How to Effectively Use Trade Shows to Market Your Business

How to Effectively Use Trade Shows to Market Your Business

Many business owners are intimidated by trade shows or completely overlook trade shows as a site of potential business growth. The reality is that trade shows are an excellent way not only to make sales and attract new customers, but to encourage your company’s growth by trying something new and learning from your experience.

If you are planning for your first trade show event, or are interested in improving your approach to trade shows as a business owner, read on for some key tips to make the most of your trade show experience.

Choose a suitable trade show event

As obvious as this tip may seem, many business owners often make one of two mistakes when it comes to choosing which trade shows to participate in. They either a) pick trade shows that they do not fit into at all, or b) only participate in the “safest” trade shows or, in other words, do not take any risks. The first of these mistakes is a bit easier to flesh out. With very little thought, we could see why it would make no sense at all for a company selling European cigarettes to set up a booth at a health and wellness expo. The second issue, however, requires a bit more unpacking.

Of course, a trade show that is about your industry and your industry alone would seem like the appropriate show for your company. While these should not be put to the wayside, one way to level up your marketing approach at trade shows is to think outside the box when exploring which shows to participate in. Think about the industries that complement your industry, the services surrounding the product you are selling, and the people you are targeting as potential buyers.

For example, a company selling hair products would be doing themselves a disservice if they only stuck to participating in hair-related trade shows. Hair is part of the much larger and more varied beauty industry, and consumers who have an interest in other beauty areas, like makeup or skincare, are very likely to be interested in hair-related products and services as well. Imagine all the people who show up to the trade show for makeup or otherwise, but who, in passing this company’s hair product booth while wandering the trade show aisles, end up walking away with hair products they had not even planned on purchasing.

Appeal to the senses

It is essential that all business owners considering participating in trade shows understand that trades shows are shows. Like the director of any Broadway performance, or the owner of any commercial storefront with a window display, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have “set the stage.” Your props– be they tables or cardboard cutouts– should highlight your product or service, rather than distract. The arrangement of your products should be appealing to the eyes, and the space should be physically inviting.

You do not want a booth that is too cluttered, too confused, or overwhelming, especially if you want to attract new customers who are just passing by and have no idea who your company is or what your company has to offer. Cleanliness, smell, light/visibility of products, navigability, accessibility of critical information, and professional presentation should all be considered when you are setting up your booth. Before you even begin the work of imagining your booth, internalize this: at a trade show, your booth is your first sales pitch.

Promotional Items

Promotional items are key at trade shows. Sometimes, trade show attendees are not ready to buy your product or sign up for your service on the spot. But that does not mean you will not be seeing their business down the road. To make sure your booth visitors remember your brand, product or service, always have promotional items on deck and ready to give to anyone who shows interest. If you are worried about your budget with the event, you can always choose low cost promotional items like pens or keychains. Whatever product(s) you choose, just make sure they are of good quality and complement your company.


What could be more frustrating as a business owner than to spend time and effort setting up a booth at a trade show, only to have little to nobody show up? The best way to avoid having this problem is to advertise to your customers that you will be at the trade show featuring your product or service. Using social media, email newsletters, paper mail, or paid advertisements in print or digital media, you can reach a wide consumer audience and effectively draw them to the event. The most important thing here is to remember that people are forgetful. You want to make sure that you not only give people enough time in advance to make plans to attend the trade show, but that you follow-up via reminders as the trade show date gets closer and closer.

Show off your product

Lastly, it is so essential that your booth allows your audience to actually see the product in action. Wherever possible, allow your potential customers to try your product. If this cannot be done, make sure you have the pictures, videos, or statistics to back up the efficacy of the product or service you are selling. The fact that 74% of trade show attendees say that the ability to interact with the product in real life helped convince them to buy the product is a fact that absolutely should not be ignored. Do not expect new customers to buy-in blind.

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About the author



Tom is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and 2 cats. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on phones, tablets, wearables and more. You won’t see Tom anywhere without his ANC headphones and the latest smartphone. Oh, and he happens to be an Android guy, who also has a deep appreciation for iOS.