Where to advertise your business is always the big question. Let's look at a few options.
Radio: Expensive, but effective. The problem here is that after 30 seconds your message is over. Unless
you can afford hundreds of commercials over a one or two week period, you are lost among all the other
Newspaper: Again for a decent size ad it can be quite costly. Newspaper sales executives will encourage
you to run daily for a period of time suggesting that similar to radio, "Frequency" is the key! Consider a 1/4
page ad will run you over $700.00 in a large well read newspaper. What we see as the real deterrent to
newspaper advertising is that once the reader turns the page, if your ad didn't catch their eye they will
seldom turn back to that page. POOF, there goes $700.00!
Canada Post Ad Mail Flyers: Inexpensive and ineffective. We've tried it several times and found when
we've followed up on them, people don't remember ever seeing them. Of course they didn't, its just
disposable junk mail.
Trade Shows: BINGO! Nothing beats face-to-face contact. You already know that 3/4 of the sale is just
getting people in your store to see your product. Trade Shows bring THOUSANDS of potential customers
right to you. Your job is to simply present your product or service to them, and make the sale. These types
of events not only bring in thousands of people, they do it over a full three day period, for less than the
cost of one quarter page ad in the newspaper!
There are many ways to increase your rate of success at a Trade Show. Below, we have a long list of
pointers that if followed will dramatically increase your rate of success. If you are considering becoming an
Exhibitor in one or more of our events, we suggest you learn some if not all of these proven techniques.
3-6 Months before a Trade Show
* Have a goal. Although there are many benefits of attending a show, you need a primary goal. A goal helps
you make the decisions below and provides a yardstick for whether the Trade Show was “successful,” and
therefore whether you should do more. Some examples of your goals might include:
Make sales on the Trade Show floor
Get at least 20 genuine prospects for future follow-ups
Talk with other industry leaders
Find 10 good recruiting prospects
Find 3 serious investors.
Ask potential customers 3 specific things (market research)
• Decide on your main message. Just like your home page, you get 3 seconds to convince someone to
stop at your booth. You’ll need this message elsewhere (e.g. banner) so you need to decide what it is early
on. Remember the goal is to get people to stop, not to explain everything about who you are and what you
do! Boil it down to a single, short sentence.
• Pick your booth. Booths go quickly, and location does matter. Booths near the front doors are great
since people have to enter and exit past you. Booths nearer to the center of the arena are also good.
Booths at the ends of isles are even better because you have a “corner” which means traffic flows around
you from several different directions.
• Design your banner and handouts. Design and printing takes longer than you think, and now is the time
to begin the process. But don’t go to press until closer to the show. Over the course of the next few
months, new ideas and products can present themselves.
• Plan on at least 2 people. You need two people at the booth to allow for busy times, to restock items,
and to take breaks. Any more than two people at a time and you will crowd out your prospective clients.
• Decide how your booth will be different. Attendees will see a ton of booths, all essentially identical. A
logo, a banner, some “clever” phrase, and 8 adjectives like “fast” and “scalable.” Snore. You have to do
something different. It doesn’t have to be amazingly unique, just different.
• Buy shirts and giveaways. Custom products (i.e. your logo on a shirt). Fridge magnets are a good idea
as they actually do get stuck on fridges and your message continues to be seen three times a day long after
the Trade Show has ended.
1 Month Before the Trade Show
• Personally addressed postcard mailers work! I know, you thought “print media” was dead. Well not
before a Trade Show, and not if you do it right. Best is to offer something cool/expensive at your booth, but
only if they bring the postcard to you. This means they keep the postcard handy starting now and even
during the Trade Show, which means whatever else you put on the marketing material it also gets seen
repeatedly. It also means they seek you out on the Trade Show floor. Then, because you collect the card, you
have their contact info (their name, company, and address), so you get to follow up later. Don’t forget to put
your booth number on there! (Another reason to pick the booth early.)
• Emails probably work. Because you can use the Trade Show's name in the subject of the email, people
will probably read your email blast.
• Set up meetings. Yes meetings! Trade Shows are a rare chance to get face-time with Editors of on-line
and off-line magazines. Often overlooked, editors are your key to real press. Also include:
o Existing Customers
o Potential customers currently trialing your products
o Your vendors
o Potential partners
Pro actively set meetings. Call/email everyone you can find. It’s easy to use email titles which will be
obviously non-spam such as “At [Trade show]: Can we chat for 5 minutes?” Try to get at least 5 meetings per
day. Organizing dinner and/or drinks after the show is good too.
• Promote the show. You want people showing up and going to your booth, especially people who live in
the area. Add a line to everyone’s email signature with the show info and your booth number. If you have a
giveaway or something else interesting, say that too.
• Box of everything. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been saved by a box of stuff. A small, cheap
plastic box from Walmart is fine. You won’t use all the stuff every time, but I guarantee you will use an
unpredictable subset every time. The box should contain:
o pens (multiple, different colors)
o Scotch tape
o masking tape
o extension cord
o electric plug bar
o post-it notes
o rubber bands
o tiny stapler
o paper clips
o cable ties
o all-in-one tool (screwdriver, can opener)
o medicine (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, DayQuil)
o Generic business cards (in case anyone runs out)
o Comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing for much longer than you’re used to; comfortable shoes are a
must. Attendees can’t see your shoes behind a table, so new sneakers might be OK. You can also bring
floor pads designed for people who stand all day, or even a carpet cut to the size of your booth.
1 Week Before the Trade Show
Advertise, advertise, advertise. Don’t rely only on the trade show organizers to do all of the advertising.
