Keys to Tradeshow Success

Keys to Tradeshow Success

Tradeshow attendance is a standard marketing tactic for most companies. It provides the unique opportunity to gain direct access to hundreds of potential and existing clients in one place in the span of just a few days. A well-executed tradeshow program is arguably the most effective way to generate quality leads and strengthen relationships with current customers, which will increase loyalty and lead to sustainable growth.

It doesn’t get any better than face-to-face meetings, and tradeshows are an ideal platform to facilitate them. According to B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America, marketers identified in-person events as their most effective tactic for the fifth year in a row. Additionally, 69% of those polled said those kinds of events — which include tradeshows — were either effective or very effective.

There are numerous benefits associated with tradeshows. On the other side of the coin, tradeshows also pose a number of challenges. The first one most businesses will point out is cost. Tradeshows typically require a budget of thousands of dollars to cover expenses like registration, travel, staffing, booth decorations, marketing materials, lodging and meals. Additionally, there is the challenge of making a connection with attendees to make attendance worthwhile.

It’s not enough to simply attend tradeshows. Attendance is not what drives results. What really matters is attracting, engaging with and nurturing potential and existing customers before, during and after the show. When you get back home, you should have  — or at least have laid the groundwork for — a nice list of leads and a strengthened relationship with current customers to ensure they will continue to turn to you first for products and services.

Maximizing ROI is always critical, but especially with a tactic as expensive as tradeshows. How do you maximize Tradeshow ROI? Read on to find out…

Provide a Consistent Customer Experience

One thing to keep in mind throughout your tradeshow program is to remain consistent. It’s important that the tradeshow experience you deliver to a potential or current client is the same as what they would experience if they encountered you on the internet, in a trade publication, on a sales call, at their location…wherever. In order to remain consistent, you must keep your brand in mind and adjust as necessary. Brand consistency enables you to build momentum before, during and after the tradeshow and sets the stage for further engagement, sales and company growth. For a refresher on branding, click here.

Pre-Show Activities

Tradeshow work should begin long before you even arrive. The first step after you decide to attend a show is to set goals. What do you hope to achieve at the show? If you don’t set goals, you have no basis on which to decide whether or not your event was a success. We covered the goal-setting process in-depth in this post.

Once that is taken care of, identify your targets. Typical tradeshow targets include show attendees, non-attendees who attended in past years, current customers and other exhibitors that may need your product or service. You can target any or all of them based on your goals. Go through your internal data to start compiling your target list. Tradeshow organizers usually offer attendee lists, and you can also utilize list companies to discover and target prospects in relevant industries. Even if prospects on your list may not attend the show, it’s still a good idea to deliver your show-related messages to them. Think of it as another valid reason to tell your story to a qualified lead.

Begin engaging your targets before it’s even showtime. After verifying your brand consistency, setting goals and building a list, you should start deploying your message on your selected channels. Start the dialogue by creating an opportunity for potential attendees to learn about your company, products and services ahead of time. In addition, invite them to visit your tradeshow booth for events or schedule a meeting. Utilize calls to action that reward them for providing information about themselves and their companies. By offering valuable content, incentives or promotional products, you can learn about their needs and open the door for in-person interaction at the show.

Showtime Activities

If you’ve previously attended tradeshows, chances are you’ve seen salespeople or customer service reps sitting at their empty booths doing nothing but talking to each other. Or maybe they’re “hustling” people up and down the aisle trying to pitch their company’s products and services even though it’s clear those people have no interest. Those two activities aren’t going to open the door to future sales. The key is to talk to qualified, interested prospects.

Scott Adams presented this humorous take on tradeshow struggles in his May 6, 2012 Dilbert cartoon:

Tradeshow cartoon

The best way to avoid a tradeshow flop and engage with as many people as possible is to schedule, schedule, schedule. Give people a reason to come to your booth, or better yet, get them excited to come see you. Be sure to utilize showtime announcements to let attendees know what you have going on and invite them to join you. You can use channels ranging from email to SMS (text messaging) and even social media posts on popular platforms like Twitter. If your company schedules events for the duration of your time on the tradeshow floor and keeps prospects in the loop, you’ll greatly increase your chances of engagement and go home with a larger list of qualified leads.

