Trade Shows: Winging It Won’t Reap Rewards!

Without exception, every business needs to sell to survive. Whether you manufacture, sell a product or a service, if you don’t make any sales you won’t have any business. It’s a given in this day and age that the majority of businesses have a website. Add into the digital equation your social media channels. Throw in some networking and strategic direct mail campaigns and BOOM!


But what about the trade show?


Love them or loathe them, when carefully planned and executed, a trade show can generate excellent quality new leads for your sales team. So, let’s take a stroll through the essentials for success when it comes to exhibiting at a trade show.


Choose Wisely

Depending on your business model, you may be in a position where you’re spoilt for choice as to which trade show you need to exhibit at. Do your homework. If it’s an annual recurring event, research feedback from previous years. What are the costs to exhibit? You may not have the budget for a stand at the NEC or the 02 but a more localised event, such as a Chamber of Commerce Expo, may not only suit your pocket but will target more local footfall. Nobody wants to be a minnow in an ocean full of sharks.


Plan Ahead

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to be, start to plan your space and your stand offering. Generally, you should begin planning 3 – 6 months ahead of the doors opening. Make the most of the Exhibitors Pack 


·         who are the main sponsors of the event?

·         keynote speakers

·         networking opportunities

·         can you get a list of registered delegates before the show?


If at all possible, attend the event as a delegate before parting with your marketing budget, just to make sure it’s the right fit for your business.


Strategise To Maximise

What are your goals for the event? Are you launching a new product? Are you trying to break into a new market sector? Are you simply after more sales? Some businesses even exhibit purely on the basis that their main competition will also be there! Without a strategy, your team won’t know why they’re there or what their objectives are for the duration of the show. And that’s just plain dumb!


Build A Buzz

Use your social media channels to promote the fact that you’re going to be exhibiting. Find out what the event hashtags are (these are usually included in the Exhibitor Pack when you first register), post regularly and tag the event in your posts. Engage with other exhibitors, promote what visitors to your stand can expect, what’s in it for them – make your stand a must-visit to the delegates you are trying to capture.


Include information on your website about the event (don’t forget those backlinks for SEO!), and maybe even a blog about the event.


Freebie Fodder

Traipsing round trade shows can be knackering. Why not consider renting a deluxe coffee machine, or water cooler? If space allows, have a seating area where you can invite your desired prospects to hang out, have a cuppa and a chat …. Yes, we’re buttering them up without them even realising.


If you’re going down the route of giveaways – and let’s face it, everyone loves collecting freebies at exhibitions – think about your business. What fits with your company values? What will make a positive, lasting impression to the recipient? Yes, you can get thousands of plastic pens at 20p each – but is that the impression you really want to make? Cheap and disposable.


Ensure you’ve got enough stock of freebies, and that you’ve built the cost of your giveaways into your budget. This goes for branded takeaways and on-stand samples and tasters. There’s nothing more heart-breaking than a trade stand claiming to have the world’s best gin – but they’ve run out of samples on day two of a four-day show!


Schedule Meetings Beforehand

If you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on the golden nugget delegate list, contact whoever you want to speak to and invite them for a meet-up during their visit.  Trade shows can be a terrific opportunity for 1:1s but planning is essential to make the most of both parties’ time. It’s worth bearing in mind that 82% of trade show attendees have buying authority. You just need to attract them.



Who will be representing your business during the show?  According to a survey by Design Shop, 59% of exhibitors say personable sales reps are the best staffers for your space.  Whilst this may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, you’d be amazed at how many businesses hire “the beautiful people” from agencies for their stand, with the aim of enticing you in – like a fly caught in a spiders’ web. A hunk in trunks or a bikini-clad babe may help you stand out from the grey suits but what happens when they’re quizzed on your product?


True story: an associate of Golddust Marketing approached a stand at the BBC Good Food Show (not a cheap place to exhibit!) to ask about the science behind their claims that drinking their brand of gin was good for your skin. Once the two flawlessly skinned ladies looked up from their phones, the answer was along the lines of “we’re not sure, but it’s a lovely shaped bottle.”  And no, a purchase wasn’t made!


Also, consider rotating your stand personnel. Although it may sound like a day or three out of the office on a jolly, manning an exhibition stand is, to put it bluntly, bloody hard work. Make sure you have enough bodies on the team to allow breaks for everyone, and that you’re also well-staffed once the team begin engaging with the footfall. Making people wait to speak to you is a sure-fire way of making them walk away.


Data Capture

Yes, you can have enquiry forms for eager delegates to fill in, or fancy-pants iPads for the tech nerds to input their digits. But again, think like a delegate. What’s in it for them if they willingly give you their data?


Offerings from an Afternoon Tea to a Luxury Mini Break can all work wonders when it comes to people parting with their all-important data. Think about your audience and your budget and push the boat out. The data you collect is the golden fleece of exhibiting.


Follow Up

Before the show begins, and as part of your strategy, make sure you have a follow-up process in place. It’s believed to take approximately 3.5 sales calls after a trade show to close a sale, with the first point of contact being made within 3 – 5 days after the show ends. 81% of exhibitors choose email as the first contact after a show, which is then followed up by telephone calls.


According to Integrate, one of Australia’s leading tech expos, 5-10% of leads from an exhibition will convert to sales, provided they are followed up.



How was it for you? Once you’ve offset your costs of being at the exhibition against the costs of sales generated you’ll know whether it was a success. Don’t forget to build-in new relationships which may amount to ongoing sales – the best type of ROI you can ask for!


We’re guessing that you now feel the need to lay down in a dark room and seriously consider whether trade shows are worth all the aggravation. Fear not. With Hannah’s first-hand experience with trade shows and exhibitions, Golddust Marketing will gladly manage everything for you. Yes, we’ll talk strategy, where’s and why’s and make sure you get a bang for your buck when you decide to exhibit. Find out more, or book a Brain Pick and let’s get your business on show!

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