Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.


11 Reasons to Exhibit at Tradeshows

  1. Your company can reach markets that they would not normally reach. A tradeshow gets you in front of people that will never find you otherwise.
  2. Decision makers attend shows. This means that if they see what they like, they can, y’know, decide!
  3. Networking with colleagues. Meet future partners, employees or employers.
  4. P1140105

    Checking out the competition’s latest and greatest to see how it compares to your offerings.

  5. Great place to launch a new product or service.
  6. Build or re-position your brand.
  7. Reach out to the media with public relations and give access to your management team.
  8. Do a survey – market research.
  9. Generate leads, make sales and move the sales cycle along a little more quickly than normal.
  10. Meet with key clients.
  11. Increase your ROI by getting directly in front of thousands of potential customers in a very short time frame.

Top 10 Tradeshow Marketing Tips to Begin 2016

Hey, it’s a Top Ten List! Let’s look at ten things to do as you prepare for another year of tradeshow marketing:

  1. Assess what happened this year. What did you spend? What were your results? Are there any areas where you can cut back? Are there areas that you need to invest more?
  2. Create a will-attend show list. Perhaps you know this by heart. Maybe there are a few shows that have slipped down in your estimation, or some that that become more important.
  3. Create a list of other shows that are on the bubble.
  4. Know your show goals. Your overall goal is to grow the business, but each show likely presents an opportunity to do different things, such as build brand awareness, reach new markets, recruit partners, generate sales leads, solidify ties with current clients, maximize press and media outreach, unveil a new product or service or do research. Shows are often a combination of all of those (and more), but it is worthwhile to create a plan for each show that focuses on 2 or 3 specific areas.
  5. Come up with new ways to attract booth traffic. What you did last year may or may not work this year. Don’t sit on your laurels; try to come up with at least one new concept per show on how you can drive traffic to your booth.
  6. Ensure your lead generation system is working. Your show ROI depends almost exclusively on how you manage your sales leads. Work with your marketing and sales teams to make sure that each step is clear and workable.
  7. Assess your booth. This might mean taking it out of the cases or crates and setting it up. This should be done with any booth regardless of size, just to make sure it withstands the rigors of regular set-up and dismantle. So often a booth is quickly packed at the end of a show and sent back to the storage facility, and no one bothers to check the condition of the booth until right before the next show. Or during set-up, which is ever worse! If repairs are needed, get them done in a timely manner.

  8. Plan to book travel well in advance. Especially hotel rooms at popular and growing shows. If show hotels are booked, you can usually find a good deal on AirBnB.
  9. Plan the logistics of your upcoming shows. Order services, promotions, uniforms and other items a few months ahead of time or as needed.
  10. Plan your pre-show marketing outreach, from email to postcards, social media and other methods.

The more prepared you are, the better the opportunity to increase your leads, sales and brand awareness.


Want a digital copy of my new book? Click here.

9 Things to Measure on the Tradeshow Floor

Take some measurements!

A tradeshow is a perfect opportunity to track stuff: sales, leads, visitors, and so on. Here’s a quick list of things you might consider measuring at each show. It’ll give you a chance to not only compare different shows, but it’ll help you track trends at different appearances at the same show year after year.

  1. Sales. The key indicator of your success. The challenge with tracking sales from tradeshows is that you may get a sale in another 6 months, year or two years as a result of a single appearance. Be aware of where sales come from and track them to their source if you’re able.
  2. Leads. Not quite as critical as sales, but a key indicator of the success of your overall tradeshow program. Identify cool, warm and hot leads and follow up appropriately.
  3. New customers. Sales are great, but what percentage came from new customers?
  4. Visitors. While many exhibitors don’t normally track booth visitors, if you can get a handle on at least an accurate ballpark number of booth visitors from show to show, that information will come in handy.
  5. Samples. Do you give away samples, such as food or flash drives or swag? Keep track.
  6. Demonstrations and attendance. Do you have a professional presenter at your booth? Keep track of how many are given each day and make a headcount of attendees.
  7. Social media content. How many tweets, photos, videos and blog posts are you generating as a result of your appearance? Check things such as how many times your tweets were re-tweeted, or how many times your hashtag was mentioned, the numner of times you received an @ reply. If you saw a spike in Twitter followers or Facebook fans or Instagram followers during the show appearance, track that information.
  8. Other online engagement. Do you steer people to your website during tradeshows? Did social media engagement drive traffic to your site? If you create a specific landing page for visitors, track the traffic on that. If you give away digital assets such as downloadable PDFs, white papers or product sell sheets, track that.
  9. Finally, track the ROI. To calculate the ROI, divide the gross profit minus the cost of the show by the cost of the show. It will look like this:

ROI = (Gross Profit – Cost of the show) / Cost of the show.

