Marketing Ideas That Work at Trade Show Events

Share this article
Marketing ideas that work at trade show events

Trade shows have been a staple in the modern business world for decades. Of course, they have undergone many changes since their early beginnings, but one thing remains the same – trade shows continue to be a valuable marketing tool in 2024.

However, with so many companies vying for attention at trade show events, it can be challenging to stand out and make an impact. That’s why it’s essential to have an innovative and effective marketing strategy in place to make the most of your trade show experience.

In this guide, we’ll explore some trade show marketing ideas that are proven to work. From pre-event promotion to on-site tactics and post-event follow-up, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make your next trade show a success. Let’s jump right in:

1. Pre-Planning for the Trade Show

You have probably heard the saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This couldn’t be more true when it comes to trade show marketing preparation.

It is safe to say that most marketing teams will start planning for a trade show a month or two before it begins. The fact of the matter is that there is no “ideal” time period when the planning should begin. What matters is the strategy of how and what you plan.

You need to approach your trade show marketing strategy with the same vigor as any other advertising campaign. This includes utilizing all the resources possible to support your strategy with data for a more effective outcome.

Pre-planning event

Create a List of Goals

Before you even start planning, sit down with your team and create a list of goals for the trade show.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How many leads do you want to generate?
  • What products or services are you promoting?

Additionally, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant. This will ensure that they are realistic and can be tracked for success. Communicate these goals to your team and keep them at the forefront when making decisions throughout the planning process.

Pre-set meetings With Key Accounts

One pre-planning tactic that can greatly benefit your trade show success is pre-setting meetings with key accounts. This means reaching out to potential clients or partners prior to the event and scheduling a time to meet at your booth. Not only does this create a sense of exclusivity, but it also ensures that you have dedicated time with important contacts who may be busy during the actual event.

When reaching out to key accounts, be sure to personalize your message and explain why it would be beneficial for them to meet with you at the trade show. Make sure to also follow up and confirm the meeting details closer to the event date. 

Ensure Your Booth is Relevant to Your Target Audience

Another important aspect to consider when planning for a trade show is ensuring that your booth is relevant to your target audience. This means understanding the demographics, interests, and needs of your potential customers or clients who will be attending the event.

Your trade show booth should not only showcase your products or services but also grab the attention of your audience and make them want to engage with you. Consider what will resonate with your target audience and plan your booth accordingly.

Use Cost-Benefit Analysis 

When designing your trade show booth, also keep the cost in mind. Trade shows can be expensive, so it’s essential to make sure that your investment will have a positive return.

As your team brainstorms ideas, it is important to keep the cost versus benefit in mind. Sure, handing out huge gift bags full of swag sounds fun – but will attendants want all that merch?  You can base this on strategies you’ve tried in the past. What was well received, and what seemed to be a miss? Is the extra work required for some strategies worth it in the end?

You can also look for opportunities to save a few dollars here and there. For instance, if you only attend a few trade shows a year, it could be a better financial decision to rent a custom booth instead of building one.

2.  Prepare for the Day of the Trade Show

As the trade show day comes closer, you’ll want to nail down all the loose ends and focus on your presentation. Be sure to keep the main goal at the forefront of all planning, whether to increase leads, hit a set sales number, or build brand awareness.

Several weeks before the trade show, your marketing team should start spending more time on careful planning and preparation.

Trade show team planning

Practice Your Value Proposition to Clients

Be sure to have a clear and consistent message that you can deliver to potential customers. This will help them understand who your company is, what value you provide, and how they can benefit from working with you.

Have your team practice and refine their value proposition leading up to the trade show. Knowing exactly what you are going to say and how to guide conversations towards your pitch can help you reach your goals. In addition, by perfecting your conversational skills, you’ll be able to close a lot more deals on the day.

Utilizing Social Media to Generate Buzz 

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are all powerful tools that can be used to generate interest in your trade show booth leading up to the event. Create event pages, share sneak peeks of what you’ll be showcasing at the event, and engage with potential clients through social media.

Generate buzz on social media

Consider spreading the word about the event by creating a guide for attendees with helpful information like:

  • Layout maps
  • Speaker bios
  • Breakout session information
  • What to expect
  • Speaker schedules
  • Important event info (parking, lunch recommendations, etc.)

You can also use social media platforms to promote any special deals or trade show giveaways you may have for the trade show. These marketing efforts will entice attendees to visit your booth and increase your chances of capturing leads.

Invite Prospects to a Demo

The days leading up to the trade show are the perfect time to reach out to potential clients and invite them to a demo or presentation at your booth. This will give them a set time and place to come see your product or service in action, making it easier for them to prioritize visiting your booth.

Personalize your invitations and follow up with reminders closer to the event. This helps ensure a good turnout and increases your chances of making a lasting impression on potential customers. 

Make Sure Your Booth Catches the Eye

Arguably, the most important thing to work on is the layout and display of your trade show booth. Most conventions are pretty large, and there are lots of booths vying for the attendees’ attention – so you need to make your booth stand out.

The wood veneer hub booth design
VK-5172 Double-Deck Island Display
Super secret sipper club booth design
VK-5183 and VK-5186 Custom Modular Island Exhibits
Ruffwear booth design
VK-5178 and VK-5184 Custom Modular Island Exhibits

Custom booths with hanging signage, video screens, and unique displays are something to consider if you want to stand out. Adding in little branded elements along with large, eye-catching designs will help you attract food traffic.

