8 Steps To A Better Trade Show ROI

//8 Steps To A Better Trade Show ROI


Once you decide to exhibit at trade shows, your work begins. You need to decide what shows you will attend based on what you want to accomplish. There are factors that will go into which shows you want to attend. Find out which shows your prospects, and current clients attend. Which shows fit your products or new products or services the best. Doing as much research as you can will help tremendously in the long run. You can’t just show up the day of the event and expect to just have attendees stop by and want to learn more about you. Attending a trade show can be a huge investment in both time and money. That’s why extensive planning can go a long way towards improving the trade show ROI. Follow these steps and the investment made will be well worth the time.
What are three of the most important aspects of real estate? That’s right. Location, location, and location. It can be that way with your booth also. You don’t want to be tucked away in a back corner somewhere. Avoid entrances and exits. They can get very congested and hurt your opportunity to gather leads. Look for main aisles, near the entrance but not close to the entrance is good. A highly desirable location would be the end of a row or corner spaces where you get traffic from intersecting aisles. If near the opening doorway, pick a space on the right side of the aisle. By habit, we tend to go to the right when walking down an aisle. Maybe because that’s how we figure traffic flows. If seminars are being held at the show, maybe you can find a space on the main route to the seminars. Find out where some larger businesses will be that are not your direct competitor. You can sometimes draw traffic from the booth traffic.

1 Set your goals

You can’t start on your booth and train your booth staff until you know what you want to accomplish at the trade show. Your booth and everything in the booth needs to be geared toward accomplishing those goals, from the graphics, printed materials, to scripting what you want the employees to talk to clients and prospects about.

Here are a few goal ideas for you to think about:

• Lead Generation, Increase Sales, Promote new product or service, Increase Brand Awareness.

Once you decide on your goals, you need to make sure they are:

Measurable – Make the goals specific enough so it will be easier to create a strategy to achieve them. How many new clients would you like to get? To get clients, you need to have appointments with prospects. To get appointments, you need a good pre show strategy. If you are rolling out a new product, how many demo’s to clients or prospects do you want to perform? Whatever your goal, make them measurable in numbers. If you can’t measure it, you won’t know if the time and money spent was worth it.

• Realistic – Make sure the goals are realistic and work within your budget. If you’re spending a lot of money to simply create awareness, you want to keep it somewhat simple. If you are trying to get 20 leads to turn in to 10 prospects and ultimately 5 new clients, you will need to spend a bit more, but not more than those 5 new clients would bring in. It helps to know your numbers going in. How many prospects turn into leads, and then turn into clients. What’s the cost of getting a new client?

2 Communicate to your team

Once the goals are established, make sure they are communicated to your marketing team, design team and employees. Script out what you want communicated to your clients, prospects and the attendees that stop by your booth. The booth, graphics, promotional items and print items should all be geared towards achieving the goals set forth. The message needs to be consistent on everything. Management and marketing needs to work with sales on these goals so everyone is on the same page.

3 Target your audience

Once you have your goals, your sales and marketing teams can work on a plan to pinpoint the right businesses to go after. To help you reach your goals, create a preshow marketing campaign, whether it be a mailer or email campaign. Give out your booth number and send it to your clients and prospect list. You can offer some sort of incentive for them to stop by your booth. They can stop by to get a free gift, or a chance to win something like an Apple iPad. You can send out a mailer with something they can bring in to exchange for a mug, or some other item of perceived value. During this preshow campaign, you want to get as many show appointments set up as possible. If you get to the show and you already know you have X number of meetings set up, you know you are well on your way to show success.