For example, if it cost you $200,000 for the booth, travel, lodging, salaries, food, parties, transportation, etc., and you know that six months later the business generated as a direct result of the show was $359,000, you’d write the equation like this:

ROI = ($359,000 – $200,000) / $200,000

ROI = $159,000 / $200,000 = 79.5%

Measure as much as you can. You’ll be glad you did!

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Can’t-Miss Tradeshow Newsletters

Doesn’t every Tom, Joe and Susie have a newsletter these days? After all, they can be very useful in getting your message in front of eyeballs on a consistent basis.


The fact is, my inbox is filled daily with dozens of newsletters of all sorts: news, marketing, comic strips, social media engagement, big biz, small biz, and so on.

I tend to open about one in ten if I’m in a generous mood. More like one in twenty or one in fifty. In other words, it’s hard to get my attention (or anybody’s) these days with just a newsletter. There’s got to be something in there that makes it worthwhile to click and open. And read.

But there are several newsletters that I read frequently. Some I open every single time right when I see it and stop what I’m doing. Others get put on the ‘later’ list and I usually make it back to them.

These are the tradeshow industry-related email newsletters that I read almost every time they arrive. I say almost because, hey, even I have to take a day off now and then! There are others out there – some are closed to the public and others don’t arrive frequently enough to warrant attention, and some I just don’t know about – but here are the tops in my book.

Exhibitor Magazine: a companion to their monthly print magazine, the newsletter is a useful and professional addition to your inbox.

TSNN: The Tradeshow News Network: between this and Exhibitor Magazine, you will have your pulse on the beat of the tradeshow industry news and happenings. Bonus: they have several editions available.

Classic Exhibits Tradeshow Tales: Mel and Kevin at Classic Exhibits in Portland, Oregon, offer great insight, humor and passion on a regular basis.

Andy Saks, Spark Presentations: Andy is a tradeshow presenter, Emcee, Staff Trainer and Auctioneer. In other words, he gets up in front of people. A lot. And his now-and-then newsletter is always a good read.

Anders Boulanger, the Infotainers: I enjoy this newsletter as much as any. Anders is a solid writer and communicator and always has thoughtful, meaty – and useful – pieces.

Marlys Arnold, Tradeshow Insights: Marly has been a show organizer and an exhibitor and comes at the topic from a unique perspective. A worthwhile read anytime.

Susan Friedmann, Tradeshow Tips: Susan is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) who has written many tradeshow related books and publishes a weekly tip sheet for exhibitors.

Skyline Tradeshow Tips: Friendly and useful, this newsletter doesn’t seem to show up a lot but when it does it’s good.


Here are some non-related business/marketing/sales newsletters that I read all the time. I think you’ll love ’em:

Monday Morning Memo: Roy H. Williams of Austin, Texas, author of the Wizard of Ads and a former radio ad salesman, rings my Monday morning with a loud and clear bell every week. I look forward to this.

Sales Tips for the Aspiring Rock Star: Paul Castain, sales trainer and marketing enthusiast is always a fun read.

Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week and the 4 Hour Body, publishes a newsletter every Friday (and at other random times) of stuff that has caught his eye. Good stuff.

Dave Pell’s Next Draft, billed as ‘The Day’s Most Fascinating News,’ is all of that and more.

Tradeshow Marketing Analysis, Part 7: Lead Generation

This is number 7 in a series. Check the previous articles here:

  1. Where to Start
  2. Budgeting
  3. Pre-Show Preparation
  4. Which Shows to Attend
  5. The Booth
  6. Booth Staff

First, let’s define lead generation before we get too deep into this section.

All marketing is the activity of looking for either a new lead, or a way to bring current clients or customers to new products or services. Generating leads is a must to keep your business moving forward. No leads, no business.

When it comes to tradeshows, lead generation is the specific act of capturing contact information and related follow up information from your visitors so that you can connect with them again at a not-too-distant-in-the-future date.

Lead generation is NOT the act of having a fishbowl where you invite attendees to throw their business card in for a chance to win an iPad. Nope, in this case your lead must be someone who’s qualified to a) need or want your products or services and b) in the position to purchase soon.

