For businesses who attend trade shows to gain leads for media and sales, I’ve outlined some tips that I recently discussed in an interview for “Investors Business Daily”. [And yes, in our internet age trade shows are still very viable marketing activities for many companies to build relationships, exposure and ultimately increase sales.] If you’ve some great ideas to add to this, let me know so I can make these tips available to those who might benefit. If you want to know of recent trade shows we’ve produced, or need some help on your own designs, concepts, or production & resources, feel free to contact us for help.

(Note: In marketing parlance, products and services are synonymous. So below where “products” are discussed, we’re also referring to the “services” a company may offer.)

Before The Show

1. Contact the show’s producer to determine how the show is being marketed. In particular, find out what media opportunities are available: Can you include press announcements in the show’s media kit? Can you leave informative fliers in the pressroom? Will it be possible to pre-stuff attendees’ bags with information about your products (or services)? Will there be press conferences you can attend as an exhibitor who is launching a new product at the show? All of these are invaluable opportunities to capture the mindshare of show attendees, as well as the media.

2. Find out if you can obtain a pre-registered media list prior to the show. Then, where appropriate, send press releases about product intros or other significant, newsworthy information to trade and general news publications. Find out if the trade media is printing a pre- or post-show wrap up or general column; if requested, offer to send information.

3. Only target publications that would be interested in your products or show. For example, if you make auto parts, don’t spam your press release to Computerworld! This makes you appear amateurish to those editors, and you’ll lose your credibility. If you haven’t had your press releases published, you’re probably not writing them properly or handling your media outreach the right way—get a professional evaluation!

4. Be sure the use any local tie-ins to the location of the show. If you have company execs who went to school in the local region, or ran companies and belonged (or still belong) to associations there, mention that. If your product serves a unique market in that region, be sure to state that in your press release. Those regionally relevant items will make editors much more interested in your story. Think of it from their point of view—if they write for the Charlottesville Business Times, why would they be interested in a massage therapy trade show in Kansas? If you have very visual products, be sure to pitch the local TV stations, too. Again, if you’ve never successfully pitched tv, we highly suggest you call us to get professional advice.

5. Sponsor seminars, workshops, or breakout sessions, or get appointed to speak at these sessions. This will help you gain wider recognition and credibility with the audience attending the show, or any media people who are present.

6. Some trade shows have sponsored, invitation-only parties or demos in private meeting rooms or hotel rooms adjoining the trade show. This is a perfect opportunity to invite your top prospective clients-to-be, whom you can wine and dine while discussing their interest in your products. These can be either private or group sessions, held during or after the exhibit day. At least a month prior to the trade show, invite your guests, and set up your “meet & greets.” This will ensure that your sales staff will be prepared on what will be demonstrated, and/or you can adequately plan to engage guests in conversations about your products while offering them some form of entertainment or refreshments. Remember, the latter is what will attract them to meet you, instead of asking them to come spend their valuable time discussing a sale with you.

During The Show

7. Be sure to bring company profile information to have on hand for any requests. Where appropriate, have a press release to give out to media or to clients; it can serve double duty as both a promotional and media tool.

8. Sometimes it’s best to attend a show first to determine if it’s worthwhile to exhibit at the next year’s show. This gives you a chance to meet and have in-depth, follow-up chats with other exhibitors—some of them may become great strategic alliances for your company, and some may just be competitors with great info you can collect to study later.

9. Determine your objective. Trade shows are generally about connecting with prospective clients and collecting leads, not making sales during the show. So, decide what will attract people to give you their information. Be sure to have a container to collect business cards, or keep notepaper handy to write down leads you’ll make at the show. Then bring all of those leads back to enter into your database for follow-up purposes. Don’t rely on your memory! If you’re actively participating in the show, you’ll meet so many people you can’t possibly remember what each was interested in. Instead, make copious notes on your discussions; then you can make pointed follow-up sales calls upon your return.

10. At the show, provide giveaways that memorably represent your product or services. For example, health insurance companies can give away first aid gadgets. In my opinion, blankets, key-chains and pens are all tired and overused, so be creative in your promotional items while staying within your budget. Be sure to leave your promo items in the pressroom, too. If space allows, put your phone number and URL on all promo items because people save those items and can them find you when they need your products.

11. Have your exhibit staff prepped to answer all sales and technical questions—or trained to find answers online immediately. Take a look at my useful tips listing all the items to bring to a trade show with you, so you’ll be completely prepared.

After The Show

12. The sale is made in the follow-up interactions, not at the first meeting. So, be sure to enter all information gathered at the show into your database immediately. Then reconnect in a week with any media or potential customers who requested customized or detailed information or pricing. If you wait 2 weeks they'll forget about you and your sales results will diminish accordingly.

13. Keep the media on your follow-up list so that they continue to receive notifications about your product releases and other relevant news. Don’t forget: your media list should include online publications whose readers are likely to become customers. For details on how to develop media relations, hire a professional publicist.

Author's Bio: 

Allison Bliss Consulting is a Marketing & Communications Agency for corporations requiring an outsourced marketing department, creating branding, strategies and promotional materials that aren’t just visually appealing, but actually bring you business. Marketing Coaching rescues business owners who are completely bogged down with their day-to-day survival, and often lack the knowledge or perspective needed to reach their target market: Resources, Websites, Optimizing, Promotional Material,Connections, Sales training, & total support. Visit allisonbliss.com.