5 Secrets for making trade shows worth the money


In this week’s podcast I discuss how to get the most out of your trade show planning and marketing with TIm Patterson. Tim is the head of Trade Show Guy Exhibits where he helps clients excel at trade show planning and marketing.

Tim also runs a blog, www.tradeshowguyblog.com   and has authored a book called Trade Show Success that’s a great resource for small to medium sized businesses looking to take their trade show planning and marketing to the next level. You can download the book for free at www.tradeshowsuccessbook.com/

Why Trade Shows Still Matter in the Era of Instant Communication

Trade shows can be an expensive proposition for a young business, and I can tell you from experience that they have been hit and miss for us. With  social media and all the other options for instant communication, I asked Tim why a brand with limited resources should go to the expense and trouble of attending trade shows? Tim points out that because of the prevalence of electronic communication in business relationships, face to face meetings are more powerful than ever. Also, because buyers are there specifically to source new products, trade shows allow brands to reach markets that they never could on their own.  Another benefit of doing trade shows is just the opportunity to see what’s going on in the market  and how you measure up to your competition.

How to Insure a Trade Show is a Good Fit for Your Brand

I asked Tim how to  determine what shows are going to be a good fit for you rather than just a waste of time. Tim recommends simply walking a show as an attendee and speaking with other presenters before committing to purchase a booth. Checking the show’s site for signs that your competition is attending is another good strategy for gauging a show’s fit.

our e-commerce business continues to attend select trade shows and part of the reason that we do  is that we’ve gotten a lot better at doing them – in fact tradeshows have lead to some amazing connections that I’m pretty sure we could not have made otherwise.  

Proper Preparation is Key to Trade Show Success

Tim emphasizes that lack of proper trade show planning is the biggest mistake people make around trade shows – you can’t just show up and expect to have a great experience.

The progress we’ve made mostly comes down to us spending a lot more time planning and preparing in advance for the trade show experience. We now schedule weekly trade show meetings in the six to eight weeks leading up to a major event, where we discuss all the details of the show. This includes the marketing materials we need to get together, details of the marketing packages offered through the show organizers and logistical details of getting all of our items there on time.Mistakes still happen, but generally we’re able to make much better use of our time at the show.

Aligning Your Booth Design with Your Brand

Another aspect we’ve improved is the design of our booth. Last year we invested a significant amount of money in upgrading our booth and we used Tim as a consultant. Tim points out that for an unknown brand, it may be better to emphasize your product or tagline rather than your logo and brand. Ultimately you want to be sure that whatever messaging you’re using is attracting the right customers and disqualifying attendees who are not a fit for your brand.

Another point Tim makes is around the importance of having representatives of your brand in the booth who have been properly trained in both your key messaging and how to interact with customers in a trade show setting. If necessary, consider hiring trainers who specialize in trade show selling for your staff.

The Follow Up Process

The main purpose of attending any trade show is to generate sales and leads for your business. While it may seem obvious, in the beginning we really didn’t do a very good job of following up on the leads we met at trade shows, so we were wasting a huge part of the value of attending. Apparently we are not alone! In fact Tim claims that studies show 7-8 out of every 10 leads are never followed up on.

I can confidently say that we are now on top of our follow up. Every lead is entered into our CRM with notes from the show. Because I’m not typically at the show but do most of the follow up, we’ve trained our staff to get as much information as possible so I know exactly what was discussed  and can personalize my outreach message. I also begin following up within 48 hours of the show while the memory is fresh and we continue following up until we get a firm yes or no. But having a clearly defined process is key.


If you haven’t yet attended a tradeshow but are considering them as a way to grow your sales, I hope this has helped clarify why trade shows are still important. If you’ve already attended some tradeshows you probably got some nuggets that you can apply to your next experience. We’ve increased our returns from trade shows over time as we’ve attended more shows and gotten better at  our process.

If you’d like to learn more about trade show planning and marketing you can visits Tim Patterson’s blog at www.tradeshowguyblog.com

And again, Tim has also made his book on trade show planning availble for free to our podcast listeners – you can go to www.tradeshowsuccessbook.com

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