4 Trade Show Tactics For Small Business Success

trade show tactics

Trade shows aren’t the least expensive way to market your small business, but they are one of the most powerful if leveraged correctly. Trade shows allow you to reach and speak to people who you might never get the opportunity to do business with otherwise. Planning ahead using a few simple trade show tactics is the key to a successful trade show marketing appearance.

Create A Clear Goal for the Trade Show

Some small businesses make the mistake of assuming that simply appearing at the trade show is enough to spark interest in their products and a desire to do business with the company.

However, every time you attend a trade show you need a clear goal in mind for what you hope to accomplish. Examples of clearly defined goals include:

  • To gauge customer response to a new product or service.
  • To promote brand recognition.
  • To drive traffic to your website.
  • To build new leads.
  • To educate consumers about new product or services.

Once the goal is clearly defined, you can craft a booth, presentation and literature to achieve this goal.

Create A Powerful Image for Your Booth and Presentation

Never underestimate the “wow” factor at a trade show. You only have about 30 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, so make those first few seconds count. Tools for introducing the “wow” factor into your trade show appearance include:

  • A colorful, well-designed booth.
  • Knowledgeable booth staff who can easily engage people in conversation.
  • Working models of your unique product or service.
  • Audio and/or video to capture attention across a busy venue.
  • Literature and/or product samples for potential customers to take home and remember you by.

Build ways to garner attention at the event, as well as stick in attendees’ minds afterwards. Part of this is color coordinating your booth artwork with the literature or samples you hand out, so the attendee recognizes your logo and name later on.

Promote Your Appearance at the Trade Show Well Ahead of Time

Radio ads, TV ads, billboards, and social media are all excellent ways to get the word out ahead of the trade show that you’ll be there. But don’t just promote your appearance, give people a good reasons to come to the trade show and make the effort to stop by your booth.

Offer prizes, hold contests, give social media users a booth check-in option, and offer special presentations throughout the event via your social media outposts.

People are more likely to come if there’s a reward involved.

Choose A Heavy Traffic Event Over A Small Niche Trade Show

Some small businesses think that a small niche trade show is better for them to get noticed than a huge, more generalized show, such as a home and garden event or ladies’ show.

However, those larger events get much more traffic, which means more exposure for you than you could generate at a small event with fewer attendants. Even if you attend an event where most people are outside your niche, you never know how meeting, greeting, and networking can pay off in the long run.

If small businesses plan and use smart strategies and trade show tactics to design the booth, produce quality literature and up the ante with audio or video, they can measure up to the big guys and come out on top.

Trade Show Display Photo via Shutterstock


Timothy Carter Industry veteran Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer for SEO.co. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams including sales, marketing & customer success.

8 Reactions
  1. When I go to trade shows/conventions, what usually draws me to a booth is some of what you’ve mentioned…and also refreshments!

    Hear me out!

    If a booth has a bowl of sweets or chocolates on their stand, it comes across as quite thoughtful and down-to-earth to me.

    • As for me, that would be the contests. If it is worth staying for, I’ll stay. Also, the product must be of some interest to me. They should offer some sort of promo that will convince me to buy or stay in the trade show instead of the release.

      • I take part in the contests I’m interested in. I haven’t been in one where the winner’s announced on the same day. They usually want a slip filled in with contact details, which I fill out, then keep my fingers crossed. So far, erm, I’ve won nothing! No surprise there!

  2. I love trade shows! I don’t know what it is inside me, but it makes we wait in anticipation for upcoming shows like a kid waiting for Christmas. Thanks for the tips, it gives me something to look for at the next show.

    • Hehe! Well, you know, if you love trade shows, then you love trade shows! No need to know why it does it for you – just enjoy it :).

      So, do you have any lined up for early 2014?

  3. Don’t forget a “show special” too.