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Tradeshow Triumph: Five Proven Ways to Spark Success

Business team celebrating over finalization of a contract

It’s in the numbers! The more people who visit your tradeshow booth, the higher the probability of finding qualified leads for your business.

Each year, nearly 500,000 conventions, tradeshows and conferences take place in the U.S. with some 40 million attendees. Brand marketers and sales professionals are eager to hype the features and benefits of their products to prospective buyers. And oftentimes they anticipate the convention crowds will automatically flock to their booth to learn about their wiz-bang products.

Time for Convention Intervention. Success starts long before the tradeshow does. You need to capture the imagination of your target audience. Intrigue them; tease them, excite them! Make them want to come to you. Here are 5 proven ways that my colleagues at Vertical Marketing Network help clients ensure success at trade events.

1. Create the “I can’t wait!”

Use social media to build before-the-show buzz. “Generating excitement around your brand prior to the trade show and in the booth space during the show with unique offerings that are relevant to the target audience can deliver big wins for your brand,” says Nicco Mouleart, Vice President, Group Account Director at Vertical Marketing Network.

  • After you’ve registered to exhibit, write a blog post and share it on your brand’s Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and through email blasts.
  • Stay on top of it. Don’t just write one entry two months ahead of time; keep your potential customers involved right through the show. What would they like to see from you at the tradeshow? How can we make the tradeshow more enjoyable for them? Offer hints about what your company will unveil at the show.
  • Social media and email are just a single part of your integrated marketing plan. The old-fashioned “personal touch” is a great way to connect with potential attendees. A phone call to each key prospect can go a long way to ensure that he or she will stop by your booth.
  • Do the unexpected! Vertical Marketing Network created a  “Win a Billboard for Your Store!” pre-tradeshow promo for its client WD-40.  Registered attendees were invited to come by WD-40’s booth where they had a chance to win a billboard for their hardware store, as well as exclusive WD-40 product trade show deals, and their photo featured on the cover of “Hardware Retailing” magazine. The promotion was a big hit.
Vertical Marketing Network created this gotta-look pre-show promo for WD-40

Vertical Marketing Network created this gotta-look pre-show promo for WD-40

2. Win their attention

You need to keep the hubbub going once the show is underway. Posting status updates on your social media accounts is just a start.

  • Offer social-media exclusive incentives like “visit our booth between 9:00 and 11:00 and receive a free (insert prize here).” Make sure whatever incentive you offer is something they will really want, not something that will make them roll their eyes.
  • Post pictures of the people who come to your booth (with their go-ahead of course!) Make your booth look like the “happening” place to be.
  • Don’t forget to include your booth number and some nearby landmarks so attendees know where to find you.

3. Show AND tell

Even with all the beforehand buzz you’ve worked so hard to achieve, you can lose attendees’ attention once they actually arrive at the show. So make your booth a veritable people magnet.

  • Signage is key: make sure that people walking past the booth know who you are and what you do. You only have two seconds to capture their attention.
  • Mascots, magicians, and “booth babes”: these old standbys may be a bit cheesy, but they’re still around because they work. But if you want to give something different a go, try a tradeshow scavenger hunts–just make sure the winner gets something really cool for their effort. Have a few different scavenger hunts throughout the day to give people a reason to keep coming back to your booth.
  • Some companies have had success attracting visitors by creating a “themed” booth. For example, Coffee Bean turned their booth into a “coffee shop,” complete with free coffee, comfortable couches, and Wi-Fi. Ayres Hotels created a booth that mimicked the look of a hotel lobby with wingback chairs and a fireplace. Snapz Crisps’ booth was shaped like a giant apple.
The smell of fresh coffee wafting over the tradeshow crowd made Coffee Bean's coffee shop-inspired booth a huge success

The smell of fresh coffee wafting over the tradeshow crowd made Coffee Bean’s coffee shop-inspired booth a huge success

So you’ve got them at the booth. Now it’s on you.

