April 23rd, 2015 | by

As a prospecting platform, trade shows can be a fantastic forum for generating demand, building relationships with your prospects and filling your pipeline. For starters, the audience is already pre-qualified – attendees are there because the event addresses a field where they have interest. Additionally, those who attend are often actively researching solutions to challenges their organizations are working to solve. Because of these factors, there is no better place than a trade show to reach many decision makers at the same time and place. Positioning yourself well, and forming a solid prospecting strategy before the show, will ensure that you maximize the potential of the show and walk away with a solid list of prospects.

When people think of exhibiting at a trade show, the first thing to come to mind is the booth. This is, of course, the space where majority of your interactions with prospects will take place. It should go without saying that you should ensure that your booth location is well-selected, that the display is well-designed to communicate branding and facilitate discussions, and is properly staffed. However, to elevate your impact beyond the booth, have a look below at our list of important Do’s and Don’ts that may give you some new ideas for how to maximize the value your team gets from trade shows:

Turn Targeting On

    • Do leverage the information you can gather on attendees before the event if available from the show producer. Identify those that fit your ideal profile – whether that be company or role or both – and target those to invite to the visit with you at the show. Use a technology such as Paste n’ Go to either verify or append the information provided to ensure that your message gets to the intended person.
  • Do use a qualifying question with show attendees who approach your booth to understand if they might be a good fit for your solution. For example, DiscoverOrg asks trade show attendees, “Do you sell to IT people?” This helps to filter the large audience at any given show to our specific targets.
  • Don’t spend time performing in-depth demos of your solution to just anyone who approaches your booth. Not everyone is a good fit. Instead, give high-level presentations or demos to a larger audience to help identify who the serious prospects are and save the details for them.
  • Do target your messaging based on the theme and audience of the show. Creating messaging designed for the specific audience will yield better results.
  • Do invite customers and prospects from the area to attend the show (especially if you have free passes to give away) or a hospitality event you’re sponsoring. Nothing beats the voice of a satisfied customer mixing with your prospects. And who doesn’t like a VIP invite?
  • Don’t bring every piece of collateral your company has developed. These things rarely make it past the hotel trash can. You should use collateral as an opportunity for follow up after the show and tailor to the specific interests of each prospect.
  • Do get the badge scanner if offered by the trade show. Nowadays, many attendees depend on their information being gathered this way so that they no longer bring a supply of business cards.

 Practice and Plan for Perfection

  • Do announce your participation in an event on your web site and social media networks to highlight where your booth is located and provide a reason for attendees to visit – new product demonstration, new innovation, attend a demonstration, and prize drawings are all great offerings to entice visitors to your booth.
  • Don’t go to the show without communicating to everyone on your staff the main goal for attending – the more focused and motivated your staff is, the more successful you will be at reaching your goal.
  • Do train your staff on everything from the messaging for the show and products to highlight to the booth layout, the demo script, and how leads are being collected. Proper training is the key to turning your trade show booth into a well-oiled machine.
  • Do emphasize your differentiators on your signage, in your demo and your elevator pitch.
  • Do staff your booth with employees who are qualified to identify and engage prospects about solutions relevant to their needs.
  • Don’t waste your money on trade show give-aways that are not going to be useful (to the attendee, not their kids) after the show or represent your brand poorly (as in, it breaks).
  • Don’t wait until after the show to browse through the lead data. If there is a great contact and you missed them when they came by the booth, be sure to connect with them during the show while you’re both in the same location.
  • Do leverage your executives in attendance to meet with press, high level prospects, and deliver trade show sessions when possible.

 Go Big or Go Home

  • Do go beyond the booth. Depending on your goals, look for opportunities to sponsor a session break or social event. Also consider speaking during a session or get your company name and booth number on the show bags or lanyards.
  • Don’t wait until you are at the show to reach out to contacts you are hoping to meet with there – pull up the company profile and call the contacts that are responsible for the technology you’re offering. Call them to schedule a meeting during the show. This is especially effective if you can pull up a trigger event that will give the contact a reason to meet with you.
  • Do get the cell phone numbers of contacts with whom you arrange meetings. Reps can send a text as a reminder 30 minutes before the meeting or reach them if plans change.
  • Do use LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Alerts, and Facebook for groups and conversations specific to the event. Join in and reach out to attendees, invite attendees to grab a cup of coffee at your booth, or create buzz about a cool demo. Make sure to use the event’s hashtag (if there is one) to maximize your reach.
  • Don’t hesitate to use the sales intelligence data you have to create more powerful connections with show leads. If you’ve got a meeting set or even if someone tells you he’s going to bring his colleague by the booth later, supplement badge scans with conversation notes and company profile data so that you know as much as you can about the prospect
  • Do survey your sales staff after the show to identify not only what you did right or wrong, but to hear ideas on what other exhibitors did well also – a better gift tie-in, a more enticing booth layout, an engaging hook someone used to draw attendees into their booth. Always be improving.

Trade show prospecting can seem like a risky outlay of marketing budget but executed effectively, trade shows can yield impressive results if you strategize well and stick to the plan. Remember that you are helping prospects learn about the best choices to solve challenges they are facing. Provide them with insight and honesty to make your company a trusted choice.


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About the author


Lisa has a background in international business and over 15 years of technology marketing and she helps to develop strategies to enable a successful sales effort.