CommonLounge Archive

Trade Shows: Tactics and Case Studies

December 24, 2017

Trade shows are different from other forms of marketing because they allow you to show your products to real customers, in person. These events help you to get results fast.

Industry insiders also frequent trade shows, so you’ll have a chance to make a good impression.

You can make use of this channel during all stages of product development. You can start by drumming up interest in your product as you build the prototype. Later on, you can use this channel to make company announcements like product launches or partnerships and get big clients.

Case Study: SureStop

Brake manufacturer SureStop’s first goal was to get feedback on their product prototypes from other companies at the trade show. At this stage, they were able to get feedback from bike manufacturer Jamis.

After developing their product, they changed to a marketing and sales-focused strategy. Their finished product was attractive to Jamis (who they’d already built a relationship with) and the two companies entered into a manufacturing agreement.

How to start

Start by choosing the trade shows you’d like to participate in. Before investing time and money, first visit the trade show as a guest. If it seems promising, come back the next year as a participant.

You can also ask others who’ve participated in the trade show before. Find out how many people attend the conference, and if they think it was a worthwhile experience.

Set your goals for the show.

Then make a list of all shows in your industry and choose the trade shows that will allow you to meet those goals.

For instance, if your goal is to build solid relationships with a few key individuals, make sure that the trade show is not too crowded to ruin your chances of having a conversation with them.

Create a yearly budget for trade shows, and spread it out over the events you’d like to join during the year.

To decide whether it’s worth spending your money on a trade show, calculate a rough estimate of the sales you could earn (based on the price of your product and the number of target customers attending). Then compare those possible earnings to the cost of participating.

How to succeed

Preparation is key for successful trade show marketing. It’s important to make a great impression and build relationships during the event.

Make a list of people you want to meet at the event, and schedule meetings before you go. These could be editors, bloggers, existing or potential customers, vendors, competitors, or companies you’d like to partner with.

Send each person an email outlining why your product will benefit them. Adding a one-page PDF about your company is also helpful.

Be proactive and reach out to everyone you can.

You can also invite a group of people to dinner. Invite one big name and others will follow. Or gather some customers, potential customers, and employees together.

Choose a great restaurant. If it’s too expensive, bring a couple other companies to split the bill. Or throw a party near the venue.

When planning your booth, choose the location strategically. Do you need to be visible to everyone? Or would you rather be next to a certain company?

Make great materials for your booth: signs, business cards, and a great demo, for starters. You can order these from vendors.

Smart Bear Software sent out discounts before the trade show that could only be redeemed at their booth.

You can also give away free branded merchandise.

But don’t expect everyone to come to you. You should also approach people and invite them to check out your booth.

Give out free goodie bags with your brand name on it to increase visibility of your brand.

Once someone visits your booth, keep them interested and engaged (and entertained!).

All your materials should have a clear call to action for the target customer.

Keep in mind, too, that the media will be at the trade show looking for stories to publish. If you give them a newsworthy story, your company could get free publicity.

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