Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies.


Developing Your Annual Tradeshow Marketing Plan


By definition, a marketing plan details your current approach to spreading the word to the marketplace about your products or services. A tradeshow marketing plan is designed to coordinate your overall marketing plan with the various tradeshow appearances you have planned during the year.

Things are always changing. People come and go, as do customers. If you can focus on a calendar year, you can map out strategies and tactics that will then drop actions into quarters, months and particular shows.

Your tradeshow marketing plan should give each member of your marketing team an understanding of what steps will be handled by them to achieve your company’s objectives during the year.

By breaking the plan down into the following areas, your approach to planning each year’s tradeshow marketing plan should be easier and make sense.

  • By show – determine exactly what the overall goals are for each show. List the shows, the booth size, the expected booth personnel and potential audience. List the products and services that you’ll be promoting at that show.
  • Tactics – what will you be doing around the following areas for each show: pre-show marketing, public relations outreach, social media engagement and related content creation such as photos and videos.
  • Measureable results – what do you want out of the following areas? Samples given out, demos performed, in-booth attendance, leads generated.
  • Parameters set – create a plan that is focused and has realistic expectations.
  • Buy-in – once the plan is complete, have all staff and management sign off on the plan so that everyone knows what the expectations are.

A tradeshow marketing plan is an addendum of sorts to an overall marketing plan. Even if you have a good, solid marketing plan, breaking out your tradeshow marketing tasks and goals will help to make your overall marketing plan more effective.

Once the plan is in place, it can be used as a go-to source to make sure that you’re not forgetting something in the chaos of executing a tradeshow. So often it’s easy to let things slip away or be put aside when the show is underway. Then when you’re back in the office and you don’t have a particular piece of information, such as the number of booth visitors or how many people attended your demos, you’ll be kicking yourself for not making that happen. A plan will increase the chances of fully executing all the important tasks ahead of you at the tradeshow.


Evaluating your Tradeshow Competitors

There are a hundred reasons to exhibit at a tradeshow, and one of the best is to see what your competitors are doing. Everything they have for public consumption is on display and it’s a great thing!


Play spy and learn what you can from their appearance.

Not only are they showing off their new products and services, but their brand and people are all on display as well. If you put together a checklist it’s an easy task to rate those competitors and size them in relation to your company, as well as other competitors.

Prior to the show, create a list of those companies that you want to evaluate. This should be easy enough to do by examining the show website. Once you have your list, determine what you’d like to evaluate.

First, find out if the company did any pre-show marketing. If so, can you quantify or track it?

Next, rank their booth on a scale of 1-5, A-F, or whatever you’d like. Stand back from the booth so you can take it all in. Evaluate things such as:

  • Overall visual impact
  • Brand
  • Graphic messaging
  • Booth layout and functionability (did I just make that word up?)
  • Product(s) displayed
  • Meeting space

Make note of any activity in the booth. Are they doing anything in particular to draw traffic, such as a spinning wheel, special guest, or an interactive and engaging activity? Ask yourself if you think these activities are actually engaging potential customers or if it’s just gathering names and addresses that are ultimately not very useful, such as collecting business cards in a fishbowl for an iPad giveaway or something similar.

Are they giving anything away, such as imprinted pens, buttons, squish balls or flash drives?

Are the staffers branded in any way, such as branded shirts or silkscreened tee’s? Do those branded items clearly represent the brand and are they easily identifiable?

Are they giving away any samples or product materials?

If you are the kind of person that finds it easy to talk to other people (yeah, some of us are and some are not – I get it!), see what kind of corporate intel you can gather by chatting either with one of their employees, or with one of their competitors. This is where you might find out about personnel movement, corporate decisions, new products in the pipeline, or other pertinent information. Tradeshows are often rife with gossip.

Before wrapping up your competitor evaluation, check to see if any of their management is involved in any of the show presentations. If so, make a note of the topic and time and date.

Once the show is over, sit down with marketing and management and share the information. It may be an informal sharing over coffee, or it could be a formal report on what competitors you evaluated and what you learned. In any event, tradeshows are a great place to learn as much as you can about the market – so plan on using that opportunity to its greatest advantage.


SoYoung Custom Booth Makes Debut at Expo East

One of our newest clients, SoYoung from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, unveiled their new custom 10×10 booth to the public earlier this month at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD to great reviews.

“The show has been hopping and the booth is fantastic!” was the text I got from company owner Catherine Choi on day two of the show. She had a photographer come by to document the booth and products. Check out the gallery. And thanks to SoYoung – glad to have you as a new client!


It’s the Follow Up, Stupid!

In the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential Campaign, his advisors made sure the campaign talking points were focused on the economy. So much so that they held as their campaign mantra “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

It’s unimpeachable advice.


