Marketing Center

Growing your business through trade show marketing

Are trade shows right for your business?

Published: September 13, 2016

These days, trade shows are available for nearly every B2B industry — and for businesses of every size. If you're a small business, attending a show can help put you on the map in your industry, and if you're a large business, you can reinforce your brand's reputation.

Although the prevalence of digital marketing is undeniable, trade show marketing is still a reliable way to increase brand awareness and loyalty. While digital marketing allows business owners to reach a wide swath of customers, trade shows allow you to make a direct pitch to your target audience and learn from their feedback. You can directly engage with potential customers and build relationships, which can help grow your business. By interacting directly with your target market you may get ideas for new products to innovate as well as find ways to improve upon your existing offering. "You can't replace the face-to-face nature of a trade show," said Paul Entin, president and founder of EPR Marketing. "But it has to be part of an overall marketing strategy, you can't just rely on the trade show."

These tips can help you practice the right trade show marketing strategies.

Determine your target audience before attending

Before attending a trade show, it's important to choose the right event. You're looking for a show that will yield a large amount of potential business, so knowing your business's core demographic will help you find one that matches. Check out trade magazines to identify which trade shows are right for your business. It might be helpful to attend a trade show in advance to make sure it is right.

Make solid connections at trade shows

If you decide to invest in a trade show, your goal should be to foster as many new business leads as possible. Spend time speaking with potential customers, asking questions and providing solutions and product suggestions as needed. Focus on obtaining names, email addresses and phone numbers, which will allow you to follow up with potential customers after the trade show. Working together with other vendors and sharing leads can exponentially expand your pool of future customers as well.

Turn those connections into business growth

It's not all about sales when you attend trade shows. It's equally important to establish new connections who have the potential to become long-term customers. Companies that leverage trade shows as part of their marketing strategy — and follow up with customers via email, direct mail and/or on social media — are likely to have the most success, says Entin. To ensure you make the right connections, develop an effective lead scoring system to rank which trade show prospects are most likely to become sales. Consider your company's target demographic, a lead's location, and how much interest someone expressed in the product when prioritizing leads to pursue.

Trade show marketing works for many business owners just like you.