4 Booth Display

If this is your first trade show, or your first trade show for a new product or service, you want to make sure your booth sends the right message to the attendees, clients and prospects. You only have a few seconds to grab an attendee’s attention as they walk by. Make sure your booth tells people exactly who you are and what you do. Make your booth fun and inviting. Set up one or two hi-top tables with chairs along with a couple lower chairs. This gives you a place to sit with a prospect, and it gives them a place to sit down and rest. Set out bottles of water and snacks for people when they come by. Be engaging with individuals as they get near your booth, but do not come out selling. If allowed by the venue, attach some helium filled balloons to your booth so they can be seen from other aisles. Get a raffle wheel with a clicker so others can hear it from the next aisle over. If others see a crowd at your booth, they will become curious and stop by. Have some scripted questions ready to find out if someone is a good prospect or not. Do this without seeming obvious. Have two or three levels of promotional items to give away. Keep the least expensive out for individuals to take. You can give custom labeled bottles of water, custom labeled food items or pens. Reserve something of a perceived higher value for those you sit and talk to and are interested in your products or services. You can even offer another item as an incentive for setting up a meeting in one of the available meeting rooms, or scheduling a meeting after the show. When people walk around with some of these items, others will see them and want to know where they got the items. Remember the goals that you set months ago when putting together the trade show plan. You need to be able to track and measure the success after the show is over. The higher end promo items need to have a call to action attached to them. They are not simply giveaways. They are given in exchange for getting something from them. If you’re unsure how to go about choosing the right items to use, consult with a promotional products distributor. The right person can help you every step of the way, from preshow marketing, to the booth display, promotional items and follow up.

Choosing the right display depends on the type of event, the size of your space and the message you want to send. If it is a small trade show, a table top display may be good enough. With a larger space and larger show, a floor display may be better. If showing a lot of product photos is needed, then you may benefit from a lot of panels with graphics and then some retractable banners on each side. You want to make sure you create the space to reflect the branding of the business. Make it clean and crisp, eye catching, but make sure it follows the typical branding of your business. If you have continuous loop video to display, you can get monitor brackets to display your videos. Choosing a booth can be a little overwhelming, especially if you have a limited budget. If you work with a promotional products specialist, they will show you a lot of options in various price ranges to fit your budget.

If you have a booth, make sure your current graphics are clean and up to date. They shouldn’t have pictures that look like they were taken in the 70’s. You only have around 3 seconds to get the attention of the attendees, so you need to get the message across quickly. If your booth does not catch their eye, and they don’t understand what you’re about, they may just move on to the next space. If the graphics need to be updated, work with a qualified graphic designer to make sure they are done right.


Marketing and promoting the trade show is essential to your success and ROI. Just because you put up a booth and banner does not guarantee success. Even if your booth is full, it does not mean the right people are there. Here are some tips to marketing the event. Surveys show that most trade show attendees map out the booths they want to visit before they even get to the show. You have to make sure you stand out when they are mapping out their day.

• Email blasts to your regular email list and average prospects
• Social media. Post on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
• Call your top clients and prospects personally to invite them
• Have the sales staff invite customers when they go out to make their regular calls.
• If you attended shows the previous year, reach out to the people you met at a previous event.
• Send out coupons for products, promotional items as an incentive for businesses and individuals to stop in to see you.
• Create a press release on PRWeb or Newswire.
• Make sure you are on the event organizers web site as an exhibitor.
• Create a banner ad on your own web site and make sure you have dates and locations listed where clients and prospects can come see you.
• If you have a company newsletter, make sure you post a calendar of events, listing the trade sure time and location.


All your pre show efforts are wasted if you can’t engage with the attendees the day of the event. You need to make sure you “work the show” with the employees you have at your booth. Make sure they are pumped and energetic, but also know they are not there to sell. They are there to engage and inform. Three out of five attendees who stop at a booth decide to move on within seconds. You can stop this by engaging with someone right away. You can’t be everywhere, so you need to create ways to get people engaged enough to allow time to talk to them. Here are some ways to keep attendees from leaving before you have a chance to talk to them.

