6 Trade Show Strategies from a PR Pro

May 26, 2023Events, Strategy

Trade shows offer terrific marketing, networking, and public relations opportunities—but most come with a hefty price tag! Before paying the booth fee and booking your team’s travel, there’s one critical thing you need to do:

Plan ahead.


Simple Strategies for Trade Show Success

Goodwin Consulting clients tend to be passionate go-getters, making them well-suited for the trade show scene. But too often, savvy entrepreneurs pour all their time into selecting the shows they’ll attend and not nearly enough time developing a successful show strategy.

Next thing they know, it’s showtime, and they’re scrambling to prepare. These days, bare-bones booths cost $2,500 to $10,000 or more, so you owe it to yourself, your team, your company, and your customers to treat every trade show as the serious sales tool it truly is.

With more trade shows under my belt than I can count, I’ve learned a thing or two about event management and how to maximize a show’s value and leverage it for a BIG boost to your business!

Here are six tips for getting the most “bang” for your trade show buck.


1. Start planning early

Once you’ve nailed down which shows you’ll attend, devote time to planning your brand’s impactful presence.

Start by brainstorming these key questions as they pertain to each trade show:

  • What is your market?
  • What is your message?
  • What will you do to interact with people at the show?

Whether your booth is small or large, whether the show draws hundreds or thousands of people, and whether your budget is modest or massive, the most important thing you can do is plan every aspect of your presence.

If you’ve chosen your trade shows carefully, you’ll soon be face-to-face with a large segment of your target market. Don’t underestimate the power of this opportunity to make a truly memorable impression on the people you meet!


2. Design a standout booth

Choosing the right booth is as important as choosing the right trade show! Booth placement is so critical, in fact, that you may not want to register for a show if all the high-visibility booths have been taken already.

Assuming you’re able to select a prime location on the show floor, your next task is to determine the “vibe” you want for your booth. How do you want people to experience your brand? How do you want them to feel when they walk away from your booth?

I highly recommend commissioning a customized booth from a specialty company. Event management and booth design firms can help finesse your ideas to suit your booth size, show goals, brand style, and budget.


3. Develop your in-person approach

Trade shows are bursting at the seams with vendors eager to steal away your prospective customers—and it’s not that tough to do when those customers are present in person and ready to be wooed!

You need a strong, efficient strategy for: 

  • Capturing attendees’ attention
  • Communicating your company’s purpose
  • Collecting each potential customer’s contact information

A beautifully built booth is the right first step, but what other assets will you need? The possibilities are almost endless: sales sheets, business cards, brochures, looping videos, product samples, freebies—even little bowls of candy require advanced planning.

Goodwin Consulting client Catania Oils set up an oil-tasting station with fresh French bread—a huge hit with its snack-happy audience!

And when our client CryoTape introduced a new athletic tape to their line-up at the Boston Marathon Expo, their booth featured a massage table where runners received complimentary CryoTaping in exchange for following the brand on social media. CryoTape sales soared, and the company’s social media presence boomed!


4. Make a public relations push

This tip is one of the easiest marketing opportunities available to booth buyers—and it’s also the most overlooked!

When you register for a trade show, you’ll receive a list of the journalists who will cover the show. Reach out to each press member individually and provide them with marketing materials, your booth number, and a brief PR pitch promoting your booth experience.

The businesses that receive mention in show-related write-ups can benefit from several effortless public relations bumps, including blog post backlinks, podcast shout-outs, social media tags, and even features in printed publications. Don’t miss the chance to put your brand in front of influential content creators.


5. Prepare for a fast-paced day

Working on a trade show floor makes for long days that quickly exhaust and overwhelm even the most extreme extroverts. You’ll arrive early and stay late, interacting with hundreds or thousands of people in between.

The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to bring help. Even one additional person can mean the difference between getting a short meal break and getting a hunger headache.

Speaking of hunger, have snacks and plenty of water on hand, and build bathroom breaks into your schedule. Hosting a trade show booth can be genuinely fun and invigorating, but you’re still a human with basic needs you can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore if you want to make a lasting impression. 


6. Finalize a follow-up strategy

Whether you use a CRM like Salesforce or a simple spreadsheet, capturing and grading the prospects who visit your booth should be a top priority. Every new connection should result in another contact on your email list, at the very least.

And if you take notes about your more meaningful interactions during the show, you’ll be able to personalize your post-show outreach and seal the deal with these pre-qualified candidates. (Trust me, if you wait until the end of each day to create your prospect notes, you’ll never be able to remember all the details.)

Lastly, go bold and get your info into your prospective customers’ phones right away. I use an OVOU card to share my personalized profile with anyone I meet. The OVOU card transmits my information using Near Field Communication and QR technology—no running out of business cards or scribbling on napkins!


Now You’re Ready to Run the Room!

You don’t have to be an event management professional to wow the crowd at your next trade show. Match your financial investment with high-value planning, and you’re certain to earn the results you’ve been dreaming about!

Need help tailoring a show strategy to your company’s one-of-a-kind needs? Get in touch!