Your guide to marketing at an industry trade show

Taking your business to a trade show is one of the most effective ways of putting your brand in front of a highly targeted audience. Exhibiting brings a host of benefits but requires detailed planning to overcome challenges and ensure your investment brings in the best possible return.

Not everyone who participates in trade shows is successful, getting good results is about preparation, a great marketing strategy and an engaging exhibition stand design.

Trade show planning can be a daunting prospect but to help you along the way we’ve put together a planning checklist featuring all the key tasks.

Why exhibit at a trade show

Boost Brand Visibility

Trade shows provide unique opportunities to increase brand awareness.

Generate Sales Leads

Showcase your products and services to thousands of engaged attendees.

Build Lasting Relationships

Network with a community of other businesses and meet industry influencers.

Research Your Competitors

Stand alongside other big names in your industry and observe their offering.

Face-To-Face Marketing

Speak and sell to clients in person. Make sure your message resonates with them.

Receive Instant Feedback

Get a clear understanding of how customers feel about your products and services.

1. Choose the right exhibition for your business

Every year there are literally thousands of exhibitions around the UK. When considering which show is right for your business you need to do your homework. Find out as much information as possible to establish fits into your marketing strategy, but crucially if its attractive to your target audience.

You should also check out which of your competitors are already exhibiting. You should be able to get this from event organisers and is important when considering your stand location and key marketing messages.

2. Assign Key Roles & Responsibilities

Thinking the whole planning and execution of your exhibition stand should be handled by one person could be your first mistake. The starting point should be to assign these key jobs to certain individuals:

TaskResponsible Person Completed?
Create exhibition budget & forecast return
Receive floor plans and book space
Promote your show on your website and other marketing materials
Set goals and objectives
Pre-event marketing plan
Exhibition stand design and layout
Promotional giveaways
Design and print marketing literature
Plan transport and accommodation
Submit electrical and furniture order forms
Email customers and prospective clients informing them your exhibiting
Appointment and meeting arrangement
Staff training

3. Evaluate Floor Plans & Select Your Space

Once you contact the trade show organiser they will promptly send you a detailed floorplan of the event, including stand space availability. The floor plan will include all entrances and exits, seminar rooms, theatres and communal areas such seating and cafes.

Where your stand is located could have a big impact on the footfall, you’ll want to ensure as many attendees as possible pass by your stand. Booking early is essential to getting the best possible position. However, a great location and stand size can also impact on costs and its important to spend your budget in the most effective way.

4. Choose your type of exhibition stand

If you’re a first-time exhibitor, you may be confused by the different exhibition stand options. A trade show organiser will likely offer you two packages – shell scheme or space only. So what does that mean?

Shell Scheme

A shell scheme is usually the cheaper option and will typically include stand walls and carpet. The stand walls will be a blank canvas ready your exhibition panels or banner stands.

Your stand will start out looking like everyone else’s but with effective and engaging graphics you can create a great looking stand even on small budget.

Space Only

Space only exhibition stands are a complete blank canvas where you simply pay for the floor space.

Businesses with larger budgets who want to create custom trade show banners or bespoke stand design will book just the space and then often employ a exhibition stand contractor to build their stand.

6. Ensure your company is listed on exhibitor website

Once you’re a confirmed exhibitor you will have the opportunity to feature as such on the exhibition website. This informs prospective attendees you will be there and where your stand is located. Many exhibitions will also include a link to your own website which can be a great source of visitor traffic as well as boosting your online visibility.

7. Set Goals & Exhibition Objectives

Why are you attending this tradeshow? Ask yourself this question before moving on. Exhibiting at a tradeshow is expensive so it’s important to establish meaningful and measurable objectives – and these should be at the forefront during the rest of your planning.

Analyse what you want to achieve from your show, this could include brand awareness, lead generation, direct sales, a new product launch, gathering contact information or networking with suppliers. Put your goals down on paper and communicate them with the rest of your planning team.

8. Plan some pre-show advertising

This is often a stage that is overlooked but should be part of any successful plan. You’ll want to consider how you engage your prospects and what information they see.

You could create a special offer that’s exclusive to the show, which you can advertise in industry magazines or through social media. Most tradeshows will have a designated hashtag and will share your posts that include it.

You can also communicate to your current customer database, which can create many opportunities to set up meetings at the show itself.

9. The different stand designs and layouts

Your exhibition graphics and general stand layout is crucial to the success. You’ll want everything ready in plenty of time before the show and this stage can be a little daunting. Contacting an exhibition planning, design and printing company can ensure all the hard work is taken away and your stand looks great.

Take your time to research the right partner who has the experience required and can work with you from the ground up to achieve your objectives. Depending on the type of type of stand you’ve booked you may require one of the following options:

10. Design & print marketing literature

Your exhibition stand won’t be complete without printed literature for visitors to takeaway. Printed brochures, product catalogues and leaflets can include detailed information – not forgetting the trusted business card. You may also want to create flyers to promote your business to people as they walk around the exhibition.

11. Plan who will be attending

Your staff or colleagues will need to know in plenty of time if they’re going to attend the exhibition, especially if travel and time away from home is required. You’ll want people who are approachable and experts in your business and products.

The numbers required will depend on the size of your stand and the size of show. For standard sized exhibition stands it’s generally recommended that 2 people always man the stand. You may also want to create a timetable to ensure your team know where they should be.

12. Thoroughly read through exhibitor manual

In the lead up to the show itself the organisers will send you an exhibition manual. This will include all the fine details you need including general guidance, when you can build / take down your stand, directions and opening hours.

You’re often allocated a time when you can access the venue in a vehicle, so this needs to be communicated with the relevant people.

12. Submit electrical and furniture orders

If your stand design includes electrical requirements and furniture (this is often available through the exhibition organisers), you will need to order this up front. You may also be able to order upgraded lighting.

Even the use of a laptop will mean you need a plug socket – this needs ordering including the location. Like in any workplace, trailing wires across the floor will not be allowed so some careful consideration is required.

Our Exhibition Services

From easy to transport exhibition graphics through to temporary graphic-clad external buildings, the only limit of our exhibition services is your imagination. Our expert team can advise on the right solution for your exhibition stand as well as provide a vast range of printed products.

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