Linda Hansen

Guest author Amruta Bhadkamkar is a Journalism major at the University of Kansas and is currently a copy-writing intern at Absorbent, Ink. -- The Promotional Products People.

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Trade Shows as Marketing Tools

Networking Jackpot: Making the Most of Tradeshows

Linda Hansen

June 25, 2009

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With the profusion of social networks that make contacting and connecting with people child's play, it is easy to dismiss trade shows as relics of a bygone era. But this is not true. Trade shows are far from becoming redundant and are still an essential marketing tool for businesses. However effortless it may be to interact with clients and prospects through the Internet, it doesn't even come close to replacing an actual face-to-face connection.

One of the main reasons for this is that people are more likely to buy from a company that they can put a face to and are more likely to trust products that they have actually seen. People and companies alike are more than what is said about them on a Web site. Trade shows give consumers a chance to personally assess the company and the people who work for it. Also, if the Internet is the only way a business reaches out to customers and prospects, then its communication abilities are limited. Face-to-face communication allows a business the freedom to try different ways of selling a product, receive instant feedback from prospects and solve prospects' problems on the spot. Trade shows also give a business the chance to do all they can to distinguish themselves from their competitors right in front of prospects.

Having said this, there are some companies that have eschewed trade shows and prefer to interact with prospects in their own way. Apple is removing themselves from the usual round of conventions where they normally exhibit, like the National Association of Broadcasters' annual trade show. For important products, Apple now tends to hold its own launch events or press briefings where it can control the timing and conditions around those announcements. The corporation feels more free to make announcements when it's ready to do so, not when a certain event happens to fall. But it should be noted that even though Apple has removed itself from trade shows, it has not ignored the importance of personal communication. The launch events and press briefings ensure that the personal connection is present. And really, Apple is such a strong brand that consumers are willing to try out its new products even if they haven't actually seen them.

So, you have decided to participate in a trade show and you have even set up your stall. Now what? How do you ensure that your stall stands out from the hundred other stalls there? Fortunately, that is a question that is easy to answer:

- With three seconds or less to impress the people walking by your stall, you have to ensure that your stall is as interesting and straightforward as possible. It is important to have simple yet bold graphics and text on your display. This way, people walking by are attracted to your stall and, at the same time, they can easily discern the purpose of your business. Remember: Less is more.

- Make sure that you have enough trade show giveaways for your visitors. The products should be useful, interesting and as relevant to your business as possible. One suggestion would be to divide your products into two categories: low-cost, generic ones (promotional pens, custom stress balls) that you can give to anyone who visits your booth, and higher cost ones that you can give to people you know are serious prospects. This way, you won't make a hole in your pocket by handing out top-of-the-line MP3 players to everybody who visits your booth, but at the same time, you can still impress prospects that you know will become serious customers.

- If possible, organize games or contests at your stall, preferably something unusual or creative. This is an easy way to attract passersby. Even people who haven't heard of your business will visit your booth if it looks like fun!

- Ensure that your stall is as large as possible so people are not put off by lack of space. Also, lighting is an extremely important factor in attracting people. Affirm that your stall has ample lighting and focus spotlights on areas that you want people to pay attention to.

Your stall does not have to be hi-tech to be interesting and unusual. All it needs is a little bit of creativity and you can make sure that you get as much publicity as you like, as well as maximum return on your investment.


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