David Meyer

I can’t say ‘squishy ball’ with a straight face.

No knock on the promotional products industry, but the sales and marketing effort for your tradeshow shouldn’t revolve around the tchotchke that you give away. I’ve yet to make a purchase decision based on the logo on my squishy ball or pen.

The strategy for your tradeshows should dovetail with your overall marketing efforts, which likely requires making slight adjustments for the target at each show.

While trade shows can be highly productive, too often, companies treat them as an after-thought – resulting in a low return on investment. This is unfortunate because the formula for success is pretty straightforward and simple.

Pre-Show Marketing

If you’re exhibiting at a trade show, you’ve likely got a list of attendees from the organizer. If not, you (hopefully) have a list of attendees from previous years and contacts you think will likely attend. Let them know you’re going. A simple email is a bare minimum. Ideally, give them a good reason to stop by your booth or attend one of your events or speaking engagements. Provide a link to a landing page with useful information about the show where they can register for your speaking engagements or private functions.

By creating a landing page in concert with a marketing automation tool (such as HubSpotHatchbuck, or Marketo) you can glean information on what’s most important to each, providing actionable insight.

And would it kill you to pick up the phone and call your key prospects and clients to arrange a meeting in person?

While you’re prepping for the show, make a list of the key people you want to meet/interact with while there. Make notes of past conversations (or, better yet pull them from your CRM) and stalk them a bit to find out news on their company or personal interest. While not perfect, www.charlieapp.com is a pretty cool tool you can use to create summaries (warning: we’ve found it to be only about 80% accurate, but it’s a good start).

At the show

Is your booth a show stopper or invisible?

Not only should your booth quickly communicate your point of difference, but it needs to be eye-catching. Tradeshow floors are crowded; you need to stand out (in a good way). The booth should be inviting and have plenty of space for attendees to sit/stand, visit and engage. Cocktail tables, charging stations, and comfortable seating can entice people to stay a bit longer.

Your booth is home base for your sales team. This doesn’t mean your entire team should be there from open to close. They should take turns to work the floor, conduct some competitive research, check out speaking engagements, and attend meetings that they’ve set prior to the show.

While in-person meetings are great, set up follow-up meetings whenever possible, especially if you’re dealing with a long buying cycle. Also, it’s likely that the person you’re meeting with isn’t the final decision maker on doing business with you. Ask questions about their buying process and find out what their specific ‘pain’ is and how your solution can provide a much needed answer.

Don’t look now! The floor isn’t just crowded with the competition!

There are there are potential strategic partners with the same target market as yours at every turn. Stop in and talk with them. Learn about their business. Make introductions whenever possible. Chances are, there are ways for you to share leads or co-market.


Always be closing nurturing.

If you think the show’s over once you’ve packed up your last retractable banner stand, you’re wrong. It just started.

Following up with contacts is a race, and to the victor go the spoils. 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.* Sure, your feet and back hurt, but that shouldn’t stop you from picking up the phone or shooting off a follow-up email. If you don’t, your competitor will.

Next, import all of those business cards you collected (along with all of the notes you took) into your CRM, and keep them in your nurture track. Of course, you’ve segmented them into groups (i.e., partner, competitor, prospect) and maybe even broken out prospects into segments by what they’re most interested in, what their pain points are, and how likely they are to make a purchasing decision soon.

Then, stay in touch. Post-show selling isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Nurture leads with the information they’ll find pertinent and compelling.

Do it right and the cost of the trade show will seem like the best investment your company has made in a long time.

*Source: InsideSales.com

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David Meyer


There are a lot of great story-tellers, but there aren’t enough story-understanders. When clients have trouble explaining a new value proposition, David can name that tune in fewer words than they imagined possible. When prospects come to us with a symptom, David asks the (sometimes hard) questions that get to the root of the problem. Then he solves it. After decades in account management and creative roles, David is able to bridge the gap between creatives and clients (and back). Oh, and he can tell stories, too.

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