3 Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses

For a small business, exposure is something that can make or break the company. And while there are plenty of ways to gain exposure, trade shows are often …

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For a small business, exposure is something that can make or break the company. And while there are plenty of ways to gain exposure, trade shows are often one of the critical pieces to the puzzle in highly specialized niches.

3 Tips for Trade Show Success

Whether you’ve attended in the past or not, there’s a pretty good chance that your industry has at least one or two trade shows per year. In larger industries, there are even multiple regional trade shows per year. While you may not have the time or resources to attend them all, you should at least attend one every year or two. And when you do, the following tips will help you find success.

  1. Pay Attention to the Details

Whether you like it or not, your booth design is what’s going to draw people in or encourage them to give a courteous smile and walk on by. Even though you probably don’t have the fiscal resources for an expensive setup, there are plenty of ways to make an impact within the constraints of a small budget. 

“Trade show booths that use interesting shapes and feature vibrant, rich and colorful graphics are very effective in attracting the attention of trade show attendees,” marketing specialist Eric Dyson writes. “Modular and reconfigurable exhibits are also smart options for small business exhibitors because one exhibit can be tailored to meet specific needs on a show by show basis.”

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Depending on how many trade shows you plan on attending and what sort of space and transportation limitations you face, it may also be smart to look at the option of renting exhibits each time you attend a trade show. This eliminates a lot of the heavy lifting on your part and allows you to focus on the things that really matter.

  1. Focus on Engagement With Prospects

While getting the right exhibit setup is critically important, your primary focus during the actual event is to engage prospects and build your network.

One good strategy is to keep your more knowledgeable employees inside the exhibit and then position two of your most gregarious people at the front of the exhibit where people are walking by. Supply them with giveaways and handouts to attract people. (Good items include pens, bags, and key chains.) These people then use their magnetic personalities to start conversations with prospects. They then seamlessly hand them off to the employees waiting inside the exhibit.

  1. Follow Up After the Event

In order to really make the most of a trade show experience, you have to learn how to follow up with leads after the event.

Once you’re finished, make a list of all the leads you connected with. Separate them into categories like hot, cold, and lukewarm. Based on their “temperature,” you can then assign leads to your sales team and customize follow-up plans according to the conversations you had at the trade show.

You don’t want to press too hard when a lead isn’t ready to convert, but it is important that you don’t let too much time pass between the trade show and when you reach out with your first follow up conversation. Somewhere in the 24-72-hour range is usually considered appropriate. 

Give Your Business a Boost

As a small business, you don’t always have the same opportunities that larger organizations with millions of dollars and decades of brand equity have. As such, you have to be more strategic with the chances you do have to increase exposure and engage new prospects. Prepare for trade shows ahead of time and don’t take anything for granted.


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