3 Strategies for Trade Show Success: Engage, engage, engage!

By: Mitch Tidman, Managing Director, Palladium Marketing

When it comes to trade shows, one thing is for sure: you’ll miss 100% of all opportunities from prospective buyers with whom you do not engage at a show.

Walk into any exhibition hall, and you’ll see booth staff standing in the corridors, or in the booth with their backs to the aisle, or on cell phones and laptops, or simply shooting the breeze with colleagues. That’s no way to grab the attention of your prospective buyers or encourage them to interact with your brand.

But fear not. There is a simple, yet highly effective way of turning around lackluster trade show results: ENGAGE! Engage with customers or prospects before the show, during the show, and after the show to both optimize your trade show ROI and enhance your customers’ experience.

Engage Before the Show

A few fun facts: According to the Center for Exhibitions Industry Research (CEIR), buyers generally plan their time on the trade show floor in advance and 76% of attendees use pre-show communications from exhibitors to plan their time at a show. In addition, a CEIR study with Deloitte & Touche showed that exhibitors who conducted pre-show engagement campaigns saw a 50% increase in their conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads.

Of course, this is easier said than done for over-worked marketing professionals already managing many other projects. But consider this: the difficulty and cost associated with engaging prospective buyers daily is real. At any well-targeted trade show, you have thousands—sometimes tens of thousands of prospects—with whom your booth staff are rubbing shoulders and with whom they could be interacting.

Engage During the Show

Sales people and booth staff have been selected not just to run the booth, but to engage with prospects on the exhibition floor as if there were no tomorrow. As a marketer, you must set high expectations, communicating to the booth team that you care about and are tracking the results., and that the CEO is watching and holding them accountable.

Provide tools and training to the sales team weeks prior to the event with goals of setting up three pre-planned meetings with attending customers. Show them techniques of how to engage with a passerby. Show them also how to disengage once they have the relevant information. Set realistic yet ambitious goals.

Per a 2012 report by CEIR called The Role and Value of Face to Face Interaction, only 26% of exhibitors conduct training for all or most events, and more than 50% rarely or never hold exhibit staff training sessions. Turn other organizations’ poor planning into your competitive advantage by prepping your sales team to show up ready to go out on the floor and make your brand known.

Engage After the Show

Your job as a marketer is not to collect leads from the show. Your job is to provide actionable data to the organization in the form of:

  • qualified opportunities for the sales funnel
  • contacts and connections for marketing nurturing campaigns
  • customer surveys for the product development teams, and
  • competitive information that might give you the edge in a future deal

Make sure you have processes in place for each of these and that those processes are followed.

Trade shows can be very costly and account for a sizable piece of the marketing budget. One missed opportunity could be the difference between making the yearly budget or missing it.

It’s not rocket science. Select the right people, set high expectations, train them well, give them the right tools, and have the processes in place to act on the data on the back end. Your boss, the sales teams, the CMO, the CEO—each of them will thank you for it.

Interested in helping your team improve your visibility, generate & qualify leads, and increase engagement at your trade shows and live events? Check out our 8/21 Back-to-Trade Show Season! A CX and Sales Enablement Special Event!


Mitch Tidman is the Managing Director of Palladium Marketing. He is currently chairs AMA Cincinnati’s CX and Sales Enablement Community and served on the Board of Directors as the VP of Strategic Partnerships in 2017-2018.

Copyright © AMA Cincinnati. All rights reserved.