Field Marketing

5 Hacks for Your Next Trade Show

B2B (business-to-business) marketing is far more lucrative than B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing- a single B2B sale can earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a B2C sale may only earn you a few dollars. However, the profit difference isn’t the only disparity. B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing because it is logic-based rather than emotion-based. Other businesses want to know how your product will help their business stay profitable. B2B marketing is relationship-driven, so your focus should on building and maintaining high-value relationships.

The best way to get your name out there and begin developing these relationship is through trade shows. They provide opportunities for businesses to meet with partners, clients, prospects, and competitors. With the sheer volume of companies at these shows, however, you need to do something special in order to differentiate yourself. Here are 5 tricks to help you attract attention at your next trade show:

  1. Utilize social media. Trade shows are not known for being the most exciting events. If you go to enough trade shows, you’ll notice that many of the same companies go to the same shows and have the same pitches. You don’t want to be one of these companies. Use social media to your advantage- try scavenger hunts, competitions, or trivia games. These games encourage attendees to participate, which promotes brand recognition. You’ll be remembered as the company with the fun game, and this positive memory is a great foundation for potential client relationships or trade show conversations. Social media integration helps with lead generation and conversion as well- you can expect a 5-20% increase in the number of leads. In addition, some trade shows have social media apps that are specific to them. You should push to stay relevant in these apps so that prospects will have an easier time finding and connecting with you. There are also apps available to help you plan and network at trade shows, and these should be taken advantage of as well.

  1. Entice them using free swag. Everyone loves free swag, and trade show attendees are no exception. By hosting giveaways, you will increase your reach by getting your name out there. Take WebTrends, for example. During SES New York, they released a pair of limited edition sneakers and asked anyone who noticed them to tweet a photo with the hashtag “didyouseethat.” Through this campaign, not only did WebTrends generate leads from SES New York, but also through the friends and family of those who tweeted the photos as well. More than 3 months after the event, WebTrends still had an influx of leads stemming from their campaign. It is important to note that free swag should be useful and relevant. Avoid the typical trade show swag like candy, wristbands, and brochures. Caitlin McCabe from Real Bullets Branding suggests thinking of “items that people at conferences will need but might have forgotten to bring,” like energy bars or phone chargers. In addition, keep in mind that trade show attendees will amass a fair amount of free swag, so keep your offering small- some companies have given away individually wrapped tea bags with their company printed on it and others have given away branded dog leashes at pet trade shows.

  1. Be creative. Vitamix’s booth at the Ambiente trade show wasn’t ideal, but they still managed to drive a lot of traffic there. How? They handed out smoothies and organic apples with the booth number printed in edible ink. This ingenious solution impressed both the show organizers and the clients that attended the show.

  1. Maximize face-to-face interaction. If you have salespeople outside your booth actively engaging with the prospects, then you have a better chance of being remembered. Ken Krogue, author of “17 Skills for Highly Effective Tradeshow Events,” says, “Get out front with people...don’t be caught sitting- you can rest later.”

  1. Don’t be stingy with information. B2B customers are looking for expertise, so by sharing your knowledge, you are demonstrating that you are an expert in the field. This is why thought leadership and content marketing are two important aspects of B2B marketing- the more free information you give away, the more likely B2B customers will be drawn to your business. Easy examples of this are free e-books and best practice guides. As Disruptive Advertising CEO Jake Baadsgaard notes, “People really do appreciate free content.” The same goes for prospects that request more information about your company. Instead of handing them pamphlets that can get lost or jumbled with all the other literature from different companies, have them enter in their email address on a tablet so that you can follow up easily and send them the information they requested.

  1. Minimize unnecessary costs. Trade shows are expensive- the costs of signing up, setting up the booth, designing the booth, travel, lodging, salary, literature, and giveaways add up very quickly. To counteract these expenses, it is vital that you minimize unnecessary costs. As noted above, you don’t need to overdo it on the pamphlets. Since many people throw these away, you should go digital, eliminating paper and printing costs. In addition, be selective of what trade shows you choose to participate in. Instead of purchasing a booth, consider renting one. Most importantly, be realistic about your expectations and always plan ahead- make a list of all the expenses that will need to be covered for the show so you can estimate how much you will spend. In addition, only choose trade shows where a large number of your targeted prospects will be in attendance, because that will maximize your return on investment (ROI). Some other ways to maximize your ROI include:

  • choosing a booth with high visibility

  • creating easy-to-read signage

  • inviting specific prospects to your booth

  • collecting contact information

  • creating and implementing a well-detailed follow up plan


It’s important to remember that each trade show is unique and your strategies should be tailored to fit the clientele that typically attend. Each one is a new opportunity for you to create and develop relationships that may lead to business in the future. If you follow through on researching and planning before the show, implementing these tips during the show, and following up with prospects after the show, you should be making the most of your trade show investment, as the relationships you build will lead to profit generation.

Nancy Chen

Nancy Chen is a Content Marketing Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is currently completing a Marketing degree at Northeastern University. A contributor to the national online publication Spoon University, she is experienced in delivering knowledgable, quality material to readers.

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