When it comes to participating in industry trade shows, there’s a lot more to your success than just being there. Trade shows can be a very effective vehicle to showcase your small business products and services to customers and to network. By being part of a trade show, you also have an opportunity to see what the competition is offering. However, you need to make sure that your trade show activities align with your overall sales and marketing strategy or you might find yourself spending money with little payoff.


There are a lot of tactical as well as strategic considerations involved in attending a trade show. Selecting booth space that assures you good traffic, designing your booth to convey your brand and developing handout materials about your products and services are just some if them. If the show is out of town, you also need to consider travel arrangements and shipping costs for any materials that you’ll have to send. Since most of these issues require research and advance preparation, plan early – sometimes as far out as a year – to ensure you get what you want at the price your small business can afford. You don’t want to incur late or rush fees on anything if possible.

Pre-show promotion

Outreach begins before the show. Leverage your social media networks, website, newsletter, blog or email marketing to let attendees know what you plan to display, highlighting new product or service offerings. Arrange one-on-one meetings with target prospects or partners to be sure you get on their schedule.

Find out which industry press and bloggers will be on hand and try to book an interview. If they can’t meet, send them information in advance about your announcements. If the trade show includes a conference, inquire about possible speaking opportunities.  This can be one of the best ways to get a return on your investment.

Booth activities

Consistency is a key to any successful promotion. Everyone on your team at the show should be prepped on what to say and how to handle a lead or inquiry. Regarding lead capture, some trade shows provide automated systems that enable you to scan attendee badges to capture the information embedded on them. Such systems also can be leased or purchased. There also are new smartphone and tablet apps that enable you to capture leads as well as take and process orders.

In addition to capturing leads, you can use your smartphone and tablets for a host of other trade show activities such as Google leads, tweet show floor activity, conduct surveys, send an IM or email to someone you want to meet, scan QR codes at competitor booths and take notes. Add a Bluetooth headset, and you can conduct a video conference on the fly with team members back at the office to discuss a new business opportunity.

Post show

Follow up! Don’t waste any time in getting back to your contacts from the show. You’ve spent a lot of time and money on your trade show attendance. Make sure that it counts.