• Don’t stand behind a table. Get out towards the aisle. Walk around and make eye contact.
• Give them a bottle of water from your booth and start a conversation about the show.
• Have looped videos playing about your company and your products that draw interest. I once watched a series of videos of how Red Wing shoes were made for several minutes. People will watch video if it is interesting. When you see someone watching the videos, make sure you strike up a conversation with them about what they are watching. Bring up some interesting facts about them.
• Hold classes, workshops or product demos to several at a time.
• Let attendees hold and use products if possible to get them engaged. Others will see this and want to do it themselves.
• If you can’t get to everyone, have a contest where people need to fill out a short form and leave their business card to be entered. Any way that you can get contact information is good.
• Again, make sure your team is energetic and approachable. If they are standing around talking to each other, they are not that approachable.
• Make sure you have the right body language. If you are already speaking with someone, keep facing the aisle in an open stance so others can join in if they want.
• Ask questions. Don’t sell. Create conversation, not a sales pitch.


After months of planning and preparation, the show is over just like that. Your work is done, right? Wrong! Now it’s time for some of the most important work to begin. You gathered all this contact information and leads for a purpose. You set your goals for what you wanted to achieve. Now it’s time to move on to the next step. It’s now time for start cultivating and nurturing those relationships. The trade shows are great for gathering information, networking and getting your information out; however, most sales are made long after the show has ended. Now it’s time to turn all that information over to the team that is going to do the follow up. A follow up plan should have been put in place during the early planning sessions so the sales and marketing team could immediately take over after the show. Assuming each of your new contacts probably met a lot of exhibitors at the show, so you want to be the first to follow up with them. Here are some tips for following up with new contacts and staying connected in the future.

• First, separate each contact by importance. Divide them into, prospect, lead, and referral partner.
• For the highest priority contacts, don’t just lump them into an email blast. Send them a gift with a personal thank you, thanking them for stopping by your booth. Be creative and make sure it sends the same message as the communication at the show. Follow up later to make sure they received the item. Turn that conversation into a business call, but don’t go into a sales pitch. You are cultivating the relationship at this point.
• Although you have made certain contacts a lower priority, that does not mean they don’t have merit, and potential. A smaller gift can go a long way to strengthening
and cultivating a relationship with them. Follow up with them and stay in touch. Put regular noted in your CRM and see where the relationship takes you.
• Use social media and email campaigns to keep in touch and make your presence felt.
• Invite them all to the same event next year.


Trade shows are a great way to learn about yourself, your employees and the company. The first shows may not always go as planned, but if you stop and analyze what went well and what didn’t, you can ensure the next shows will be much better. Here are some tips on analyzing trade show performance.

• Get the planning team together to discuss the trade show performance.
• Go back to the goals you set when you decided to exhibit at the trade show. Did you make the numbers you set out to make?
• If not, what kept you from reaching your goals?
• If you did, what helped to contribute to reaching the goals?
• How did the team perform? Did they greet each attendee at the booth? Were they knowledgeable and helpful? Were they able to answer questions?
• What comments were made by the attendees regarding the booth, graphics, and videos if you had any?
• Contact some of your more important clients and ask them what they thought of their performance at the show? Slant it in a way to let them know you are trying to improve customer service. Ask them if they understood the message they were trying to convey. Did you stay true to your brand?
• How did your team do compared to your competition? How was their booth? What did you like about it and what didn’t you like?
• Discuss what you can do to improve upon your performance next year, or at the next trade show. What areas do you need to brush up on?


As you can see, exhibiting at a trade show consists of more than just setting up a booth and showing up the day of the event. It takes a lot of planning and preparation before, during and long after the show in order to reach the goals you set for your team. If you are to truly make the event a successful one, and get the ROI necessary, you have to give each area the time and energy needed to become successful. I really believe that if you follow this guide, you will be well on your way to reaching the goals you’ve set for your company or organization.

About the Author:

Greg Miller, the owner of BRAND-Tastik, brings more to the process than simply the ability to sell promotional products; he also has vast marketing and graphic design experience he puts to use to help clients tailor their promotional products programs for optimal visibility and branding. The client may want custom pens, corporate gifts, personalized gifts or other freebies to hand out but, with BRAND-Tastik they receive much more than that – they receive an expert marketing and branding consultation with their promotional products.

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