That is, to focus to sharply on one single element. Sure, they had to make sure that all other parts of the campaign were functioning well, but the economy was the overarching focus.

Focusing on making sure you follow up on your leads is as critically important.

The long-held statistic that 80% of all tradeshow leads are never followed up with may or may not be true (doubtful, actually), but what is true is that if you don’t follow up on those leads, you won’t sell anything to those potential clients.

In the course of lead generation and follow up, what’s really going on?

First, there are the methods of gathering leads. Make sure yours are effective.

Then, the leads must be graded in terms of Cool, Warm and Hot.

Third, the leads must contain information that allows the folks back in the office to follow up properly.

Fourth, they must be followed up in a timely manner, consistent with what was agreed to with the prospect.

And fifth, they MUST BE ACTED UPON!

It’s like they told me in junior high school: if you want to dance, you have to ask someone. You can’t just spend the entire dance standing in the shadows with all of the other folks scared to ask someone to dance.

Bring home the leads.

Follow up!


Booth Babes: Again, Why?

Looking for booth babes? Hmmm...let's try another booth!
Looking for booth babes? Hmmm…let’s try another booth!

I’ve seen several writers and new sources chime in recently on the controversy of hiring models, aka ‘booth babes’ at tradeshows to attract attention.

Here the CBC looks at the continuing controversy.

Fortune Magazine covers a story where the RSA Conference, a top tech conference in San Francisco, has banned those scantily clad girls.

The Geek Feminism Wiki describes what exactly is a ‘booth babe.’

The Infotainer, Anders Boulanger goes into it in a couple of places on his blog, and nails it.

I don’t have much add, except for a few questions for the marketing geniuses who think that hiring an attractive scantily-clad model is going to bring in more leads and close more business.

First, do the models represent the essence of what your company is all about? Do they really show off what your company is all about? Unless you’re a company that rents dancing girls, probably not. Instead, the girls tell attendees that you really don’t have a specific product or service that is more important than, well, scantily clad girls. How do you explain that to clients?

Do the scantily-clad women attract potential buyers? Doubtful. More likely they’re an eye-candy distraction that will probably repel (read: embarrass) true buyers and draw in only those who are there for a quick gander, who will then also be embarrassed and quickly retreat because they’re intimidated.

Do your ‘booth babes’ help convert prospects to buyers? Again, in most cases: NO. Spencer Chen has done the math in detail here, which is a brilliant takedown of the idea that booth babes will help bring you more customers, but suffice it to say that someone hired strictly for their ability to draw in a specific type of male attendee probably won’t do you any good in getting a potential buyer to convert to a client.

Finally, in today’s world where ‘booth babes’ are already a controversy, why in the world would you court controversy when you’re trying to increase leads and close more accounts?


Are You Ready For A New Exhibit?

How do you know when it’s time for your company to invest in a new exhibit? While the answer will vary from company to company, there are a number of common factors that can help answer that question.

Is your current exhibit old? In the exhibit world, a tradeshow booth is old somewhere between 5-7 years. Now, that doesn’t mean you should automatically replace your booth as soon as it hits that age, or if it’s older. But an older exhibit is a sign that it might be time to consider upgrading. Of course, some companies use the same exhibit for decades. Yup, seen it happen.


What do your main competitors’ booths look like? If your company has stayed put while most of your main competitors have invested in new booth properties, it can make you look a little old and out of touch. In some industries, that’s the touch of death. In others, not so much.

Has your company’s exhibit needs changed significantly? One client I worked with found that their target market had matured to the point they were no longer needing to display so many products, but instead needed to assist those distributors with other things. That meant downsizing the booth to accommodate those needs. If you have new products or services that are not getting the notice they deserve, that may mean an upgrade is needed.

Has your company grown significantly? Some companies need a booth to match their market presence, which means a larger booth. It also means keeping up with the Joneses.

Is your current exhibit stretching your shipping budget because it’s very heavy to ship? Shipping and drayage for wooden crates and booths can eat up a significant portion of your tradeshow marketing budget. Unless heavier materials such as wood and metal define your company’s looks, it’s worth considering a lighter approach. Fabric graphics, aluminum frames and structures and the like can significantly cut your shipping costs for years to come. With fabric graphics that are easily changed for different exhibiting needs, a new lightweight booth may be just what the doctor ordered.

Beyond these items, you may have another reason to put a new company tradeshow booth into place in the near future. I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment!


Mastering High Volume Traffic at the Trade Show Booth

This is a guest article by Todd Millet, known as Tradeshow Joe.

When was the last time you were managing a trade show booth with way more visitors than it would ever be possible to talk to at once? You probably already know how frustrating it can get. Even so, this is obviously a good situation for your business, and here is how to take full advantage.

