Industrial B2B marketers often invest more in trade show marketing than any other medium. Why? Because the opportunity for interpersonal access and influence to ideal customers is optimized.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) provides insightful statistics about marketing effectiveness among trade show visitors:

Like most good things in life, trade show success doesn’t come easy. This six-step system provides you with insight for industrial trade show marketing success.

1) Understand Objectives

This serves as the “why” behind all your effort. Most manufacturers build exhibits to increase brand awareness and generate new leads. But you may also want to introduce a new product or build deeper relationships.

Once you understand why, you can set measurable goals (e.g. “How many leads do you want?”). Finding measurable objectives will provide insight on success that qualitative goals cannot.

2) Select the Right Industrial Trade Shows for Your Company

North America has thousands of trade shows each year that feature companies competing for the attention of millions of attendees. An understanding of your objectives will help narrow down potential trade shows to the ones that work best for you.

What shows do your customers feel will add value to their operation?

3) Design a Great Trade Show Exhibit

Your booth will compete against tons of other exhibits. And everyone wants to gain the attention of attendees. A great trade show booth design will help you cut through the clutter and broadcast your message to the perfect audience.

Graphics should communicate who you are, what you do and the benefit you provide to prospects. Also keep in mind that you’ll also use your exhibit as a temporary workspace. Optimize the layout and flow to give staff room gather leads, meet people, demonstrate the product and store personal items.

4) Develop a Trade Show Promotion

Veteran marketing managers know the power of a good trade show promotion. A solid offer can boost your lead count by 33%. Pre-Show Promotions boost awareness of your exhibit before the show. It’s about spreading the word and getting people excited. At-Show Promotions work to attract more visitors to your booth.

Create promotions that speak specifically to your target customer. Don’t give away something that everyone would sign up for (e.g. an iPad). You may get a lot of “leads” but they won’t be qualified or targeted.

5) Train Your Staff for the Show

The trade show staff will mean the difference between a prospect having a meaningful experience at your exhibit, or not. Your booth staff needs to understand how to entice customers, quickly connect with them and transform a brief conversation into a qualified lead. Whether you enlist the help of sale professionals or not, you’ll need to properly prepare your team.

Each interaction will last less than 10 minutes. In fact, the more brief, the better. You want to convert someone to a lead as quickly as possible, because then you can move on to the next prospect. This guideline will help you train your staff for the show:

Engage. Stop the attendees and engage with them using leading questions. Find ways for them to share with you and avoid yes or no questions.

Qualify. Determine if they qualify as a good lead for your offering. If not, move on to the next prospect.

Present. Demo the product around the prospect’s needs. The more personalized this process feels, the better.

Close. Have them fill out a lead card and move on to the next prospect.

Prepare questions and scripts for each stage of this process.

In general, it is not recommended for trade show staff to sit down or eat in the booth. However, providing complimentary water or coffee at your booth for visitors does make a positive impression. Also, pay attention to potential barriers, like chairs, that could block access to your booth.

6) Follow Up With Leads

Once you’ve completed the trade show, it’s time to follow up with leads. According to the CEIR, a shocking 80% of leads never get a follow-up after the show. Follow-up as soon as possible. You want to remain top-of-mind and engage with leads while they still remember their interaction with you at the show.


Industrial trade show marketing can add immense value to your manufacturing business. But you have to do it correctly. With all the competition, make sure to use these six tips to stand out and generate as many leads as possible.

For more information on making your next trade show a success, click here.


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Located in Hickory, North Carolina, Gotham is an industrial marketing firm providing advertising and marketing for manufacturers nationwide, as well as locally the Hickory, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Greenville and Spartanburg, NC, SC, VA, TN and GA regions.

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