There are a number of events you can schedule. You could have a company overview presentation to inform guests about what your company does and how it can help them. Throughout the show, you can go more in-depth with demos that provide information about your products and services and allow visitors to ask questions. Industry-specific presentations with guest speakers are also popular. You can also hold a number of raffles for promotional product giveaways, VIP parties or other fun get-togethers to mingle with guests and have some fun.

Post-Show Activities

The work doesn’t end when the tradeshow concludes. Continued engagement and nurturing are needed to continue your marketing momentum. It’s common practice for follow-ups to be sent out in the days following the show.

Don’t limit yourself to prospects and customers you actually interacted with at the tradeshow. There are still plenty of qualified prospects out there who maybe couldn’t make it to the show or your booth for whatever reason. Generate marketing materials for show attendees and booth visitors, as well as non-attendees.

Content should thank them for their visit or let them know you missed them at the show. As with the pre-show materials, post-show touches should offer valuable content, incentives or promotional products. However, the goal this time is to continue the conversation with prospects and show that your company can help solve their problems and achieve their goals.

This is also the time to evaluate your tradeshow program and fine-tune your approach. Refer to the KPIs you identified in the pre-show phase and go over the data that was collected. This will tell you whether or not you achieved your goals. In addition, the data will help you identify the components of the program that worked well and those that didn’t. You can use this information to reshape future messaging and select different channels with the goal of increasing ROI.

Marketing ROI Toolbox

Simplify with Marketing Automation

In order to maximize efficiency and ROI, generic emails or postcards promoting a tradeshow booth aren’t enough. Marketing automation allows companies to effectively manage and monitor multiple channels on one platform. Here is a summary of some of the benefits marketing automation provides during a tradeshow program:


A marketing automation platform adds a personal touch by allowing all communication to be customized to recipients. The MAP can utilize the list so that each individual target will receive an email, postcard, etc. with their own name and other known variables on it. This makes it a little easier to make a connection and makes the message more relevant.

Additionally, many channels on a MAP are built to point to a microsite where targets submit their information in exchange for content or to take advantage of an offer. Like everything else, the microsite is personalized with the contact’s name and information. It also can be set up to provide a personalized experience based on their digital behavior. Possibilities include allowing them to learn more about products, visit the company website, RSVP for events, schedule a meeting, request additional information or contact a salesperson.  The objective is to give prospects more control and allow them to choose the specific company content they consume. They can go through their buyer’s journey in their own way.

Consistent Contact

Properly planned tradeshow programs include busy schedules with lots of events. With that in mind, marketing automation is one way to increase attendance and keep everyone on the same page. A MAP provides regular, relevant communication before, during and after the tradeshow.

In the pre-show, it can highlight the “upcoming attractions” to build excitement. During the show, it can send messaging that can be as broad as a daily overview or as specific as event-by-event reminders. After the show, it can send communications based on each prospect’s interactions leading up to and during the show. The MAP seamlessly integrates various relevant marketing channels including direct mail, email, text messaging and social media so that you can engage with prospects regardless of their preferred channel.

Detailed Reporting

Ruth P. Stevens, author of Trade Show and Event Marketing: Plan, Promote and Profit, has this advice: “Don’t spend one penny on a trade show unless you have a lead management process in place.” A marketing automation platform takes care of that process. There’s no manual data work with marketing automation. The platform collects everything for you and generates detailed reports. Email opens, link clicks, form submissions and more — you’ll know exactly how each prospect interacted with your marketing materials. By utilizing lead scoring, you’ll know how close each prospect is to becoming buy-ready and can even set the platform up to notify a salesperson when someone becomes buy-ready. In addition, the reports generated by the MAP make it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your program, which will help you improve your presence at future shows.

Get a Tradeshow ROI Calculator

As important as tradeshows are to companies’ lead-generating and sales efforts, you’ll want every possible tool for success at your disposal. Utilizing the tips in this article, as well as implementing a MAP, will help increase your tradeshow success.

Here at Adventure Marketing Solutions, we have another tool to help: our Tradeshow ROI Calculator. The calculator will take you step-by-step through the tradeshow process to help you maximize your ROI, and you can get it at NO COST! To request your Tradeshow ROI Calculator, email Chris Penhale.

Have additional questions about tradeshow marketing or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us.


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