Tradeshow Marketing 101: How to Make a Big Splash for Increased ROI

One way for small businesses to get their product or service in front of their ideal audience is to exhibit at a tradeshow. Because it can be expensive to exhibit at tradeshows, it is imperative that you maximize your efforts to ensure you get the best return on investment. Here are our Tradeshow Marketing 101 tips to help you just that!

This article is written in partnership with Staples, the one stop shop for all your small business needs including tradeshow supplies, office supplies, printing, and marketing services.

Find the Right Tradeshows

Finding the right tradeshow to exhibit at is all about relevance. You need to find shows where those most interested in your product or service will be attending.

To find relevant shows, turn to industry associations, your competitors (where are they exhibiting?) or use a site like, which allows you to search for tradeshows based on keywords, industry, location, and date.

tradeshow marketing -SAN DIEGO - JULY 14: IBM booth on the trade floor of the ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) user conference. July 14 2010 in San Diego California

You will want to make sure that you leave yourself at least 90 days to plan and prepare for any tradeshow you attend. This will allow you the time to set your goals for the show, create and produce high-quality marketing assets, and promote to your community to increase interest.

Once you discover potential tradeshows to exhibit at, do your due diligence to ensure that they are a good investment. Some things to look for include:

  • How established the tradeshow or conference is. Has it been operating for many years or is it just a year or two old? Newer shows may not get the traffic of those that are more established.
  • Is the website and promotion of the event professional or does it look hacked together?
  • Is there active social media promoting the event?
  • Will there be high-profile speakers at the event that will draw in more attendees?

Set Your Goals and Messaging

You have purchased your exhibiting space at the tradeshow. Now what? Like any other marketing in your business, you need to determine what your goals are and create your strategy.

  • Are you looking to introduce a new product/service to the market?
  • Are you looking to gather research on competitors?
  • Are you looking to book ‘x’ number of demos for your sales team?

Whatever your goals, make sure they are clear, and you have a plan for achieving them. This includes getting your market message correct on all of your branded marketing assets. If there are actions you want people to take, make sure you include those in your messaging.

The businesses that typically get no value from a tradeshow are those that went in without a plan.

Prepare High-Quality Marketing Assets to Promote Your Brand

When you finally get on the tradeshow floor with the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of other exhibitors, you are going to want to make sure your brand stands out to draw attention from attendees. You can do this effectively with high-quality, well-designed marketing materials.

When designing your marketing materials, keep the following goals in mind:

  • You want to attract customers to your booth
  • You want to entice and encourage attendees to engage with you
  • You want to quickly and accurately inform them of your product/service
  • You want to connect with attendees, so they relate to your brand
  • You want to make a lasting impression

tradeshow marketing tools

Consider creating the following to promote your business at the tradeshow:

Tradeshows can be a highly useful marketing tool for your small business, as long as you do it right. Find the right shows, do strategic planning and goal setting, and then pull it all together with great marketing. If you can do that, your return on investment should be ten-fold.

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