Tradeshow Marketing

Trade Show Marketing Guide for Exhibitors

Create a winning marketing plan for your trade show. Explore strategies to achieve your event objectives and maximize your ROI.

When you're exhibiting at a trade show with hundreds or thousands of other businesses, standing out from the crowd is a challenge.

A compelling marketing strategy is one of the most effective ways to attract more people to your booth. Every aspect of promoting and showcasing your product/service at the event should be meticulously planned for the desired results.

So, how to create an effective trade show marketing strategy? Here are some expert tips to help you begin-

1- Outline Your Event Goals

Start your trade show planning by outlining the goals you’d like to achieve at the event. Some of the most common reasons why businesses attend trade shows are-

  • Generating leads
  • Boosting business awareness
  • Increasing sales
  • Meeting vendors
  • Launching new product/service

Your event goals need to be achievable and measurable. For instance, if this is your first event and you've chosen a smaller exhibition to keep the costs low, collecting 50 new leads is a more practical goal than aiming for 500 or 1,000 leads.

Also, it is not just about ROI (Return on Investment) for many exhibitors. Goals like brand awareness, product launch, etc., don’t immediately generate returns but help businesses in the longer run. Thus, it is essential to know how to calculate trade show ROI and ROO (Return on Objective).

2- Create a Trade Show Marketing Budget

Trade show marketing can cost you money. Participating in an upcoming trade show is one thing, but you also need to make people aware of it. You can run a couple of campaigns to get people to your booth. Here are some marketing costs you should prepare for.

Booth Fees

The primary expense is the booth fee charged by the trade show organizer. This fee typically depends on factors such as booth size, location (e.g., prime spots may cost more), and the duration of the trade show.

Booth Design and Construction

Designing and constructing an attractive and functional booth to showcase your products or services can cost significantly. This may include custom booth design, graphics, lighting, flooring, and fixtures or displays.

[Read: 10 Trade Show Booth Design Ideas]

Promotional Materials

Creating and printing marketing collateral such as brochures, flyers, business cards, and product catalogs can be a significant expense. Consider the quantity needed, quality of materials, and design costs.

Trade Show Games and Activities

Booth games and activities help in not just one but various event goals. For instance, our trade show games can attract an audience, engage them and help you capture quality leads. Whether a simple trade show raffle game or a digital scavenger hunt, the right activity can multiply your event ROI. However, it can cost and hence need to be budgeted for.

[Read: Top 10 Trade Show Games and Activities]

Giveaways and Swag Items

Many exhibitors offer free promotional items to attract visitors and generate brand awareness. These can include branded merchandise such as pens, notepads, USB drives, tote bags, or other useful and relevant items. Costs include production, customization, and quantity.

[Read: 13 Trade Show Giveaway Ideas for Every Budget]

Advertising and Promotion

Allocate a budget for advertising and promotion before, during, and after the trade show. This could involve online and offline advertising, social media campaigns, email marketing, content creation, and paid promotions.

[Read: 5 Digital Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Booth]

Travel and Accommodation

If the trade show is in a different location, factor in travel expenses for your booth staff. This includes transportation (flights, car rentals, or local transportation), accommodation, meals, and incidentals.

Staffing and Training

Budget for the wages or travel expenses of your booth staff. Additionally, consider costs associated with staff training, product knowledge sessions, sales training, or presentation skills development.

[Read: Trade Show Booth Staff Training Guide]

Technology and Audio-visual Equipment

If your booth requires audio-visual equipment, interactive displays, or technology solutions, allocate a budget for renting or purchasing these items. This may include screens, projectors, tablets, virtual reality setups, or other digital tools.

Lead Generation and Data Capture

Consider the costs of lead generation tools or software, badge scanners, or other data capture methods to collect contact information and data from potential customers efficiently.

[Read: Trade Show Games Vs Badge Scanners - Which is Better for Lead Generation]

Pre-show and Post-show Marketing Activities

Account for expenses related to pre-show marketing campaigns, such as email campaigns, direct mailings, or targeted advertising, to promote your booth and attract attendees. Also, allocate funds for post-show follow-ups, including email marketing, thank-you notes, or customer relationship management (CRM) software.

[Read: What to Do After an Event? Post-event Tips for Exhibitors]

Miscellaneous Expenses

Include miscellaneous expenses such as insurance coverage, registration fees, permits, shipping or storage of booth materials, cleaning services, and security services if required.

It's essential to thoroughly plan and estimate these costs to create an accurate trade show marketing budget. Adjust the budget based on your specific goals, industry benchmarks, and the level of exposure and impact you want to achieve at the trade show.