All of your lead generation activity should spring from these two determinations. When a visitor enters your booth, they’re expressing at least a modest active desire to learn more about your product. At this point, you have an opportunity to quickly learn a few things: who they are, what their interest is in your offerings, and if they are in a position to purchase soon.


If you search Google for “lead generation” you’ll get hundreds of ideas for drawing a crowd at your booth and capturing their contact information.

Many of them will work well, and you’ll walk away from the show with lots of potential leads. I say ‘potential’ leads because you’ll often find that many of those business cards are from people that just stopped by to try and win an iPad or they spun a wheel, or some other fun thing. But that doesn’t make them prospects.

Instead, focus on capturing the contact information from people who are in a position to buy from you, and leave all the rest to the side.

This means that you must focus on your efforts to attract those potential clients and disqualify the others.

By asking one or two questions you will determine if the visitor is qualified. If they are, you dig a little deeper. If they are not qualified, you politely disengage so that you are not wasting their time or yours.

To start, your graphic messaging can help to qualify those visitors by being laser-focused on the benefits your company offers. This might mean a specific statement or a bold claim or bold question that gets that market thinking “hey, I need to know more!”

Look at lead generation activities as just another investment – and that it should be measured just like other investments. Are you getting good results from your investment? If not, change it up based on becoming more focused on what works and what is important to your audience.

Help them.

If you’re selling a product or service, you must know what it is that keeps them up at night. What are they thinking about at 3 am that is keeping them from sleeping soundly? Dangle the bait in such a way that you address that problem. Perhaps that means a free white paper that they can get if they fill in a brief form on an iPad stationed at the front of the booth. Perhaps that means conducting proprietary research directed at that market designed to uncover exactly what bugs them.

There are hundreds of ways to catch a prospect, but they all boil down to this: are your products designed to solve their problem or satisfy a need? If so, you’re on the right track and your questions will spring from those platforms.

Next, you must have a proper method of capturing the information. You can go high or low tech, it doesn’t matter as long as the information is processed and passed on to the right people who are prepared to follow up in a timely manner in the way that your prospect expects.

At best, your information will include contact info (name, address, email, phone number) and will gauge their interest in your products or services. It will optimally have specific information on when they want to be contacted and their current stage of interest in your products. Beyond that, you’re probably wasting their time and yours. But for a valid and proper follow up, your sales person will benefit greatly from knowing all of that information.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using an iPad, scanning badges or a filling in a form on a clipboard, as long as it works effectively.

Finally, you must have a foolproof method of getting the leads back to the office! I’ve heard too many stories of companies who have spent thousands of dollars exhibiting, sending people to the show and then sending the leads back in the crates with the booth – and they weren’t able to track them down for weeks. At which point the value of prompt follow up was lost, along with thousands of dollars in potential sales.

Ideally, each day’s leads should be sent back that night to the main office and put into the follow up system. At worst, they should accompany the tradeshow manager or other designated person back to the office at the end of the show. Digital leads have the advantage of being able to be sent back quickly, but even paper forms can be scanned or photographed or turned into PDFs using smartphone apps and sent digitally, as well.

While your booth staff’s engagement is important (see part 5), bringing back the leads is critical to your show’s success.

When you remember that nearly 80% of all tradeshow leads are NOT FOLLOWED UP ON, if you can fix this simple step you’ll be ahead of 4 out of 5 of your competitors. So where would that put you?

10 Reasons to Share Content from Your Tradeshow Appearance

It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of list-making lately. Here’s another one!

  1. Branding: the content you share defines your company. Think before you tweet!
  2. Networking: share content that highlights or involves people from other companies. Take photos of booth visitors, tag them in the photos and watch them share with their followers.
  3. Interactivity: by sharing content and responding to comments and questions, you’ve begun to see interactivity, which leads to…
  4. Engagement: a step above simple interactivity (which may be almost meaningless), engagement is more personal and responsive.

  5. Spread Love to All People

    Organic spread (your content could go viral): a good piece of content gets legs, no matter who it comes from. Can you create, either purposefully or accidentally, a piece of content that spreads throughout the social media system? If it happens, pay close attention to the type of content it is, and see if you can determine why it spread. Then try to recreate something that does the same.