Place an ad in the local newspaper letting people know that you will be there and what you will be offering.
If you have a business in the town where the trade show is being held, change the sign in front of your store
to announce your participation. For heaven’s sake at the very least: PUT IT ON YOUR WEBSITE. The more
signs and ads from exhibitors, the more of a “Special” event the trade show will become, which will result in
a much busier event for all.
At the Trade Show
• Test your pick-up line. This is no different than your landing pages! A Trade Show is a wonderful place
to test attention-grabbers. What gets people to stop? To laugh? To say “OK, fair enough, tell me more?” Test
all show long. After the 100th pitch, you’ll know exactly what gets people’s attention — now put that on your
• Ask questions instead of pitching. Everyone else “pitches at” people; be different and actually have a
conversation. Good conversationalists are genuinely interested in the other person — what do they do,
what are they interested in. If you start chatting they will actually ask you for a pitch as a form of
reciprocation. Then you’ve got permission to “sell,” and they’re truly listening.
• Don’t ask how they’re doing. Your opening line should engage them with something you specifically
have to offer. “Hello, how’s it going” is not interesting or unique. Even just a simple “Are you interested in
[thing you do]” is better, although still weak.
• Ask questions, don’t just transmit. Sure you want to pitch your stuff, but this is a fantastic opportunity
for direct market research on your potential customers! Come up with 3-5 questions that you’re going to ask
of people who walk by the booth, then ask away. No need to carefully record the results — the big trends will
be obvious and the rest is noise.
• Stand, don’t sit. Sitting looks like you don’t want to be there. It’s uninviting. The head-height
differential is psychologically off-putting. I know your feet hurt; but do stand.
• Do not get into the aisle. Exhibitors and visitors alike will despise you. You will become a bother to
everyone around you. Stay in your booth with your promotional material close at hand.
• Moving pictures rock. When you’re sitting at a bar and there’s a TV behind the person you’re talking to,
it’s really hard not to look, right? We tend to look at moving images, especially when they’re bright. So your
booth might have a big monitor. Don’t just show a static screen shot or power point image, and don’t leave it
stuck wherever the last demo left off — get a demo movie going and catch some eyes.
• Always be able to demo. Nothing is more sticky than a live demo. Not giveaways, not brochures, not
clever phrases, not even raffles. That other stuff is good — both for getting traffic and as a reminder — but
you need a demo to make the experience memorable. Many seasoned exhibitors prefer demonstrating from
a slightly raised platform so your demo is big and the passers-by can’t help but get hooked.
• Make notes on business cards. You’ll talk to hundreds of people; you’ll never remember what one guy
said or what he wants. Always write it down on their business card. If they have one of those silly cards
where you can’t make notes (why people, why?), use a post-it from your box-o-stuff to keep notes together
with the card.
• Build your own happy hour party If your budget permits, rent a room at or near the conference site with
wine, beer, and basic food. Pass out invites at the show and on your pre-show mailers. Who can resist free
booze and free food? It’s cheaper than you think and you get to pitch people in a relaxed atmosphere.
People are willing to talk about your product to reciprocate.
• Free food. Works better than almost any other free thing. The more “real” the food is (i.e. Not just
candy) the better. Put it at the center of your booth so it’s harder for someone to take without talking.
• Raffle something. A raffle for a good prize at a Trade Show gets a crowd to appear at your booth.
Crowds make other people think your booth is interesting. Make sure you have to provide contact info to
enter, (name, address, phone number) and be sure to add a qualifying question on the ballot like, “Are you
planning to have your roof fixed in the next year”? Of course, depending on what show you are in you might
want to ask about their fishing or hunting interests or make-up needs, etc. After the show you will have a
very complete and current list to send out a flyer.
• Take names instead of pushing brochures. Attendees get dozens of pieces of paper pushed into their
hands and pre-filled in their tote bags. Even if yours is clever, funny, and useful, it’s still might get lost.
Instead of hand-outs, ask them if you can send them something the following week. After the show is over,
they will receive your reminder. How many exhibitors will actually do this? Not many, but those who do will
often see a return on their investment long after the show has closed.
• Quality not quantity. It’s cliché, but it’s better to have six solid conversations with people who will buy
your product than to give away 200 pieces of branded giveaways to people who just wanted something for
After the Trade Show.
• Follow up! Attendees are saturated with presentations and vendor pitches, so there’s a 99% chance
they’ve forgotten about you. Yes, even if they took your oh-so-memorable freebie or your fabulously-
designed brochure. It’s up to you to follow up and remind them who you were, and take them up on their
offer to get a demo.
• Apply what you learned about selling. You talked to hundreds of people, pitching a hundred different
ways, with mixed results. What did you learn? Some questions to get you started:
o Which one-liners got people’s attention, and what did people not relate to?
o How can you incorporate the successful one-liners on a day to day basis at work?
o How could you change your 2-minute demo?
o What were people saying about your competition? What were your best retorts?
o Apply what you learned about your products. Having to demo the product 50 times always churns up
invaluable product information. Some questions to get your started:
o What features did people ask about which you already have, but it wasn’t obvious?
o What features did people keep asking for which you don’t have?
o What part of your demo seemed to drag because your work flow wasn’t easy enough?
o What part confused potential buyers?
o What terminology made no sense to newbies?
o What did people dislike about your competitors, and how can you maintain that advantage?
o What did people love about your competitors, and how can you close that gap?
Finally, take time to have fun. After all, this is a special weekend and if you’ve done all of your homework in
advance, the sales will come.
TIPS FOR WORKING IN A BOOTH IN A TRADE SHOW
KANATA HOME & LEISURE SHOW