Chart Your Course to Stellar Trade Show Leads


Think about the last time you exhibited at a trade show. Did you net a boatload of A-leads? Maybe the ho-hum, run-of-the-mill list of names and email addresses? Or worse… Return empty handed? YIKES!

Mediocre leads might make you want to throw your trade show program overboard. And you may think that exhibiting at trade shows shouldn’t be part of your marketing mix. The bottom line is your trade show experience will run aground if you’re at the WRONG show.

Reeling-in valuable leads start with choosing the right show.

There’s a process to selecting the right trade show. It’s an investment of your time. It takes legwork. And a commitment to follow through without taking shortcuts. But the payoff for finding your exhibiting paradise just might be the lifeboat for your trade show program.

Three Key Components You Must Know Before You Launch Your Search

  1. Your organizational objectives.
  2. Your marketing objectives.
  3. The audience you want to reach.

Determine how these objectives connect with what you want to achieve at a show. Pinpoint the objectives, and set clear, tangible (measurable) goals. Running adrift from this step could send you way off course in the long run.

Understand how trade shows fit in your marketing program and strategy. What’s the “WHY” for exhibiting? Is it to increase Sales? Promote a new product or service? Both?

Align the decision to exhibit with the organizational and marketing objectives. Never lose sight of them.

Who are you trying to reach? Know who your customers and prospects are, what they value, what problems they have, and what solutions they need.

Each trade show attracts a different audience. Even shows within the same industry. Understanding your personas and what drives them, will provide key insights into whether a trade show aligns with the best prospects for your business.

Four Waypoints When Cruising a Sea of Shows

With 14,000+ trade shows in the U.S. and Canada every year, how do you find shows that are a good fit?

  1. Talk to your product managers and the sales team.  Ask them which shows they believe are valuable and WHY.
  2. Find out which trade shows your existing prospects and customers attend.
  3. Talk to your suppliers and partners about their trade show program and their experiences.
  4. Research your competition.  Where are they exhibiting?

Check out these sources for finding shows:

Scope Out the Attendees

Successful exhibitors are data-driven in their decision-making process.

Get detailed information about attendee needs, expectations, interests, and their demographic profiles. How do the show attendees compare to your customer personas?

Verify the show attendees are part of your target market and fit your buyer persona. Solid attendee demographics provide a foundation for making decisions.

Can you answer YES to three key questions?

  1. Do the attendees represent enough potential revenue or value in reaching to justify the investment to meet your objectives?
  2. Does the size of the total potential market justify exhibiting to reach them?
  3. Do the attendee demographics match my client personas?

The data sweet spot is a comprehensive attendee profile that defines the show audience the same way your company defines and segments its markets and personas.

If you’ve got that, you’re on course. But if you discover the attendees for a show don’t line up with your personas…STOP.

Navigate your way clear of that show’s uncertain waters and search for the perfect destination to set your anchor.


About the author:

trade show

Beth is a corporate alumnus turned solopreneur, helping marketers bring their face-to-face experiences to life. She shifted her career and launched REES | Resource Exhibit & Event Services, serving brands, agencies and exhibit producers, who are short on time, expertise and resources.