By Lili Vianello March 5, 2010

Your best booth, now made better

A trade show can be a great place to get your name out. It can also be a great environment to launch a new product or introduce a new advertising campaign. It’s all about having a bold, direct message that is easy to communicate to booth visitors.

But did you know that just as important as what happens at the show is what happens before and after your expo appearance? Think about it as a marketing continuum. Essentially, you should be implementing a mini marketing plan for your business.


You’ve registered for your booth. Now what? Start by knowing your audience. Who will attend the event, and what other businesses are exhibiting? Don’t forget that exhibitors can be customers, too.

Based on the anticipated audience, establish your goals. What are you trying to accomplish through your participation? Goals are best when they are measurable, realistic and attainable.

If you decide to have a theme, it should fit your corporate image and perhaps even correspond with your current advertising campaign. Select two or three primary messages, and keep the booth simple. Make sure you have adequate signage and that it will be easy to see and understand. People should not have to guess what your business name is or what you do.

Have you updated your Web site lately? Chances are, booth visitors will check you out online after the show. They don’t need to be reading about the event you sponsored two years ago or staff that now works for your competition.

Trade shows are a great opportunity to meet up with clients and vendors. Invite them to the showcase to visit your booth. Have your sales team share complimentary tickets with prospects. This will allow them to learn more about your organization in a relaxed, non-threatening arena.


It’s showcase day, so get your business cards out, and meet some people.

Put your best sales team in your booth. The showcase might be someone’s first exposure to your business, so you definitely want to put your best foot forward.

Contests and giveaways can help bring people into your booth, but if you employ these tactics, make sure the contest has something to do with your business. You will be able to turn giveaway entries into a database of prospects.

Don’t feel compelled to have literature or premiums to hand out. Instead, engage visitors in conversations, and question them about their needs and challenges. Make notes on business cards you receive. This will make you better prepared to follow up with prospects after the event.


Follow up with all of your leads. Eighty percent of exhibitors don’t follow up with their leads at all. This makes trade–show participation a colossal waste of time and money.

Sending direct mail or e-mails to your leads can be a fast way to follow up, but personal interaction is always better. After the contact is made, you may also choose to add them to your database so they will receive regular newsletters, e-mails or mailed communications about your business.

Keeping track of observations and revenues resulting from a show should be part of your process to plan for the future. Measure your revenue gained as a result of the show for at least one year. You can see what worked and what didn’t. You might find things to improve upon the following year or identify that another show or medium might be a better match for achieving your objectives.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your expo experience is limited to the days your booth is on display. Businesses that commit to it being just one part of an extended marketing plan realize a much better return on investment.