How to Stand Out at a Trade Show: A Guide for Marketers

When it comes to B2B marketing tactics, no strategy has stood the test of time quite like the trade show.

A recent survey done by the Content Marketing Institute shows 75% of respondents believe in-person events are an effective marketing tactic. In fact, in-person events ranked highest on the list, above tactics such as webinars/webcasts (66%), case studies (66%) and whitepapers (63%) (source).

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity for organizations to form real, human relationships with their prospects that other marketing tactics just can’t provide. Unfortunately, trade shows are expensive and time-consuming. If you’re not able to draw in a huge crowd during your time in the exhibit hall, your efforts will be wasted.

Continue reading to learn how to stand out at a trade show.

1. Build hype in advance

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make going into a trade show is putting no effort into building hype around your booth in advance. At an industry event with 400 vendors, the average attendee will visit somewhere between 25-31 vendor booths. That being said, without a pre-show strategy in place, your booth is a guaranteed flop.

Take the time to cultivate a multi-channel campaign to let your customers and prospects know where you’ll be and what to expect. For optimal results, we suggest starting this process three to four weeks out.

  • Be interactive: Use your outreach campaigns as a way to get prospects involved before the trade show; for instance, let attendees vote on the swag you’ll be handing out.
  • Build suspense: Create excitement with an email campaign that promises a special surprise for your booth visitors – hint at a ‘can’t-miss’ opportunity, but don’t offer too much information! The suspense is sure to motivate them to stop by come show time.
  • Leverage social media: Social media can give your pre-show campaigns a much-needed boost. For amplified attention, be sure to incorporate any event-related hashtags into your copy, tag the host(s), and use captivating imagery, including high-quality photos and videos.
  • Let attendees plan ahead: Allow attendees to book an appointment with you ahead of time. This will keep you organized and attendees will feel more inclined to stop by your booth.

2. Invest in an eye-catching booth design

One of the easiest ways to stand out in the exhibit hall is to invest in high-quality booth designs. This can be pricey, but trust us, it’s well worth it. The trick here is to put some money into a set-up that your team is able to re-use over and over again. Here are our suggestions for a booth design that’s sure to grab your prospects eye:

  • Keep your message simple: Exhibit halls are crowded with companies trying to get their message across. If your mission and value prop aren’t immediately apparent, your prospects will move on to the next booth.
  • Choose a theme: This can be a tricky step for B2B event marketers due to the nature of the industry – i.e. it’s not always easy to find the fun in SaaS. However, it’s a vital component of trade show success. Think about your product or service, your value proposition, and what need your organization fulfills for your customer. Then, try to correlate that with a fun, unique theme.

    Think outside the box and get creative! For instance, here at ZoomInfo, we help sales and marketing professionals find and reach their ideal audience, amongst the crowded prospect landscape. This makes our ‘Where’s Waldo’ theme a natural fit. Once you’ve settled on a theme, incorporate it into all aspects of your booth! From your graphics, posters, text, even your team member’s outfits!
  • Get high-tech: The thought of incorporating technology into a booth set-up can sound like a nightmare to some event marketers. After all, you can’t always rely on your equipment to work in a new environment. However, when executed effectively, technology can take your booth to the next level.

Video is an easy and effective way to do this. Set up monitors around your booth, and play a demo of your product or service. It’s no secret that prospects like video content and videos are often more effective than written material. In fact, studies show viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text (source).

Another simple but effective idea is to include a touch-screen monitor or tablet your prospects can use to browse through your product or services. This not only adds an engaging touch to your booth but gives your prospect a true feel for how your organization can help them.

3. Step up your swag

This isn’t a new tactic to the seasoned event marketer, but there is no denying the power of a good swag bag. People love free stuff – especially trade show attendees.

If you really want your booth to stand out, be sure your swag really resonates with your prospects. Get creative, and hand out a prize that’s a little more out of the box. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • Totes: Nearly every booth passes out freebies and after a few laps around the exhibit hall, your prospects’ hands are sure to be filled. Why not provide them with a bag to put all their goodies in? Tote bags not only give your team promotional space to boost your brand, but your prospects will appreciate the helping hand. It’s a win-win.
  • Trade show Survival Kits: Trade show fun never ends – seriously! Even when the sessions and keynotes finish, prospects head off to parties and other networking events. Often, this excitement makes for a tiring couple of days. To help your prospects out, provide them a trade show survival kit stocked with all the essentials, including Advil, mints, chapstick, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, a 5-hour Energy, and a small snack.
  • Mobile Device Chargers: Whether they’re live-tweeting, taking notes, keeping track of their session schedule, or just checking in with their team, attendees are pretty much glued to their mobile devices throughout many events. Provide your prospects with portable device chargers. These freebies are not only practical but often cost-effective.

