How to Stand Out at a Trade Show: 19 Clever Marketing Ideas

How to Stand Out at a Trade Show: 19 Clever Marketing Ideas

Read Time: 5 Minutes


22 Nov 2019

Trade shows are a great way to promote your brand and interact with customers on a new level. As beneficial as they can be for your business, they do require hard work, especially as you’ll be hoping to stand out against your competitors. To help you grab attention, boost ROI and generate as many leads as possible from your event marketing efforts, we’ve gathered our top trade show ideas. 


What is a Trade Show?

A trade show, or trade fair, is an event where businesses in a particular field gather to promote their products and services. This is often done through displays, demonstrations and discussions around the business’s products, giving event marketers the opportunity to build relationships with leads, and potential customers a chance to try before they buy.

Some trade shows are free to attend by all, whereas others may require tickets or even special invitation. 


19 Trade Show Marketing Ideas

  1. Start Early

    A mistake a lot of event-goers make is to leave their promotions until the month or two before the event. As soon as you know your business is booked on to display at a trade event, you should start building up the hype. The sooner you let people know you’ll be attending, the more likely they are to save the date in their diary. 

    Once you’ve initially promoted your upcoming appearance at the event, keep it at the forefront of your current customers’ minds by creating a banner you can use on every marketing email promoting the event, when it is and why they should come and visit your stand.

  2. Get Staff Excited (and Prepared!)

    Starting preparation for your event early doesn’t just apply to your promotions. Send the news around that you’ll be attending the trade show in your staff newsletter or email bulletin and get everyone excited for the event.

    Once you’ve chosen your team of representatives, make sure they’re clued up on what to expect. They should be experts in your products or service so they can answer any curveball questions that might get thrown their way on the day.

  3. Nail Your Branding

    Whatever marketing materials you’re planning on taking to your event, it’s essential that your brand comes across loud and clear in everything that you do – from your exhibition stand right down to your flyers and leaflets

    The key to a successful trade show display to grab attention, which means there’s no such thing as going overboard. In the example below, the Three Bridges food company created a pop-up trade show booth kitchen, kitted out with bar stools, a fridge and ambient lighting! If it fits in the space you’ve booked out, there’s no limit to how creative you can get.
    pop up trade show booth for a bar

    (Pulp + Wire)

  4. Create Eye-Catching Visuals

    Bold colours and images are another fantastic way to ensure all eyes are on you at your next big trade event. Foam signs are a popular tool for this because they’re light and easy to attach to different surfaces, and the material is perfect for vibrant colours. Create a sign with your business’s name or logo on for brand recognition.

  5. Go Big

    We don’t need to tell you that when it comes to events, size matters. Of course the larger stands, or the ones that take up the most (or take the biggest advantage of) space are going to be the most eye-catching – so go big! Choosing wider roller banners and exhibition stands is one way to achieve this.

  6. Get Interactive

    Sure, back in the 2000s, it was fully acceptable to rock up to a trade event with your stand and a few handouts. But in today’s digital world, you’ll need to rocket your marketing materials into the future. 

    Using interactive elements like QR codes on flyers and business cards, AI devices that allow people to test out your product, and even linking across to social media channels are all commonly used ways of grabbing attention at the modern trade show.

  7. Be Educational

    Depending on the kind of trade event you’re going to, a lot of attendees visit specifically for educational benefits. Being the educational source not only helps you stand out, but positions you as a trustworthy and authoritative brand – it’s a win-win situation! 

    To make the most of these kinds of attendees, host a small talk or panel to answer questions around a topic you’re an expert in and that you know the crowd will want to hear about. For example, if you’re going to a restaurant expo, you could do a talk on the power of a menu design.

  8. Create an Experience

    Want to know the best way to stand out at a trade event? Create an unforgettable experience! Giving hands-on experiences, hiring a musical act or even hosting an after-party are all great ways to make your brand feel a lot more fun and give attendees something to remember you by after the event.

    The example below is a fantastic example of a trade booth experience. To promote the latest Spiderman film, attendees were given the chance to ‘defy gravity’ in a special upside-down photoshoot that gave the appearance they were stood on the ceiling. A print out of the photo means those who got involved will always remember this fun trade booth marketing tactic!
    spider man exhibition photo booth experience

    (Marketing Genome)

  9. Offer Exclusive Promotions

    There’s nothing quite like a trade event offer to drive traffic to your stall! Exclusive offers always drive sales because they rely on the scarcity principle and our human sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). An exclusive offer at a trade show means that if attendees don’t take advantage of the offer now, they might miss out for good, therefore this is a great way to generate leads at your next big event.

