How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 1I live in a small town with over a million people.

That is the best way to describe Tucson, AZ.

We have lots of people and lots of wide open spaces and lots of communities within the larger community, but...few freeways, no real public transportation system to speak of, and no hoppin' downtown environment.

I sometimes bemoan the fact that this place is not particularly pedestrian-friendly, not particularly "happening," and a little bit behind the times.

That said, there are a lot of things that I like about this city:

  • The spectacular sunsets.
  • The unbelievable weather. I wore short sleeves today. Not to rub it in or anything.
  • The smell of the desert after the rain. It just can't be replicated anywhere else.
  • The casual, laid-back, non-stuffy way of living and the friendly people.

In October, I read an ad in a local circular, advertising an upcoming community fair...with free booths on a first-come, first-serve basis. I thought to myself, "Why not? I'll go out there, smile at all of the mamas, and invite people to discover my community at Metropolitan Mama."

So I went. I saw. I met people. And I was reminded of some important DOs and DONTs for making the most out of trade shows and expos.

Ready. Set. Go...

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 2DO consider who will be attending the event. When you see a notice about an upcoming trade show, fair, or expo, ask yourself who the target audience is...and if it matches yours. Reserving a booth will likely cost you money and it is wise to choose your venues wisely. In my case, the best places for me to exhibit would be something along the lines of Kidsfaire or the Arizona Babies and Childrens Expo.

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 3DO have something for people to see/do at your booth. If you've ever been to a big fair/expo, you know that there are A LOT of people there...people vying for your attention and people who are milling around trying to figure out what to do. Somehow you have to figure out how to make your little space stand out. The best way is probably to have something interactive happening at your booth. At my booth, I had a sign-up sheet for my newsletter and free high-quality chocolate (more on that later). Next time, I think I'll step it up a notch and do something extra fun...give people the opportunity to have their photo taken with their family, have a video playing, have a laptop available for contest sign-ups, something like that...

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 4DO smile. Never underestimate the power of positivity and friendliness. Say "hi." Comment on that little boy's cool green shoes or his mom's awesome yellow trench coat. Be genuine. Be real. Be happy.

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 5DO bring someone with you. I found myself wanting to wonder around the fair myself to see the other vendors and I did a few times, but I had to leave my poor husband behind as the representative for Metropolitan Mama...which actually kind-of makes me laugh. My "Mr. Masculine/Athletic/I-Don't-Wear-Pink-and-I-Eat-Meat" husband was the spokesperson for my blog for moms. And you know what? He actually did a great job explaining the whole thing to the moms that stopped by.

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 6DON'T talk about yourself. So there was this lady at the event...She went from booth-to-booth and shoved her business card in your hand and just went on-and-on about how she was this big time expert connected with Tony Robbins and blah-ditty-blah-blah-blah. Actually, her first line was, "You NEED me." Not, "Hi. What do you do?" or "Look how cute your baby is!" Nope. "You need me." And then she didn't even catch a breath before giving her long string of accomplishments and successes. Oh.My.Word. I wish I were joking. The only thing I learned from that conversation was how much I DIDN'T need her. Anyway, please don't be like the Tony Robbins lady. Listen first. Talk second.

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 7DON'T be a business card pusher. See above point. Business cards are a tool...and just getting them into people's hands is so not the point. Read my previous post for some pointers, How to effectively use business cards at conferences (1-2-09).

How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo 8DON'T forget to follow-up. If you meet someone great or jot down someone's contact information, make the most of that connection. Send out an e-mail, make a phone call, or tweet a friendly little hello within a week of the conference...sooner rather than later.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever exhibited at a trade show, conference, expo, or fair to promote your business/blog? Why or why not?

***Over the next three posts, I will be spotlighting three great products that can help your business/blog stand out...and you'll have the opportunity to WIN a few of them too. Fun, right?

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14 comments on “How to Promote Your Business at a Trade Show or Expo”

  1. you need to get noticed. Consider your booth to be just one little tree in a forest (of many, many trees). If you don't have a design that stands out, your booth will just fade into the background. You don't want people to just walk by your booth. A big, bold, "in your face" background picture will almost always take care of this first step.

  2. I've worked trade show booths before and, being the people person that I am..., find them very enjoyable! I never have worked a booth for my business but when I did it for an employer back before I was married I really did enjoy it.

    All of your tips are great and so are Abbi's tips - things I could add
    • have a trade-show giveaway
    • if you have shirts with your company name on them that you are wearing at the trade show it is a great introduction to your product while you are wandering around and visiting the other booths
    • have something for people to walk away with from your booth - even something as simple as a business card or brochure works, but if you can do something a little different, eye-catching, etc... people will remember you better after the trade show is over.

    Finally - I'll just reiterate one of your earlier points - follow up! If you don't follow-up with the contacts you make at a trade show you are just wasting your time going to one.

  3. I've never tried promoting at a trade show. Honestly, we don't have a whole lot of them around here. I'm from a small, small town. But, your tips sound like winners.

  4. Wow, these are wonderful tips! I love the amount of thought and work you put into all of this. I've never even thought about exhibiting before, but it's a great idea :)

  5. I agree with your tips! Finding something interactive to do isn't always easy but it certianly does help. At one of our booths we had a little trivia game (about the constitution/USA ) and people got to spin a wheel and win something. They loved it. People were lined up all the time. Have a giveaway is good too because people stop to fill out the little form and then stick around to visit. For my Wedding flower business it has worked well for me to bring my portfolios which people stand around and look through and then start to ask questions.

    Some other tips that I recommend are:

    -Bring along some food to eat and a water bottle. Sometimes you end up getting stuck at your booth and you can get very hungry!
    -Wear comfortable shoes!
    -Don't just sit behind your table, design your booth so you can move around and stand up so you are on the same level to visit with people.

  6. All great tips Stephanie, especially the business card one - that is always so annoying. And that picture of the Mister cramming a sammy into his face? Priceless.

  7. Funny about the "you Need me" lady I had a little girlcome to my door yesterday and had the MOST annoying pitch. If she had just been a cute little girl I would have been more inclined to help her out. As it was I just want to slam my door in the face of a 10 year old.

  8. Wow, those people totally irritate me. The business card pushers that is. I think the most important thing you mentioned here is following up. I find it easy to meet people and to be personable, but my big failing is that I flake out when it comes to maintaining contacts and following up on first meetings. Not that I don't care, just that I'm a little flighty. Yet another informative and enlightened post. Thanks!

  9. i find this all very interesting. i am not an entrepreneur in any sense of the word but i used to frequent these trade shows with my dad all the time (mostly the farm shows and maple syrup tours). i have never really thought about the work that goes into preparing for these events. however, its sounds like you are on the right track. i could name a few booths that have stuck with me over the years. they must have been doing something right.

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