The ultimate cheat sheet for marketing at trade shows

Trade shows are a fantastic way to reach a captive audience with a common interest.  But with great opportunity comes fierce competition – every exhibitor on the trade show floor is fighting to catch and keep visitors’ attention.     

In an ideal world, by the time the event rolls around, your news will have already featured in the press and trade newsletters, you’ll have spread the word amongst partners and clients and your on-stand and social marketing activities will be lined up and ready to go. 

But don’t panic if you haven’t done any of this – you can still make an impact at the exhibition even if your marketing campaign only starts at the trade show - here's how.

Create a social schedule

It’s not unusual, as a trade show exhibitor, to notice halfway through your lunch that it’s 4pm and you haven’t been to the loo since arriving at the exhibition.  In cases like these it’s unlikely that you’re going to have time to compose a well-worded tweet at regular intervals during the day, and firing off ten posts in quick succession when you’ve got a half-hour break isn’t an effective social strategy either. 

Instead, register for a free subscription with a social management system, like Hootsuite, and spend an hour drafting and scheduling regular posts that will automatically be posted by the platform throughout the show. 

Use prewritten posts to

  • highlight what you’re demonstrating at the show,
  • publicise timed events on your stand
  • or simply share the fact that you’re exhibiting and where to find you. 

When you do find five minutes to spare, top up your social feed with topical posts that include pictures of events and your impressions of the show. 

Marketing at trade shows - create a social schedule

Hijack other networks

Posting on your personal and company social accounts is a great way to update your followers, but it’s not going to help you reach new audiences unless you make sure that your posts get into other feeds.  Tagging people and companies and using hashtags can help you expand your audience exponentially. 

If you tag a company or person in your social post, they’ll receive a notification that they’ve been tagged – guaranteeing that they’ll see the post, and increasing the chances that they’ll share it with their followers. 

Hashtags help your posts show up in that topic’s feeds – so your company can be discovered by people with similar interests. 

marketing at trade shows - hijack other networks

Here’s some ideas for tagging and hashtagging at trade shows :

  • Tag the show and include the exhibition’s official hashtag in all your posts. 
  • Promote your partners’ stands and activities at the show – this can earn you both a share as well as a reciprocal post from them.
  • Leverage existing relationships by taking and tagging pictures of clients and suppliers with your team on your stand or at show activities.
  • Identify a few relevant and active hashtags that relate to your product or sector of the industry and include them in your posts.
  • If you’re attending seminars or conference sessions, consider live tweeting quotes or commentary and tagging the speaker or sponsor.  
  • Share your thoughts about other exhibitions, products and the exhibition and tag any products or brands you mention.

Network IRL

Exhibition organisers often include networking events in the show plan, but even if these aren’t scheduled, trade shows provide endless opportunities to make new contacts.  Keep your business cards handy and take any opportunity to strike up conversations with visitors and other exhibitors – you never know who you might end up chatting to in the coffee queue.  Just remember that networking isn’t about selling your product – focus instead on making connections and expanding your network of contacts.  Connect with the people you meet on platforms like LinkedIn after the show to build these relationships.      

marketing at trade shows - networking


Go guerrilla


You may not have had the time (or the budget) to place big banners around the venue, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to promoting your product on your stand.  While most trade show organisers prohibit exhibitors from doing any unapproved marketing activity on the show grounds, you might be able to get away with activations outside the venue or at associated events.  Just because it’s last-minute doesn’t mean it’s going to be rubbish, you just need an attention-grabbing idea and a simple execution plan to pull off a great guerrilla campaign.


Make an impact on the trade press

Depending on the size of the show, trade press representation could range from a few visiting journalists to a dedicated press area.  At bigger shows, journalists are likely to have booked a full diary of appointments some time before the event, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get an interview unless you’ve booked it weeks in advance or you break a big news story at the show.    

  • If there is a pressroom, find out if exhibitors can provide company information and brochures for journalists’ reference.
  • Make sure you have a couple of digital press kits on your stand in case you are lucky enough to attract the attention of a passing journo – ideally in the form of a branded USB stick with your latest news, logos and some relevant high-res images.
  • If trade press organisations are exhibiting at the show, make the time to visit their stands and find out as much as possible about the publication, what kind of content they’re interested in and what promotion and advertising options they offer. While advertising doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive editorial coverage, even a small investment goes a long way to building a relationship with the publication.     
marketing at trade shows - video interview


Reach people that aren’t at the show     

While exhibitions are a great way to reach a captive audience with a shared interest, the visitors represent a small percentage of the industry.  You can bring the show to a wider audience during and after the exhibition by;

  • streaming live videos on social media from your stand or from key events during the show,
  • recording video and creating a highlight cut to share on your website and social media and
  • sharing your unique perspective and impressions from the show in a blog post.

Have a great show  😊

Get in touch to find out how Little Cricket can help with your next trade show's marketing and PR.