It wasn’t long ago when an attractive sign and graphics, some demos and some great team were all that was needed to have a successful trade show exhibit.

We now live in a different world with advanced technology and an app for everything, and so trade show attendees have a whole new set of expectations.  They want easy navigation, dynamic content and to be in charge of their own learning experience – the bar for capturing their attention just got much higher.

According to a recent study by Oxford University, trade show marketing can result in an average of 4x return on investment for exhibitors. Combine this with figures showing that 40% of trade show prospects become customers after a face-to-face interaction and it seems a no brainer but to go and exhibit. However, when your competitors are also vying for your customers’ attention, and all in the span of a few days, this can be difficult to achieve.

Staying memorable for prospects who may want to know more and weigh up their options is tough, especially as many will forget you even exist once they return home.

LinkedIn dialogue can help with this and improve your trade show marketing ROI.


Priming your audience is a key conference technique and is often underused and underrated. First, compile a list of your competitors at the show to help you weigh up your competition and their marketing messages. LinkedIn is a great tool to gather sales intelligence like this. You can use this data to create your own trade show marketing strategy such as competing on price or highlighting a unique feature. Getting to know the competition is always a great way of putting your best foot forward.

Next get a list of those attendees who have registered and use your LinkedIn contacts to connect with key people head of the show. For your very best prospective customers, try sending personalised messages to introduce yourself and let them know you’ll be exhibiting.

Follow this by contacting other businesses and people that you’re unsure about but may be useful for your next wave of contact requests. This is also a great time to get a mention or to get introduced by mutual LinkedIn connections.  Think about connecting with those influencers at a tradeshow too – the speakers, the event planners and reps, maybe industry non-profits. Non-sales related networking can open many doors, even if it’s a re-post from someone that all of your prospects know and value.

Once you’ve connected, you need to request a quick meeting at the show – it sounds daunting but many, many opportunities are lost at this stage if you don’t pencil a time in – people don’t want to be waiting around a show for you to finish talking to someone else. Make sure you both get the invite in your diaries.

Finally, pre-event, it’s really useful to find and connect with all your new prospects across your social media channels – this will come in very useful on the day.

At the event

You now need to use all your social media channels to the max – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Live Posts are great to capture onlookers – remember to always use pictures and videos, plus the event hashtag to increase your reach. Continually monitor the event hashtag on all channels so you can comment on and reply to activity from attendees to help spread your marketing messages.

Remember the content on your stall is also key to attract attendees – they don’t want static content, they want to play a new game, design something, compete in a cool way, learn about themselves, engage in a social media dialogue or put on a headset to be transported to a new place.

Try having iPads on your stand with a lead-capture app. This makes it easy for people to sign up to your list and for you to gather data and access.

Post event

The most important step in trade show marketing is post event – to follow up on all of your leads in the next 48 hours. For any new prospects you met at the show, connect up with them on LinkedIn, referencing the trade show. Remember to personalise your follow-ups based on what you discussed at the show to help build a strong rapport with your leads.

Spend time sorting and curating the content you have from the show and posting the best quality images, videos, and discussions from the conference whilst tagging those you met.  Capturing people’s attention will position you better for future opportunities. Using inbound event-triggered techniques should help you increase your response rate.

By doing all of these steps, you should now have a solid network of attendees who you can continue to connect with and use for your future trade show marketing strategies whilst hopefully seeing an improved trade show ROI.

August 3, 2018