[Read: How to Create a Trade Show Budget?]

3- Create a Marketing Message

Knowing why you’re exhibiting at a trade show will determine the marketing message. For instance, if the goal is to demonstrate your service to 10 partners, you have to start targeting them well before the event so that meetings and other arrangements can be made. Also, with a goal like this, things like lead capture and traffic shouldn’t be your concern.

The marketing message should align with your objectives, working as the foundation for everything you do, including your booth design, graphics, giveaways, post-event communication, etc. Here are some tips to help you create a marketing message-

  • Know your target audience and understand their priorities
  • Use marketing message to set yourself apart from the competitors
  • Create a message that evokes curiosity and makes people interested in your brand
  • Make the key message part of all the marketing initiatives, including social media, emails, booth design, etc.

4- Make an Impact with Your Trade Show Booth

You've got the event objectives and marketing message. The next step is to start working on your trade show booth. Visuals play a vital role in attracting people, and your booth design will have the lion's share in audience engagement.

You can get yourself a custom booth built from scratch or rent the exhibit for significant savings. Rest assured; you get plenty of customization options with rental booths as well. But no matter what you choose, start planning the booth at least 8-10 weeks before the event, as it is time-consuming.  

Use these tips to make your exhibit stand out-

  • Keep the key message brief, large, and preferably above the waist height
  • Ensure every element of the booth revolves around a specific message/theme
  • Creatively use colors and lighting to highlight your products/services
  • Keep the booth clutter-free and use empty spaces
  • Double-check image resolution and formatting

[READ: 10x10 Trade Show Booth Ideas]

5- Leverage Experiential Marketing

Apart from great brands and amazing products, consumers now expect every brand they deal with to offer them a memorable experience. They want some type of emotional connection that makes them trust the brand they’re considering for their next purchase.

When working on trade show planning, don’t forget to add experiential elements to your booth. For instance, fun trade show games like a custom trivia challenge engage people with the brand. It helps the visitors learn more about the brand, their products/services, USPs, etc., interactively.

Some other tactics you can use to create an experiential booth are as follows-

  • Use interactive technologies like AR/VR, touchscreen kiosks, video screens
  • Creative product/service demonstrations can be highly engaging
  • Tell your brand story in a fun and imaginative manner
  • Offer add-ons like a charging station, lounge seating, or refreshments

[READ: Experiential Marketing in Trending in Trade Shows Post-COVID: How Can a Custom Quiz Help?]

6- Start Promoting

One of the most important trade show tips is to use the right channels to let people know you are participating in an upcoming event. While most exhibitors now rely heavily on digital marketing to promote trade show participation, you can also invest in offline marketing if it suits your requirements.

For instance, if you run a chain of retail stores, you can distribute brochures to all the people visiting your stores. As for digital channels, you can use your website, social networking platforms, paid ads, and email marketing to boost your reach. You can use these channels for pre-show, during-the-show, and post-show marketing. Here are a few tips that can help-

  • Start sharing updates on social platforms 3-4 weeks in advance
  • Update photos and videos of how your team is preparing for the event
  • Send pre-show emails to current customers and website visitors
  • Share photos and videos of your booth during the event
  • Send follow-up emails to all the leads after the event

7- Additional Tips to Execute a Successful Event

Here are some additional tips to promote and execute a successful trade show-

Select the Right Booth Staffers

Your booth staff is the face of your brand on the trade show floor. Choose knowledgeable and presentable individuals for the task.

Offer Creative Giveaways

Pens and stickers are passé. Offer creative giveaways that align with your brand. You can also consider eco-friendly trade show giveaways as they are in trend.

Select the Right Booth Location

If you're yet to reserve booth space, select something close to the entrance, corners, cross junctions, or near perks like restrooms and cafes, as these areas have more traffic.

Create a Lead Management Plan

If your objective is to collect leads, ensure you have a trade show lead management plan in place. A trade show activity integrated with lead collection can help you collect more leads than offline lead collection.

Being a Trade Show Marketing Wizard

Trade shows can prove highly profitable for your business if you know how to plan and execute them right. As marketing is one of the most critical elements to succeed at trade shows, start working on a plan 2-3 months before the event so that you have enough time to focus on all the crucial tips discussed in this post.

If a custom trade show game is what you need to attract attendees, we can help. We create highly engaging and fun trade show games for exhibitors according to their event objectives to help them succeed.

Join our Newsletter

Sign up to our Newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.