In the weeks leading up to your event, you need to be nailing down the exact details of your booth layout. Be sure to utilize the amount of space you are working with as much as you can. If space is limited, consider a linear exhibit or even a double-decker display to maximize your area. If you’ve got a larger rental, you can create a mini storefront with a peninsula or island booth display.

Remember, you want to make your booth inviting. Open concepts are ideal, so people can enter from multiple spots and not feel like they’re “trapped” inside.

3. During the Trade Show

Nerves will likely be running high on the day of the event. While practicing and planning can help, you never know what the day may bring. However, there are some key things to keep in mind when it comes to successful trade show marketing.

What to do at the event

Hosting a Giveaway or Contest

Hosting a giveaway or contest is a popular tactic for attracting visitors to your booth. This can be something as simple as offering a free product sample or as elaborate as a grand prize drawing. The key is to make it exciting and engaging for attendees.

To build buzz around your giveaway or contest, be sure to promote it on social media and in any pre-show marketing materials. This will help generate interest and attract people to your booth. During the event, have a designated area for sign-ups or entries so visitors can easily participate. And don’t forget to follow up with the winner(s) after the event – this can be a great opportunity for further brand engagement.

Offering Special Deals or Discounts

Another way to draw visitors to your booth is by offering special deals or discounts. This could be a show-exclusive discount, bundle deal, or even a free gift with purchase. Just like with giveaways and contests, it’s important to promote these offers ahead of time to generate interest.

During the event, prominently display your deals and discounts at your booth so that visitors are drawn in. You can also use eye-catching signage or displays to make them stand out even more. 

Engaging in Conversations and Networking

Trade shows are not just about selling products – they are also a great opportunity for networking and building relationships with potential clients or partners. Be sure to have knowledgeable and friendly staff at your booth who can engage in conversations with attendees.

To make the most out of these interactions, have some key talking points prepared that highlight the unique features or benefits of your products or services. Also, have business cards or other marketing materials ready to give out to interested parties for follow-up after the event. 

Additionally, take some time to walk around the trade show and network with other exhibitors. You never know who you might meet and what connections you can make.

Collect Information for a Follow-Up

Be sure to open lots of opportunities for connections throughout your booth. Remember, you will want to follow up with them after the event wraps. A great way to do this is by offering a sign-up sheet for visitors to leave their contact information. You can also have them scan a QR code or sign up through an iPad or tablet device.

By collecting these leads, you can continue to nurture the relationships even after the trade show ends. Send out personalized follow-ups that mention talking points from your conversation – such as “How was your kid’s baseball tournament you mentioned at the show?” or “I hope you had a safe trip back to Chicago.” These small details can make a big impact and show that you genuinely value the connection made at the trade show.

4. After the Trade Show Wraps

The funny thing about trade shows is that so much effort and planning go into the event – but once it wraps, most marketing teams move on to the next project. However, the weeks following the event are when you will make your return on the investment. So, you’ve got to have a solid strategy in place for your post-trade show marketing plan.

Focus on relationship and connection

Sending Thank-You Emails

Sending out thank-you emails is a crucial step in your post-trade show marketing plan. This simple gesture shows appreciation to attendees who took the time to visit your booth and engage with you. It’s also an opportunity to reiterate your key points or offers from the trade show and provide further information or resources.

Make sure to personalize each email and mention something specific about their interaction with your company at the trade show. This will build a stronger connection and keep your brand of mind for future business opportunities.

Sharing Event Highlights on Social Media 

Social media and paid ads budget increased in 2020

Another way to keep the momentum going after a trade show is by sharing event highlights on social media. This can include photos of your booth, interactions with attendees, and any awards or recognition received during the event.

Not only does this help you reach a wider audience, but it also allows those who didn’t attend the trade show to see what they missed out on. You can also tag and mention any connections made at the event, further strengthening your relationship with them.

Analyzing Data and Results

After the event, take the time to analyze data and results from your trade show experience. This includes metrics such as leads generated, sales made, and overall ROI.

By understanding these numbers, you can determine the effectiveness of your trade show strategy and make adjustments for future events. It’s also a way to measure the success of your post-trade show marketing efforts and see if they had a positive impact on your overall results.


Trade show marketing can be extremely successful or a total waste of time, money, and effort. It all comes down to how well the marketing team plans for the event. Overall, one of the best ways to ensure a higher ROI is to attract more people to your booth. Therefore, having a unique, eye-catching setup is crucial. And that’s where Art & Display can help.

We offer custom booths, displays, and rental setups that will help you stand out from the crowd. Contact our team today to learn more about what we have to offer so we can create something incredible together!

Published: September 13, 2021
Updated: March 25, 2024

Avatar of loren gundersen

Loren Gundersen

Loren Gundersen is the owner and visionary behind Art & Display, a Santa Cruz-based company specializing in innovative trade show displays and exhibit rentals. With a passion for creativity and a deep understanding of the power of face-to-face events, Loren has transformed Art & Display into a leading provider of custom-designed exhibits that help businesses stand out from the crowd. His commitment to quality craftsmanship, personalized service, and cutting-edge design has earned Art & Display a reputation for excellence in the industry.