The Four P’s for Trade Show Success: Plan-Prepare-Participate-Pay off

Since 9/11, companies have taken a closer look at business travel. Trade Show attendance certainly took a big hit, but a comeback is underway. Are your customers attending trade shows again, and if so, are you putting them back on your marketing plan? If you are, now is the good time to revisit your trade show strategy. Are you fully maximizing your trade show investment?


Craft an overall strategy. The reason you attend a trade show is to connect with current or prospective customers and learn about trends that could influence your future. First, evaluate which shows are worth attending, then set specific goals with measurable objectives. This will help you determine success from the show.


Determine who you want to talk to once the show begins. Each day of the show is a series of get-togethers with target customers in an environment where the focus is on what you offer. Make sure those target customers know you are at the show and are worth visiting. Direct mail, e-mail, text or tweet.  Keep your invitation in front of your target customer. For example, Callis & Associates is preparing for the NRA Convention in Charlotte, NC. Our last contact with prospective customers before the show is an email telling them we plan to attend the show and are looking forward to stopping by their booth to say hello. Attached to this email is a “Cool things to do in Charlotte” flyer which we created that gives our recipient value-added from Callis. The flyer is filled with places to go for fun and food when the trade show activities end for the day. It’s a great relationship-building tool that doesn’t cost much but can pay great dividends. And remember; don’t forget to include the media in your preparation. Trade shows are an excellent place to meet face-to-face with industry editors and writers for possible story ideas and relationship building.


Know your message. From the design of your show booth, to your company materials, to even the dress code of your employees, everything should articulate your company’s brand and messaging consistently. Building relationships with attendees should be job number one. Whether you are selling at the show, or building interest for follow-up sales, your face-to-face connection with customers and prospective customers is the reason you are there. Ask questions and learn. These answers will pay great dividends in future selling situations.

Pay off

Follow up on your leads. You have just invested a large amount of resources in this trade show. Studies show that most trade show leads are never re-contacted or activated, which wastes your time and your money. Show follow-up should happen within five days after the show. Don’t wait until a good show contact goes cold. Remember, to achieve a good return on your trade show investment — Plan, Prepare, and Participate, and then go for the Pay-off. See you in Charlotte!