Trade Show Booth Traffic

Acknowledge every visitor.

No matter how busy you are, it is essential to say hello to everyone who stops at your booth. A simple, “Hi, I’ll be right with you,” will keep your visitors from feeling ignored and lost in the crowd. The reassurance will help give them the patience to wait for you to help them out. This concept is even practiced inside many large corporate retail stores within specific niches, such as pet stores or sporting goods stores. Even on Black Friday, employees are commonly instructed to acknowledge every shopper, even if they have to wait a moment to be helped. This is shown to increase conversions in retail, and to the same effect, it can increase conversions at the trade show!

Provide self-help resources.

People are curious by nature. If you can provide ways to appeal to their curiosities, they will spend their waiting time learning about your company. They may even have a question in mind and begin observing your booth in more detail while attempting to find the answer. Even visitors that leave before a conversation begins will learn something new about your business.

Determine interest level of time consuming visitors.

We are all too familiar with those booth visitors that just won’t leave you alone! It’s like they have an endless grab bag full of questions, many of which are pointless. Yet, we don’t want to be impolite. After all, it might result in a sale! This is exactly why it is important to interpret the intentions of these visitors. Are they actually interested in buying from you or helping your company in some way? Asking questions about their company can help accelerate this process. Sometimes, it is worth your efforts, but when it is not you should have a plan to divert them away so you can get back to focusing on the rest of the crowd. Have a business card ready to hand them and kindly wrap up the conversation, directing them to another resource for more information. In cases where the visitor might be a promising lead but they are still taking up entirely too much time, ask if they would like to meet at a later time or schedule a phone meeting after the show.

Try to get visitors into group discussions or demonstrations.

This mostly applies to new visitors that are still in the question phase and not yet ready to convert into leads. When you are overcrowded, getting group discussions going can be a very effective way to handle the situation. Everyone can learn about your company or products collectively. You will find that this approach is not much different than greeting a single visitor. The initial routine will be the same. Just get a little more wind in your lungs and speak up!

Use your booth staff wisely.

If you have more than one employee at the booth, having a specific focus for each staff member can make things much more efficient. When one person is taking an order, the other should be available to help the rest of the visitors. If some of the staff members come and go at your booth, make sure you have a direct, and instant, line of communication. If your booth gets crowded in a hurry, you can call for backup.

So, are you ready to face the crowd? Take a long breath, put on your armor, and pack a sandwich. It’s going to be a long day and the outcome is in your hands.


Todd Millett is a web marketer and content developer at Trade Show Joe ( He graduated from University of Louisville in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. His interests also include music production, video production, blogging, and web development.

7 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Attending a Tradeshow


Put the pedal to the metal! Time to gear up for fall! Summer is winding down and we get to return to normal soon!

Whatever normal is.

And whatever it is, the chaos, hustle and bustle of a big tradeshow isn’t anything near normal for most of us. Depending on the show, there could be a few thousand attendees to tens of thousands. Not only that, but you’re onsite for several days. And chances are you traveled hundreds or maybe thousands of miles to get there.

So how do you prepare for such an event? I would wager there are two main areas to address: physically and mentally. If you want to go further, you can prepare emotionally or spiritually but I’ll leave that to you.

  1. Prepare for long days. Even if you’re out late at corporate meetings, dinners or parties, do your best to get a good night’s sleep. And those late nights come after a long day of mostly standing on your feet talking to booth visitors.
  2. Eat well. It’s so easy to fall prey to eating junk on the road. You grab a burger here, a soda there and before you know it you are running on inferior food. Eat the good stuff: salads, veggies, high protein meat, low carb foods. You know it’s good for you and it’ll keep your spirits up.
  3. Keep to your routine as much as possible. I typically drink decaf coffee, but for a long time when heading out on the road, I would grab the ‘real’ deal – fully caffeinated – thinking I needed the extra boost. I soon found myself jittery from the extra boost, and threw me off, especially when giving a presentation later in the trip. Now I stick to the script: “Decaf!”
  4. Realize that it’s a marathon. But a short one. Yeah, kind of counter-intuitive. But if you understand that you’ll be doing this all day long, for three or four days and then you can really crash, it’s easier to keep the event in perspective.
  5. Be open to good things happening. Every time I attend a show, something good happens. I think deep down I’m a skeptical optimist: I hope for good things, but prepare mentally for the worst. So when good stuff happens, like making a good connection, getting a good lead, killing it in a presentation, be grateful.
  6. Understand that not-so-good things will also likely happen. Could be that a long-time client is going elsewhere for business, or part of your booth didn’t show up, or somebody on your booth staff gets sick and you’re undermanned. It all comes down to the old Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.
  7. And of course, remember to wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be oh-so-glad you did.
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