  • Friendly, approachable, proactive—that’s the name of the game. Even if your booth staff is dead-dog tired after six hours of standing at the booth, they need to approach every visitor as if they’re the first one of the day.
  • Make the products at your booth within easy reach, without barriers. People love to touch, examine, and play with things. Let them!
  • Make your pitch short and engaging. Two minutes is about as much as anyone can take—even then, they may wander off part way through. They’ve got places to go and things to see.

4. Be a respite for the weary

Tradeshows can be an exercise in sensory overload. Give people a place to just hang for a while.

  • Provide charging stations, a place to sit, hand sanitizer, snacks, water, and coffee. You can even set up a putting green! People will come in and rest for a bit. Help them relax and recharge. It’s a great time for your booth staff to make a connection.

5. Give good swag

Every booth has giveaways—pens, paper pads, stress squeeze balls, etc. They get tossed into people’s bags with a dozen other like-items. But when your giveaways are well thought out and useful, other people at the tradeshow will see someone with it and say, “Hey, that’s cool! Where did you get that?” So how do you differentiate your company freebies?

  • Find items that your visitor will actually use. At a tradeshow, where everyone is meeting everyone else, it’s nice to feel confident. Can you say “customized breath mints” as a giveaway? Every time they open the tin they’ll see your company name.
  • Reusable bags or totes are genius giveaways—people carry your company name around for everyone at the tradeshow to see. And people will use it long after the tradeshow to carry groceries, transport kids’ sports equipment, you name it. Best part? More free advertising for you.

Ultimately, the point is attracting a larger number of quality attendees who may turn into customers. By building buzz, intriguing tradeshow goers, and creating a booth that engages and educates, you’ve increased your chances of doing just that.

So, any strategies to share? What’s helped drive people to your tradeshow booth?


Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.

Screen captures intended as illustrative examples only. Registered trademarks and logos are the property of their respective owners.


9 comments on “Tradeshow Triumph: Five Proven Ways to Spark Success

  1. Pingback: Corporate Events – An Essential Part of Doing Business Today | Event Pros

  2. Peggy Page
    April 15, 2014

    Don’t forget the tag-along family member. Most of the time they are bored and try to hurry the targeted person away from your booth. Have something that will catch their interest, which will then keep both in the booth longer.


    • Kim Haman
      April 24, 2014

      That is a fantastic idea! It would need to be something that is gender neutral, and at the same time, compelling. Does anyone have a suggestion?


  3. Joe O'Malley
    April 15, 2014

    These are some great suggestions. We also recommend playing a game at the booth wherein someone might win a large prize. e.g. if you correctly guess the combination of the lock and open the treasure chest, you win $50K or larger prize. These prizes can be insured, like hole-in-one insurance.


  4. Diane
    April 14, 2014

    Completely agree that once you’ve gotten them to the convention your booth has to stand out. Gone are the days of handing them a plastic bag with a handle. The competition is tough to get them to your booth and to get them to interactive with your product. Who is working the booth is one of the most important decisions you can make and can be completely tailored to the target audience. Yes on putting green, casino game or even a grand prize scavenger hunt.


  5. Betsy bermsn
    April 10, 2014

    Lots of good pounts here. Giving away something useful is a good idea. Make it something that extends your brand image or is relevant to your product or service and you are improving your chances of being memorable.


    • Kim Haman
      April 11, 2014

      Absolutely! In addition to settings its booth up to look like a coffee shop, Coffee Bean also gave away sample packages of coffee and tea.


  6. tommmcatt
    April 9, 2014

    I think the “Wow” factor is the most important here, and as you say it needs to extend down to the smallest detail. There are so many premiums out there that it’s almost not worth it to do one if it isn’t going to be fantastic – and sometimes I think you might be better off just having a booth that’s really memorable if you can’t put that “wow” into the take-away item. A big clue here is fun – if you had fun coming up with the booth idea or premium then likely you’re going to create something memorable.


    • Kim Haman
      April 11, 2014

      Very good point! I agree that creating a cohesive, coordinated and exciting campaign is going to be one of the keys to drawing in visitors. And you don’t want to just phone it in–you have to take the time to understand your target market and design a booth (and the accompanying “wow” items) that will appeal to them and leave them wanting more!


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This entry was posted on April 9, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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