8 Trade Show Marketing Ideas to Create an Epic Brand-Building Event

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trade show promotion ideas

Trade show promotion ideas from InkHead.

Whether you’re prepping for your first, 10th or 50th trade show, marketing can be an overwhelming prospect. After all, you’re tucked in a tight space and surrounded by competitors. On a limited budget, how do you build your brand and influence an industry?

Chances are, it won’t happen in one event. But with these tips, you can start down the road to become a major trade show powerhouse.

Trade Show Marketing Ideas

1. Swag
From video game expos to commercial kitchen appliance shows to literature and publishing events, no trade show goes without plenty of swag. What these promotional products actually are tends to vary a lot from show to show, but there’s no questioning their effectiveness.

According to Heidi Thorne, a leading expert on promotional product marketing, any kind of promotional incentive is a proven traffic booster for your trade show booth. And agrees, citing an Incomm Center for Trade Show Research and Sales Training stat that indicates event attendees are 52 percent more likely to visit your booth if there are promotional items present.

Of course, you don’t need the stats. If you’ve been to a trade show, you know this is the case. But the question is, what products work best?

2. Up the ante on promotional products
Thorne spoke with Cvnet’s Event Planning blog about some of the best ways to use promotional products. There are some obvious tips – for instance, offer tote bags so that visitors can carry all your information, plus whatever other swag they get on the floor. And promotional pens tend to be a cheap and effective way to get your information and brand around. People toss out or recycle newsletters, papers and glossy postcards, but most folks hold onto pens.

But Thorne highlighted one particular point: pre-event promotions. She told the news source that instead of packing crates full of promotional items, companies could target pre-qualified prospects ahead of time, winning their attention with higher quality items, like designer watches or desktop items.

3. Evaluate your giveaways
You’ll hear this kind of advice over and over again with promotional products: Think before you settle on a strategy. offered these six quick metrics:

  • Is the product complementary to your company and service image?
  • Does it match your budget?
  • Does your company information and/or custom image easily imprint onto the product?
  • Can you get enough of the product shipped in time for the event?
  • Is your product unique or just another example of dime-a-dozen trade show swag?
  • Would you stop by your booth for the product?

4. Choose the vertical market
Promotional product marketing tactics nailed down, you’re probably wondering what other trade show tips are out there. One common one you’ll hear is to avoid horizontal market shows, especially if you’re a small, niche company or a start-up.

Essentially horizontal markets include a large range of customers with many different needs. A horizontal market might be household goods, for instance. On the other hand, a vertical market tends to be more industry or trade-specific, targeting customers with more niche needs. So instead of household goods, the market might be bathroom appliances or kitchenware.

Of course, a vertical market can get even more specialized that that. And as Skyline Trade Show Tips pointed out, this lessens your competition. You can be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond.

5. Go international
Skyline also suggested not limiting one’s market – whether horizontal or vertical – to a single continent. Gross domestic product in America hasn’t been great these past few years, and lots of other countries are outshining the U.S., making them prime spots to exhibit and win new clients.

6. Incorporate multimedia
People like to see stuff going on in your booth. So when you’re not actively meeting with folks or holding demonstrations, multimedia presentations can be extremely useful. Skyline suggests videos, flat screen televisions, tablet computers and other features that offer visual stopping power. Plus booth staff will have more tools to interact with, potentially winning over new customers. You can even feature an interactive eBook or white paper for attendees to check out on a tablet.

Want to get really clever with your multimedia? Tie in social networking. What if you have a large HD monitor posting tweets regarding your product and services in real time? Or just have a Twitter feed tracking hashtags for the trade show itself. Either way, you’re offering a flashy, fun way to draw attention.

7. Look clean – don’t overwhelm
As important as spectacle is, you don’t want to look like a mash-up of overwhelming imagery and noise. Keep everything clean and controlled.

Making video to stream on loop at your event? Hire a professional. Have someone who knows a thing or two about color and design put your booth materials together. Figure out ideal layouts ahead of time. And perhaps most importantly, make sure your clothing complements your company.

8. Evaluate yourself
One of the best trade show marketing tips ever is also the most obvious: Evaluate yourself. When the show’s over, make sure you’ve got a list of stats. What was your most popular product or feature? How many people stopped by the booth? Did you get more attention during hours with giveaways or hours without?

Evaluate every metric, from promotional products to tweets and Facebook likes. The more data you have, the more you can improve your company’s strategy for the next event.

Have an upcoming trade show and need some tips, from whether to employ tote bags or custom pens to deciding between vertical or horizontal markets? InkHead has all the promotional products you need and plenty of tips to help you improve your trade show game.

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