4. Create an experience

Don’t just talk at your prospects, get them involved! One suggestion is to create a game for attendees to participate in. For optimal results, be sure your game ties into your pitch in some way. For instance, at a recent event, ZoomInfo challenged trade show attendees to see how their data stacked up. How? With giant Jenga, of course! This was not only fun for prospects, but memorable and even informative.

Another suggestion is to host a scavenger hunt. Collaborate with other organizations to create a checklist of actions an attendee must complete at each booth they visit. The actions can be as simple as asking a question or watching a short video. Once completed, the booth’s team can check off the task, and attendees can be on their way. To get your prospects on board, give out a great prize at the end!

Remember, even though you’re only on the exhibit floor for a few hours, you want your prospects to walk away with a great impression of your company. Don’t get lost in the crowd.

5. Leverage social media to your advantage

It’s important that your team stays active on social media throughout the entire event, not just before. To put it simply, events garner a ton of attention within the social sphere. With consistent, strategic participation, your brand can leverage this popularity to your advantage. Not only will your booth remain top of mind with attendees, but the added exposure can effectively expand your brand’s social reach.

However, it’s important that you create and stick to a strategic social media plan. For optimal results, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Stay in the spotlight: Utilize event hashtags in your tweet copy so your content is easily found by attendees.
  • Be candid: Share photos and videos that highlight what happens behind the scenes such as: what goes on during show prep, what happens while attendees are in sessions, or even which after-hour networking events you’re attending.
  • Join in the conversation: Engage with other attendees and vendors social content; answer or ask questions, provide assistance, congratulate speakers, or just say hi.
  • Be persistent: Consistently remind your attendees where they can find your booth.
  • Boast booth highlights: Highlight any special components of your booth, like games, giveaways or stand-out swag attendees can expect when they stop by.
  • Share the knowledge: Consider live-tweeting the more popular sessions. If done correctly, this strategy can even engage your followers who couldn’t make it to the event.

6. Prioritize follow-up

We know what you’re thinking: How will a strategic follow-up process help make your booth stand out? After all, this is a step you take after the show’s over—but hear us out.

Event marketers often put so much work into the execution of a live event that they forget to prioritize post-event activities. In fact, according to one recent study, fewer than 70 percent of exhibitors have any formalized plan or process in place for how leads are followed up after the show (source). This is a huge missed opportunity!

Take the time to prepare a strategic post-show process for following up with your new leads. Here are a few suggestions for a successful follow-up process:

  • Ask to schedule a demo: If you weren’t able to during the show, consider asking to demo your product or service for your prospect. Demos are an effective way to continue your conversation with a prospect after the event is over.
  • Offer a free trial: Again, people love free things. Leverage this by offering your new leads a free trial or freemium version of your product or service.
  • Provide valuable content: Not all of your new leads will be in the market for your product or service, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them. Consider nurturing your new contact with valuable content. The key here is to avoid direct sales pitches, and instead, provide them with materials that resonate with their interests or needs. This strategy will keep your brand top of mind until they’re ready to start the purchasing journey.
  • Offer a special deal: Create a sense of urgency by giving booth attendees a unique discount code or offer.

Key Takeaways on Standing Out at Trade Shows:

Of course, there’s no perfect formula for trade show success. At big events with many different moving parts, there’s always an element of unpredictability. Some of your ideas may seem like big hits and fall flat, or an unplanned interaction may wow a prospect in a way you never anticipated.

When you plan ahead, you set yourself up for success and will be sure to see great results. Remember, trade shows are for forming relationships with your target audience. Put yourself in their shoes: they’re at an event checking out a number of companies in a short period of time – what makes your company better than the rest?

Contact ZoomInfo today to learn how our groundbreaking technology is fueled by the leading B2B contact database to scale and improve every one of your marketing initiatives