Are you making this crucial mistake when preparing for a tradeshow? While plenty of time is sunk into creating and planning a booth, some companies overlook one of the most important aspects of pre-show preparation: marketing. Marketing may be the main goal during and after the tradeshow, but frequently, pre-show marketing is neglected or forgotten entirely.

A well-rounded marketing plan for tradeshows typically follows a closed loop strategy. This strategy begins pre-show, with promotion and hyping up the tradeshow. It then continues on during the event, where the goal is to interact with as many people and gather as many leads as possible. Finally, post-event marketing focuses on following up with all the leads generated at the show and moving them closer to a sale.The success of event and post-event marketing is partially dependent on pre-event marketing. The more effort is put into pre-event marketing, the more potential clients will visit your company’s tradeshow booth, and the more successful your follow up will be. Neglecting pre-show marketing immediately impacts how successful your tradeshow efforts will be.

So before setting up your booth and interacting face-to-face with attendees, here are some tips for making sure you’ve laid the marketing groundwork for a highly successful tradeshow booth:

Identify Your Audience

There are two different audiences to focus on during pre-show marketing. The first is your existing list of contacts. Present clients, prospects, email subscribers – these are all people to contact with a pre-show marketing campaign. You don’t need to identify who is attending and who isn’t. Just let them know you’re going to be at the show, and that they should consider attending. In some ways, you’re not only marketing your own booth, but also the whole conference in general. The more prospects you can attract from your contact list, the better.

Your second audience is the tradeshow pre-show registration list. If you don’t receive this information from the show organizers, contact them about receiving or purchasing it. The registration list is an essential source of information for your pre-show marketing efforts.

Like your contact list, you’ll want to target these people with a pre-show marketing campaign. However, don’t send any materials out without first taking the time to cut down the list dramatically. Not everyone on that list is a target, and even if the list only provides basic information, you can still eliminate non-prospects such as other exhibitors.

Create a Campaign

Creating a great campaign is important for every step of the tradeshow marketing process. The campaign will be the basis for all your tradeshow marketing materials, so it has to be interesting, engaging, and eye-catching.
Campaign development should include:

Setting goals

First, you need to determine what it is your company wants to accomplish at the tradeshow. Before making any other plans, identify your goals for the show. These goals will influence every other part of your marketing strategy. Once you’ve established your goals, determine what metrics you’re going to use to track your progress and define what success is.

Setting up a theme

Tradeshow booths tend to be a little dull and repetitive looking. But a good theme can make all the difference. Your tradeshow theme should both draw attention and tie into your goals. You can make it as outlandish or unusual as you like, just so long as you can relate your theme back to your elevator pitch. Having an unusual or unexpected theme can help your brand stand out and attract visitors.  Your theme will be the basis for all your marketing materials.

Creating a landing page

For the online marketing portion of your marketing strategy, you should have a centralized location where attendees can view all the information about your tradeshow presence in one place, including booth location, any parties or functions your company is hosting, and the times and locations of any speakers from your company. Structure the landing page like an invitation and tie in your tradeshow theme. Include information about the conference itself and a link to the conference website. You could also provide visitors with the opportunity to sign up for an appointment at your booth directly through the landing page.

Creating special promotions

Special promotions are commonly used to drive traffic to tradeshow booths. Maybe you’re launching a new product or holding a raffle to win a prize. You could also tie your special promotion back into your theme for extra interest. Use the promotion in pre-show marketing to create excitement, incentivize prospects to attend the show, and help attendees remember and seek out your booth during the conference.

Implement Multi-Touch Point Marketing

Ideally, your pre-show marketing campaign should include at least 3 points of contact with prospects. It is up to you to decide what those points of contact should be, but here are some ideas to consider:

  • Mass Media
    Prior to individualized marketing efforts, start off your campaign with some mass targeting. Advertise your presence at the tradeshow on social media, through both your social profiles and also by taking advantage of any hashtags the conference might be using. If you have the budget for it, you could also create an ad campaign in an industry publication or the show directory.
  • Mail
    Traditional mail is still a common way of reaching out to tradeshow attendees. Consider sending out visually appealing postcards or invitations, ideally individualized to the recipient. Use the theme of your show to brand the mail and catch the recipient’s attention. You could also attach some bonus item, such as a free raffle ticket or a theme-related object, to surprise and delight your contacts.
  • Email Campaign
    Follow up your mail campaign with individualized emails, reiterating your invitation and including a link to your tradeshow landing page. Additionally, take advantage of the immediacy of email by sending out a last minute reminder for attendees a day or two before the show.
    You can also use a drip campaign to invite your email list to the tradeshow, targeting individuals who show interest with more in-depth marketing materials to get them hyped up for the event.
  • Sales Team
    Your sales team interacts with clients on a regular basis, so why not take advantage of that interaction? Get your sales team on board with event messaging and encourage them to mention your tradeshow booth during calls with clients and prospects.

Set up Appointments

Once you’ve received replies or seen indications that attendees are responding to your marketing campaign, it’s time to step up your campaign. Setting up appointments is a more advanced level of marketing, so if your company is new to the industry, this might be the step to skip until you are more established.
However, if your company has been around and attending tradeshows for several years, setting up appointments should definitely be included in the pre-show marketing plan. This is a means of ensuring before the tradeshow even begins that your booth sees an influx of qualified traffic.
Create a list of current clients and prospects attending the tradeshow, and call them up to invite them to meet you at your booth or event at a set time. Make sure to get a verbal commitment from them. Then follow up via email a few days before the show to confirm the appointment time and express your enthusiasm to meet with them. If your prospects fail to make it to their appointment, it’s an excellent excuse to contact them again.


Different types of pre-show marketing will require different release dates. Some promotion should be done extremely early, as much as 6 months before the event. The focus of this promotion is on the tradeshow itself, rather than your individual booth, reminding prospects that the tradeshow is happening and encouraging them to attend.
A month or two before the tradeshow, start promoting your individual booth and inviting attendees and prospects to come visit you at the show. This is the time to reveal your tradeshow theme and send out any snail mail, leaving plenty of time to ensure that your materials reach your prospects before they leave for the show.
In the last few days before the conference, send out a final blast to remind people of your booth, confirm appointments, and provide any last minute details, such as a map with your booth’s location.Putting time, effort, and resources into pre-show marketing is an essential part of a successful closed loop marketing strategy. Effective tradeshow marketing drives highly qualified traffic to your booth and results in higher conversion rates. Make the most of your tradeshow budget and invest in pre-show marketing designed to help your booth succeed.

Planning on exhibiting at a tradeshow? We can help you make a lasting impact.

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