  6. Social proof: if your followers like your material and share it, now you’re exposed to potential new people who may not have previously known you existed. But because they saw it from one of their trusted sources, now you’ve suddenly a trusted source.
  7. Humanize your company: by becoming human to your market, you become more attractive to them, generally speaking.
  8. Caring: by sharing you’re showing that you care about others.
  9. Reciprocation: if you share something that focuses another person, company or product (it may complement something you’re doing so it makes sense to highlight it), those people will feel compelled to do the same for you vie reciprocation.
  10. Sharing drives traffic to your booth. And your blog. And your Facebook page, Twitter page, YouTube channel, etc.

 photo credit: serenitbee










Social Media Isn’t All You Gotta Do

(With a wink and a nod to John Lennon...)

As much as I love social media and believe in its effectiveness to reach people and bring them together for a thousand and one purposes, when you’re doing tradeshow marketing, it can’t be your only marketing strategy.

In other words, don’t become too enamored with social media. Use it as another marketing arrow in your quiver.

Continue to use (or enhance your use of) other marketing tactics:

  • show sponsorships
  • direct marketing
  • email marketing
  • partnerships
  • public relations
  • pre-show promotions
  • contests
  • personal invitations
  • in-booth demonstrations
  • seminars and presentations
  • effective follow-up
  • tradeshow staff training
  • (what else can you add?)

Find ways to tie your social media efforts into these other more traditional tradeshow marketing tools. Blog from your booth. Shoot video at the show and post to YouTube and Facebook. Tweet about your in-booth guests, demos and contests to drive traffic. Social media can be quite effective at your tradeshow – but when used in conjunction with other methods, the combination can be deadly – to your competition.

Top 5 Business Social Media Bloggers of 2011

To limit this year-end list to just five biz bloggers doesn’t do justice to the dozens – hundreds, really – of other business bloggers. But these five have always enlightened me, entertained me and yes, informed me with cutting edge material. Good stuff.

Seth Godin – long considered the granddaddy of permission marketing, Seth Godin’s blog is deceptively simple. Short and thoughtful posts are the rule, with few exceptions.

David Meerman Scott – David went from a corporate type to speaking and writing about social media and PR. He’s given his books away as free PDF downloads, which has garnered him attention, speaking gigs and a pretty good career.

Chris Brogan – “Learn how human business works.” I don’t get to Chris’s blog as often as I’d like, but when I do, something tasty is always waiting there for me.

Brian Solis – “defining the convergence of media and influence.” Brian has been blogging since before it was called blogging. Known as a thought-leader in the business and social media world.

Jeff Bullas – leading commentary on social media and how it affects your company.


Nine Reasons to Love Tradeshow Marketing

What is there to love about tradeshow marketing? After all, it’s expensive, it’s hard work and you have to travel and set up stuff. And then stand for hours a day talking to hundreds or thousands of people. And then tear it down, pack it up and head home.

So what’s to love? Let’s count the ways…

  1. Opportunity: a tradeshow is a great opportunity to meet people who, in most cases, have PAID to be there and WANT to see what you’re showing off.
  2. Learning: when you’re attending a tradeshow you’re going to be exposed to hundreds of new products and service offerings in your industry.
  3. Competition: while the booth across the aisle may be competing with you, it’s easy to feel a kinship with him. After all, they’re in the same boat as you: trying to keep their business going and thriving. By sharing stories and getting to know each other, you can connect better to the community that you all share.
  4. Travel: If you don’t like to travel, scratch this from your list. But if you do, getting on the road for several days is always great – if for nothing more than a change of pace.
  5. Challenge: the simple challenge of putting your best foot forward at a tradeshow amidst all of the other exhibits is unlike other marketing challenges.
  6. Challenge 2.0: If you approach the next tradeshow as a personal challenge, see how well you can do in your sales, your presentation skills, listening, answering questions. There’s a lot to learn about your interpersonal skills engagement on the tradeshow floor.
  7. Opportunity 2.0: At a tradeshow you have access – if only for a few moments – to CEO’s company presidents, marketing managers, etc., any of whom can open great doors for you if make a good connection. So…how can you make a connection?
  8. Market Research: Your booth visitors are a great source of information – if only you ask. Do a survey, hand out questionnaires, have people demo new beta products so you can get in a little product testing while pitching your newest stuff.
  9. After Hours: Whether you’re in Vegas, New Orleans, Anaheim or Buffalo, there’s always a new place you can check out after the show. Take a client, get to know a colleague a little better. After hours at a tradeshow is a great opportunity for deepening relationships. And, uh, y’know…for having some damn FUN!

What can you add to the list? What do you love about tradeshow marketing?

