Back Download PDF Click the orange button to download information on ABI's Trade Show Accelerator program.

How to Maximize Your Trade Show ROI

How to Maximize Your Trade Show ROI


Trade show planning can be nerve-racking. There are many moving parts to consider: booth space selection and design, picking the technologies to exhibit, making accommodations for your team, shipping equipment…it’s enough to make your head spin – especially when these shows dot your calendar all year long. However, show promotions – those critical tactics to boost booth traffic, generate leads and maximize event ROI – cannot be overlooked. Here are ABI’s ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for creating an effective trade show promotion strategy. 

Do strategize.

Too often, companies invest too little too late in promoting their presence at trade shows. The results generated from a thoughtful and well-timed promotions strategy will beat a last-minute grab for ads and sponsorships any day. Start by identifying your company’s goals for the show, the audiences you want to reach and then pinpoint the best channels in which to reach them months before the show date.

Don’t wait.

In most cases, planning for trade show promotions should begin a year out from the show or as soon as booth space is purchased. If that sounds like a long planning cycle, consider this: show previews will typically run in the trades (print and online) a month or two prior to the show. The deadlines for those special issues are at least a month prior to the publication dates. That means promotional content must be completed and shared with the media well before those deadlines, allowing editors enough time to make selections from the hundreds (or potentially thousands) of submissions. Before that content can be created, there must be a company consensus on key messaging, positioning and creative. To be effective tools, these items must be aligned with the company’s show and sales goals and also stand out from the competition to garner attention from the media and end users.

Do bring something new.

Whether it’s a game-changing technology or a new perspective on an industry-wide issue, keep your company’s offerings fresh year-to-year. If the showcase technologies are next-generation sequels to existing models, be sure to emphasize any improvements by highlighting end-user benefits in the context of new industry challenges.

Don’t do the same thing over and over just because it’s familiar.

B2B communications channels are evolving with mobile device usage on the rise, the growing popularity of video content and Google increasingly the first place decision influencers go for answers. It’s important to keep up, but the energy to employ new tactics shouldn’t just be reserved for online content and SEO. Generating press coverage, sponsoring important show features, presenting an educational session and hosting on-site press conferences to introduce a technology – all of these tactics may be a worth a try if they are still new to your company.

Do minimize on-site stress to maximize face time with attendees.

The stress of planning can leave you exhausted by the time the show floor opens. Increase your chances of greeting prospects, well rested and focused by allowing yourself ample time to develop an on-site meeting and interview schedule, and tie up loose ends (ordering business cards, readying press release distributions, creating press kits, etc.) before that first day.

Don’t forget the follow-through. 

Having an organized and trackable follow-up strategy for converting leads to sales is a critical step to ensuring your hard work pays off. Additionally, do not forget the media component. Conduct on-site interviews with trade editors to share the benefits of your solutions and follow up to secure earned media placements in order to position your offerings in the post-show wave of coverage and fuel further interest in your products. 

by Doreen Zöllner, Director (Frankfurt); Christina Wilcox, Director (Boston); Juliet Zhu, Managing Director (Singapore)