How to stand out at your next trade show

In this blog, we discuss our top tips for attracting attention at your next trade show using inbound marketing tactics, from leveraging...

Picture of Lauren Nuttall Lauren Nuttall

Published: 09 Jan 2020

7 minutes read

How to stand out at your next trade show

For B2B organisations, trade shows present a huge opportunity to increase brand awareness, engage in industry-specific discussion and generate leads. However, traditional trade show marketing has changed. Potential customers are no longer looking for a sales pitch, and the increasing competition means that it is now more difficult than ever to make your business stand out. 

In this blog, we discuss our top tips for attracting attention at your next trade show using inbound marketing tactics, from leveraging social media to generate excitement, to engaging with the right people for a successful, memorable exhibit. 

Plan your exhibit the “inbound” way

Traditionally, B2B organisations may have viewed trade shows as a one-off marketing event where selling to as many people as possible was the done practice. However, in a world where consumers have more choice and less time to make a decision, these methods no longer work the way they used to.

In order to ensure your business won’t become lost in the trade show crowd, it is essential to use new inbound marketing methods when planning and executing your exhibit. Instead of viewing a trade show as a one-time event, treat it as a full, well thought-out marketing campaign, where careful planning of individual elements is key and potential customers are at the forefront of each decision. 

Remember to start planning as early as possible, define your specific business goals regarding what it is you want to achieve as a result from your next trade show and communicate to your employees the message you are trying to convey. By doing this, you can ensure a successful trade show that generates leads and immediate ROI.

Want to know more about inbound?

See what it's all about here. 

Generate a “buzz” about your business online

When it comes to trade shows, it is essential to make your audience aware of your presence prior to the event. While this may seem obvious, it’s surprising how many businesses don’t promote the fact that they’re attending, let alone work to generate a “buzz” through social media and email. 

Don’t make this mistake.

If you have planned out your exhibit thoroughly like you would any other marketing campaign, it should be instinct to promote it through all relevant channels. After all, how are people going to know where to find you if you don’t tell them?

Here’s how:

  1. Send emails to all of your relevant contacts about the trade show, and be as informative as possible - attendees will appreciate helpful direction contained in one helpful source. 
  2. Generate anticipation on social media through engaging attendees (and potential customers) in conversation across multiple social media channels. You could do this by offering sneak peeks into your exhibition, running a contest prior to the show or simply reaching out to attendees and initiating a discussion. 

When you utilise the power of email and social media prior to a trade show, you are already engaging with potential customers long before you meet them face-to-face. This is extremely effective because not only does it make your business memorable, it begins the sales process and makes it increasingly likely that more qualified leads will find their way to your booth.

Design an eye-catching booth

If you’ve attended a trade show before, you’ll probably agree that it is essentially a competition for potential customer attention, and one of the best ways businesses can get noticed is through visual appeal. For B2B organisations who may not have the most obvious branding, this can be fairly daunting.

However, there are some simple ways you can ensure your booth stands out, even if your design knowledge is limited.

  • Have a consistent colour scheme

Although this seems fairly obvious, many businesses make the mistake of not having brand colours, or using too many. As a general rule, you should be using between 1-4 colours - any more and you risk your booth being disengaging, confusing or worst of all, forgettable.

  • Use clear and concise copy

While it is tempting to fill your space with all the information your potential customers could ever need, this usually works to your disadvantage. Attendees won’t be able to devote the time necessary to digest huge amounts of information, so keep all copy simple and straight to the point. Potential customers will request more information if they want to - don’t force it on them.  

  • Think about the layout of your booth

Instead of attempting to fill each and every inch of your designated space, think carefully about how the way you set up your booth could impact the way potential customers navigate and engage with it. Don’t be afraid of empty space - when used correctly, it can work in your favour by helping to highlight important messages and avoid clutter.  

Your booth design is arguably one of the best ways to stand out at a trade show, and it involves a great deal of detailed planning regarding your business goals and target audience. 

For more guidance on establishing brand identity with your ideal customer in mind, check out our free download:

Give out valuable free samples

A fail-safe way of generating interest at a trade show is by giving out samples; after all, who can resist a freebie?

Giving out free samples is extremely effective, as they can:

  • Introduce new people to your brand
  • Solidify relationships with existing customers
  • Offer knowledge about your product or service
  • Encourage repeat custom

However, while the success of the free sample is indisputable, it's also the tactic that every business uses - putting pressure on organisations to be original, innovative and exciting with the gifts they offer. With this in mind, in order to stand out amongst the competition, your samples need to be valuable

Valuable in this sense doesn’t mean extravagant or expensive, it means giving attendees something useful that represents your product or service well. 

Therefore, you should:

  • Give away something unique, making your business memorable.
  • Include business logos and contact information with any free samples you offer.
  • Make free samples easily accessible - attendees will be discouraged if they need to do anything before receiving a sample.

No matter which industry you’re in, free samples are a great way to get noticed at trade shows, if you use them to your advantage. By following the best practice techniques above, you can be sure to attract the right people and generate promising leads. 

Network and engage

Networking at trade shows is crucial to develop brand awareness and meet with potential customers face-to-face in the hope of generating leads. However, it is often more difficult to network successfully than expected, and this is usually because businesses put little to no planning time into it.

It may seem strange to plan a networking strategy, as often it is something that happens naturally. However, at a busy trade show with hundreds of competitors, relying on natural ability may not always work. Attendees will probably want to explore all aspects of the show, so they are unlikely to engage in a long-winded conversation with your business that could prevent them from doing so. Therefore, in an environment where you’re lucky to grab even a few seconds of someone’s attention, if you do happen to initiate conversation with a potential customer, be sure that what you’re saying actually matters. 

If attendees are interested in your business, they will engage in further conversation - so don’t be too forward. Remember that not everyone is comfortable with the direct approach, and consider other methods of engaging and networking with potential customers, such as flyers, business cards - anything that makes it easy to get in touch with your business after the trade show.

Ultimately, there is no complete formula that guarantees success at a trade show, as with all big events, there is a degree of uncertainty and plans may be forced to change. However, if you plan ahead, utilise online, inbound methods, and apply the tips and techniques we’ve discussed, you can be sure to set your business up for success. 

Remember: trade shows are the perfect way to engage with your potential customers, and get a real idea of what they want and expect from you. As a result, you can start marketing to a specific buyer persona, and nurture them into qualified leads along their customer journey. 

For more information on buyer personas, lead generation and the customer journey, download our free guide: An Introduction to Inbound Marketing. In this handy eBook you will learn: why the changes of buyer behaviour has shifted the way we traditionally viewed marketing, what Inbound marketing is and the skills and tools you’ll need to get started. 



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