27 Un-Boring Things to do At Your Next Tradeshow

Bored at the tradeshow? Here’s a list of things to do that will lively up your experience!

I remember in my early days in radio a record promoter once told me that she loved my enthusiasm and willingness to drive 50 miles to see an unknown band that she was promoting. “So many of the other music directors I talk to are getting jaded…”

Whether you’re an exhibit or an attendee and you’ve been doing it for a long time, you might ask yourself: Am I Getting JADED?

Next time you’re at a tradeshow, take this list with you. Maybe by doing a few of these things it’ll help break you out of a rut (okay…some of these will take a little more preparation and execution before the show…but use ’em as inspirational thought-starters if nothing else).

  1. Before leaving your office spend some time on Twitter compiling a list of people at the show that are Tweeters. Make a list of who they are and what booth they’re at. Stop by the booth and tell them you found ‘em on Twitter.
  2. Draw attention to yourself and your company. If appropriate, wear a goofy hat, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, Homer Simpson slippers. Anything unusual is a conversation starter.
  3. Pick up literature from as many booths as possible. Read it that night in your hotel. Make notes about questions you’d like to ask. Go back to the booth and ask.
  4. Take a Flip video camera and ask visitors to explain why they stopped by your booth. Or take it around the floor on your break and get a few comments from other exhibitors about the show and what their experience is at the show.
  5. Take a camera. Take lots of photos. If you see a cool booth, ask permission for a photo first. If you connect with someone via Facebook or Twitter, be sure to take their photo and post it online.
  6. Bring chocolates and instead of putting them in a bowl at your booth, hand them out as you go from booth to booth to other exhibitors. Tape your business card onto the chocolates.
  7. Buy a half-dozen thumb drives and put your company information – brochures, current press releases, catalogs, website, etc. – on it and have it ready to hand out to a few well-qualified media contacts or potential clients.
  8. Sit down with a professional radio person (!), have them interview you about your company. Create an audio CD with a nice label and title such as “All You Ever Wanted to Know About XYZ Company” or “The Inner Secrets of the XYZ Company Widget” and make a couple of dozen copies. Put a label on them that says “limited edition” and make sure that you qualify anyone you give them to.
  9. If you typically don’t go to seminars, pick at least two and go to them. If you typically attend seminars, find one with an unusual title that you might not attend and go to it.
  10. Make a note immediately on any business card you collect from a person (not a card you just picked up from a table). Write down a pertinent part of the conversation, a future follow-up or an item that will make you remember them. By the time you get back to your hotel, you’ll have forgotten what they even look like.
  11. Are you typically a bit shy? Break that habit. Talk to people in buffet lines, restaurants, elevators. Come up with a few questions you can ask to break the ice. Have fun: these people don’t know you’re shy!
  12. If you typically spend the day working the booth and greeting visitors, arrange your schedule so you get at least an hour or two to walk the show floor and schmooze with other exhibitors, especially those that might be potential partners and those that you would consider competitors.
  13. Talk to a show organizer and ask her how this show compares to previous years…or find some other topic of conversation.
  14. Bring three times as many business cards as you think you might need.
  15. Go to the city’s visitor center and see what kinds of fun things you can do in your off-hours.
  16. See how many booths you can walk by before a booth staffer invites you in.
  17. Look up old friends in the event city using Facebook or Twitter and connect with them.
  18. Smile at everyone. Even if they aren’t smiling at you.
  19. Have a contest with fellow staffers to see if you can get visitors to say the magic word of the day. Those of us old enough might even remember this came from Groucho Marx’s ‘You Bet Your Life.’
  20. Take notes about how much food costs. Hot dog and coke – $14!? Compare notes with fellow staffers. Boo and hiss the high prices.
  21. Ask other exhibitors what they paid for drayage and shipping. Compare notes.
  22. See if you can set up your booth before your neighbor.
  23. Go a whole day without eating restaurant food by taking food snacks such as energy bars, fruit, trail mix, etc.
  24. Bring a small white board. Write a Haiku poem about your company or product on it. Invite your visitors to add their Haiku.
  25. Practice Extreme Customer Service. As if you were a Disney employee.
  26. If the speaker at your seminar or breakout session is boring, create a game where you write down every word he says that begins with the letter M. Or T. Or draw a cartoon of the speaker. Post it on Twitter.
  27. Ask other visitors what they do for fun. Take notes and incorporate their ideas into yours.

What ideas do you have to break those long days into more fun? Share!

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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