  10. Hand Out Swag (Stuff We All Get)

    Everyone gives out branded merchandise (otherwise known as swag) at trade events, whether it’s logo pens, tote bags or little bags of edibles with custom stickers on them. Choosing the right free goodies for your brand and for your audience is essential. For example, laptop stickers would be fantastic for an IT or technology event, whereas notebooks would probably work better at a business expo.

  11. Use Product Demos and Testers

    One of the main benefits of trade shows is being able to show potential customers exactly what your product can do – and what’s more persuasive than that? Test runs, demos and samples are all fantastic ways to give attendees a taste of what you can offer. 

    The example below features food samples, which are a foodie trade show classic, and a must-have if you’re marketing food at an event. Other examples are demos of games or technology, or physical demonstrations of tools and appliances.
    giving away free food samples at a trade event

    (Born Wild Brands)

  12. Make an Event Within an Event

    Like demonstrations, there are plenty of ways you can show off your products, and your authority on a particular subject, by hosting a range of different events and activities throughout the day. Develop a schedule for the day, making sure these are visible somewhere near your stand, like on an A-frame, as well as through your social media accounts. 

    Great examples of trade show activities and events include speakers, music, challenges, tutorials and other forms of entertainment. This gives attendees a reason to keep coming back to your booth, which boosts familiarity with your brand and the chance of them making a purchase on the day!

  13. Host a Competition

    Another way to attract visitors to your booth at an event is to host an on-stand competition. Gaming sessions, tournaments and prize draws are fun ways to get attendees involved, and competing for a prize related to your business, like some kind of big discount or freebie. 

    We recommend announcing the winners during the event, to create excitement around your stand and bring people back to you later on in the day.

  14. Make the Most of Your Space

    One of the key questions to ask yourself before you start planning your event stand its: how much space will you have to show off your brand at the event? If you’ve got a small booth in a confined space, taking advantage of standard size roller banners and small signs is the best option for promoting your message and getting your brand across.

    But, if you’ve got a lot more room to experiment with, feel free to expand upwards! By expanding your display up towards the ceiling, this can help you appear above the crowds. That way, no matter how busy it gets at eye-level, your stand will always be seen, like the exhibition stand design below.
    large exhibition space design

    (Skyline White Space)

  15. Represent Your Brand

    It’s important to remember that your trade show booth, and the staff working it, represents your company. As well as branding up your booth, you should also brand up your employees! Printed T-shirts with your logo on make it easy to attendees to identify who’s working the stand and therefore who they should target their questions towards.

    As well as looking the part, it’s essential that the staff running your booth act the part as well. Keep the stand looking tidy, with all personal belongings packed away and out of sight. You should also avoid chatting amongst each other and spending long amounts of time on your phone.

  16. Engage Socially

    You should be active on social media before, during and after the event for the biggest impact. Use the relevant hashtags for the event you’re using to target event-goers, share where your stand is, invite people to visit you and let them know any of the offers and competitions you’ll be running.

    Remember to add your social media accounts to your marketing handouts, like your flyers. That way, attendees can find your business online after the event.

  17. Incentivise Interactions

    Want to get people to follow you or tweet about you after or during the event? Give them an incentive to do so, like enter them into a prize draw! Following, liking and tweeting are all easy things for attendees to do, as most people always have their phone on them, so it won’t take much to encourage them to interact with you online. And when they do interact online, this will encourage other attendees to visit your stand too since it’s obviously so popular!

  18. Generate Leads with Sign Up Sheets

    Trade shows are also a fantastic opportunity to grow your email marketing list. If you’re having positive conversations and building relationships with attendees, and they seem interested in your business, close the deal by getting them to sign up to receive your marketing emails. 

    If they’re genuinely interested in your business, they’ll be more than happy to – and those are the types of potential customers you want reading your emails!

  19. Follow Up After the Event

    The final but most important step to making sure your trade event appearance is memorable is to follow up with any potential leads after the show. It’s important to remember that attendees will have spoken to more sales reps than they can count and seen dozens of product demos, so you need to follow up in a creative way.

    A friendly email from a member of your team is a great way of doing this as it feels more personal than a standard batch and blast style message. Remind them of who you are, what you do, and (if possible) try and recall some of the conversation you had with them, then ask if they’d like to arrange a call to talk about what you can help them within more detail. 


Ready to get started? One of the very first steps is to plan your print marketing materials for your event. If you need any help deciding which print would work best for the event you’ll be attending, get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help you out!


About the Author

Hey, I’m Brooke, a Client Service Advisor at instantprint. I’m trained as an expert in all things print and aim to answer all your most asked questions here on the blog.