to present these attributes, then by talking to prospects at your company’s next trade show.

As you present your company’s product to many different prospects during the show. You find that your sales presentation gets better and better, as you refine it. Bases this on how your prospects respond.

Giving sales presentations directly to prospects at a trade show can make a tremendous improvement in how you develop your company’s marketing programs and deliverables.

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By interacting with real prospects, and assessing the response to each of the product sales benefits and features you present. You learn the best sales approach to use in your online advertising in direct sales copy. And how your products sales copy and product featured descriptions should be presented and positioned in your company’s marketing deliverables.

Performers always say there’s nothing like a live audience, and for marketing managers, there’s nothing like talking to real prospects to help you keep your products marketing message on target.

Like other marketing activities, there’s no mystery to trade shows, just good planning, effective presentation, and solid execution. In my next few posts, I’ll be covering all the aspects you’ll need to know to successfully execute any trade show project for your company.

Locating the best trade shows in your market

In every industry, there’s always seems to be more trade shows that a company could ever afford to attend in a year. There’s also a great tendency for sales and marketing types in your company, who enjoy the travel and excitement associated with trade shows, to push you to exhibit at every show.

The experienced chief marketing officer (CMO) knows that most of the sales potential in any market comes from the top one or two trade shows in an industry. And they will only focus their trade show activities on these top industry events.

Trade shows seem to follow the same pattern as trade publications. There are usually no more than two major trade publications that offer the best, advertising coverage in each industry. The same goes for trade show marketing. There is usually just one or two major trade shows each year that represents the best sales opportunities for your company.

We get a lot of business cards at tradeshows, but they never turn into closed business.

And, because of their busy work schedules and the added travel expense, most of the potential customers in your industry will also limit their attendance to the one or two major trade shows in your field.

If you’ve worked in your industry a while, you already know which trade shows are the best sales and marketing opportunities for your company. However, if your recently hired chief marketing officer who’s new to the industry or you’re launching a new product in a new market, you can locate the best trade show opportunities by checking the following sources:

  • Your company’s sales reps talk to prospects and customers every day, so they know the top one or two shows the prospects and customers attend each year
  • Trade association contacts, such as member directors, are usually well-connected in their industries, and we’ll point you in the industry’s best trade show in their fields
  • Major trade publications in your industry feature advertising an editorial announcements about coming trade shows in your company’s marketplace. Flipping through a Year’s Worth of industry-leading trade publications will help you build the list of top trade show opportunities
  • Using internet search what keywords like the industry keywords, regional areas you may want to attend in, etc.
    Your competitors in any new market have usually sniffed out the best trade shows, and will be in attendance there

Here are some trade show resources:

Trade show timing and planning

When scheduling a trade show project for your company, it’s important to realize that most shows require very long lead-time. Sometimes at least 6 months (and, usually 12 months) to plan in advance of the show date. This means that any trade show producers require you to reserve a booth at least 6 to 12 months in advance.

Start all trade show production at least 60 days in advance. Because you must reserve a trade show booth months before the show. The production of many of the associated marketing deliverables required for your show has long-lead times.

This includes your trade show display backdrop, signage, collateral, and other marketing materials. These often get pushed to the back burner in the intervening months between the time you sign your company up for the trade show and your trade show date.

What usually happens next is that execution of important trade show projects, such as the design and production of your booth backdrop, becomes a mad scramble just a few weeks before the show.

Avoid this by starting your trade show execution activities at least 60 days before the show date. This allows plenty of time for you and your digital marketing agency or marketing consultant to put some quality work into all the marketing deliverables associated with a show. Without turning it into an unnecessary fire drill.

Evaluating tradeshow opportunities

Once you identify the top trade shows in your field, contact the producers of the show’s and ask for their exhibitor sales kits. These are often found on their company websites in PDF format so they’re easy to download. You can get a lot of the basic information you need, such as rates, last year’s attendees, etc.  Helpful data.

Here are the questions you need to ask your trade shows sales rep:

  • Number of the mix of attendees. How many people attended last year’s trade show? How does attendance look for the current show? What types of individuals, by title, attend the trade show? If you asked for it, many show sponsors will send you, free of charge, a printout or electronic file of their last year’s attendee list, showing only the job titles and company names for all attendees. This gives you a good idea of the mix of attendees. Whether or not attendees at the show match the types of prospects you’re trying to reach with your company’s marketing program
  • Other exhibitors. Who else is exhibiting at the trade show? You can get a list of last year’s exhibitors from the show’s producers’ website. And your sales rep can tell you these exhibitors who’ve already signed up for the upcoming trade show. ?If the major corporate players in your industry will be exhibiting at the show, this usually indicates that a show is worthwhile. And if your competitors are going to be at the show, then your company should probably be there too.
  • Conference program content. Review the shows conference show guide, which outlines the content being covered at the show conference. Now is a good time to ask your trade show sales rep for the name of the person at his company who handles speaker selection of their conference sessions. Do this since there may be opportunities to get your company’s key executives as conference speakers at the trade show.
  • Rates and availability. Of course, you need to find out how much it cost to rent booth space at the show, and what booth space is available. Trade shows produced by trade associations often have higher booth space rents for non-members versus members. So you’ll have to consider whether or not it’s cheaper, or more advantageous, for your company to join the association to attend the show as an exhibitor.

Once you’ve nailed down the essential information on your company’s best show opportunities, and you made a decision to exhibit at the show, you can now move on to the next steps: producing your booth. I’ll cover this and more in my next posts.

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Wrap-Up

Whether you are a new startup, entering a new market segment, or an enterprise seeking to connect with prospects and customers. Attending a trade show will connect you with industry analysts and media. Help you generate sales leads, and generate brand positioning. If you want any of these, then trade show marketing is a must for you.

Moreover, trade show marketing requires a significant amount of resources to pull it off right. I’ve spoken to hundreds of companies that have gone to trade shows and just given up.

Most of the time the trade shows were perfect opportunities for them to generate sales opportunities and brand awareness. But it wasn’t because of the trade show or the attendees it was because of poor planning and execution.

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General FAQ’s

What is trade show marketing?

Trade show marketing refers to an exhibition (or trade fair) where companies in a specific industry showcase and demonstrate their new products and services. Trade shows usually are only open to those people who register, company representatives, or members of the media.


What are trade shows for?

A trade show, also called a trade fair, is a significant, industry-specific event used by businesses to promote and demonstrate new products and services. The goal of exhibiting at a trade show is to generate leads, make contacts and connections, and grow distribution channels.


What are the benefits of trade shows?

Here are some of the top benefits of attending trade shows:
– Raise brand awareness.
– Forge business relationships.
– Highly targeted leads.
– Competitor analysis.
– Education.


Are trade shows effective?

Yes — if it’s a good fit for your business. The trick to real success is to find the right tradeshow, to begin with. As with most marketing and PR strategies, defining your target market is the most important preliminary step to getting the most out of your trade show experience.

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