Trade Shows Are Back. Are You?

Trade Shows Are Back. Are You?

After years of COVID-19 cancellations, trade shows are finally returning to full-capacity in-person events. Imagine you’re headed to your first trade show back on the floor. What’s your strategy?

Set up a booth and hope for the best.

It’s a common approach. And we get it! Sales and marketing teams are busy folks. It’s easy to convince yourself that showing up at a trade show will automatically generate leads. You’re there, your prospects are there, you’re bound to connect, right?

Wrong. Showing up at a trade show does not guarantee engagement.

Shows are golden opportunities when done well and a huge waste of time and money when done poorly. As trade show specialists, we’ve learned that you don’t just need a show presence, you need a show strategy.

Our trade show philosophy

Our approach is simple yet effective. Drive attendance, engage attendees, capture leads. Our most successful clients have a holistic plan to let attendees know their business will be there, give prospects a reason to walk into their booth and talk to someone, and have a clear plan for following up after the show.

We want to help you squeeze the most value out of your trade show days. Let’s walk through one of our recent projects to illustrate the importance of a well-executed trade show strategy.

The plan in action

Client: Brock Grain Systems

Trade show: GEAPS Exchange in Kansas City. The Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) is international association of individuals that work in the commercial grain handling and processing industry.

Show goal: Generate leads for follow-up and ongoing database marketing. We’re building a database for future marketing efforts, not just this initiative.

Booth theme: “Climb Everest”

Brock’s commercial bins are branded as “Everest” bins because they are taller and have greater capacity than the competition. The booth theme at GEAPS was “Climb Everest.” Attendees had the chance to test a new grain bin product first-hand – the Mid-Roof Walk Around. It’s an OSHA compliant stair and platform structure that allows for safer access to large grain bin roofs for service & maintenance. The platform was incorporated into the booth design so attendees could test the actual product.

Pre-show tactics

Our big draw to the Brock booth was a YETI backpack giveaway with a fun twist required to enter the drawing. If you wanted to enter, you had to climb the exhibit bin and scan a QR code at the top. We used targeted web ads and app advertising to promote the giveaway and sent email invitations to attendees to “Climb Everest” while at the show.

Show tactics

The Brock team custom-built the top section of a bin with a Mid-Roof Walk Around into the booth design.

Signs mounted along the stairs highlighted the various features and benefits of the product. When an attendee scanned the code at the top, it’s game time. They enter our automated marketing universe:

  1. The QR code took them to an entry form for the YETI backpack giveaway.
  2. They immediately received an automated email from Brock thanking them for entering and linking to a video about the product they were currently standing on.
  3. The sales representative for that registrant’s territory got an automated notice that a lead has been entered in their sales platform for follow-up.

All the staff on site encouraged attendees to try out the Mid-Roof Walk Around and enter the giveaway using the code at the top.

Post-show tactics

All attendees received a thank you email with a link to the product video and an opportunity to request more information. The sales representatives also emailed the leads in their territory thanking them for registering and announcing the three daily drawing winners for the YETI backpacks. They received an additional offer to connect with a local Brock dealer for follow-up.

The results

This is a relatively niche show with about 400 people in attendance. But there was high value potential per lead since everyone present is dealing with commercial operations. Brock scored 63 leads with their efforts – about 15% of attendees. Research tells us that maybe 60% of people making sales inquiries aren’t ready to purchase today but will be in the near future. We keep the leads in our database for ongoing email and digital communication. Sales representatives can track the progress each lead makes along the sales funnel. Our trade show clients have all the information they need to make the right pitch at the right time.

Trade shows are too expensive to not maximize your efforts. Make sure your show activity offers some sort of return on investment whether in immediate sales or long-term prospecting. We can help you get there. If you are ready to elevate your trade show game, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!


David Morton is JWM’s Co-Founder, Co-Owner, President of Marketing Services and wrangler of new biz, branding and strategic direction.

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