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Trade Show Secrets

December 10th, 2008 · 5 Comments · Trade Show Marketing

Next to the word “free“, I think the next most over-used word in marketing has to be “secrets“. I did a search on Google for the term “trade show secrets“. Google says there are 1,380,000 results. Wow. I looked through some of the results and had to chuckle. Here is what I saw: I like the #1 Google result ~ “Dirty Little Trade Show Secrets…” Not only are these secrets, they are “Dirty Little” secrets. Hmmm. The #3 and #4 results are websites by the name of and The #8 result claims to have the “Biggest” trade show secrets, and the #9 result claims to have the “Master” trade show secrets (I wonder if these “Master” secrets are at all related to the “Master” of the Philippines). If you click through to the second page of Google results (does anyone ever do that?) the #11 result will let you buy the “Trade Show Secrets” ebook for $35.98. If you scroll down to the #16 result you can get that exact same “Trade Show Secrets” ebook for $29.98 (it pays to shop around a little).

Apparently, trade show secrets must be a hot topic. However, the trade show guru is here to tell you that there really aren’t any “secrets” to trade show success. You can spend your time searching for those secrets, just like you can search for that tradeshow special sauce, but the key to trade show success is basic marketing and hard work.

Without further ado, here are ten absolutely free trade show “secrets” (they’re really just common sense). Start with these top ten key secrets points and save yourself $29.95.

1. Create a budget. Figure out how much it’s going to cost to exhibit at a tradeshow and determine your roi (return on investment) and see if the numbers add up and if you’ll make money (the ultimate point of most businesses).

2. Pick the right trade show. Make sure the tradeshow you’ll be attending is a target-rich prospect-rich environment. If you’re not sure who your prospect is, or what a prospect is, read basic marketing.

3. Plan for your trade show. If you’re not sure what this means, read my post trade show planning. Those that fail to plan, plan to fail.

4. Send out pre-show mailers. You can get a list of attendees from your trade show organizer. Get the list and use it. Let your prospects know you’ll be exhibiting, and give them a reason to stop by. Don’t just send out one mailer, send multiple pre-show mailers. Repetition will get your message through.

5. Consider passing out trade show giveaways (aka trade show schwag and/or trade show freebies) at your trade show booth. If you’re not sure what makes a good giveaway, many inexpensive promotional products make good trade show giveaways as well. In fact, trade shows are probably one of the biggest markets for promotional products. Make sure the trade show giveaways have your company name and contact info on them. And make sure the trade show zombies don’t get all of your trade show giveaways. Keep some cheap giveaways on hand for the trade show zombies and keep the nice trade show giveaway stuff hidden in back for your better prospects and clients.

6. Have an awesome custom trade show display with full-size custom graphics with a clear message. Your custom trade show display should stop people in their tracks when they walk by your trade show booth.

7. Take care of yourself at the trade show. Get plenty of sleep. Remember the trade show is work, not vacation. Don’t go out drinking and dancing until 2am. Save that for when you go on a real vacation. Make sure you eat a good breakfast, drink plenty of water during the day, stretch, and wear comfortable shoes. Consider getting extra padding when you rent the carpet for your trade show booth.

8. Be personable and courteous when you talk to people, but get to the point. Qualify people immediately and determine if they are a valid prospect. Do they need and want your product, and can they afford it? If they aren’t a qualified prospect, thank them, maybe give them one of your cheaper trade show giveaway pens or other cheap give-away items (maybe they’ll need something in the future, or will talk to someone who will), and then move on. There’s no point in wasting your time or their time. You’re at the trade show for business, and hopefully they are too.

9. After the show, you must follow up. Call all the prospects that you met at the show. Thank them for stopping by. Find out how you can move your business with them forward. If you can’t reach them, call again. Keep calling until you talk to them.

10. Achieve trade show zen. If you’re not sure what trade show zen is, read my post. Think ahead, plan, study the competition, remain calm, visualize your success and achieve it.

There you have it, free of charge. Ten “trade show secrets” if you want to call them that. If you want more, just keep reading the Trade Show Guru.

BTW, I want to thank Tim, the King of the Rednecks, for his glowing review of your humble trade show guru: Steve, Guru of the Trade Show. I’m impressed he found the time to write a post about little ol’ me, what with all the beer gift baskets he’s been busy making. Good Karma to you Tim, and a round of Blue Beaver beer for everyone!

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mitch // Dec 12, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Well, I’m not in the trade show business, but I am in the presentation business, and everything you said fits that also. Probably the only one I haven’t done is #4, mainly because I don’t always know all the people I’m speaking to up front. Great job; did you see where you show up on Google?

  • 2 The Trade Show Guru // Dec 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    hey Mitch,
    Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment. 🙂 I can tell from reading your blog that you know what your talking about. 😉
    ~ Steve
    PS. I wish you good karma and continued good luck at that Reno poker!

  • 3 Tim // Dec 13, 2008 at 9:22 am

    So, when are you gonna share some of your “dirty little” trade show points? 🙂
    One thing I would like to add is realistic expectations. If you go in thinking you are gonna sell a million widgets and you bomb, it won’t be pretty. I have seen this go down at a lot of shows, and I see these people standing in an empty booth looking terribly unhappy. And then no one will stop to talk to them. So, zen would really help in those situations.

  • 4 The Trade Show Guru // Dec 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Excellent point on realistic expectations! Especially when one is developing a budget to see if trade show exhibiting make sense in the first place. Even zen doesn’t make up for losing a lot of money. ~ Steve

  • 5 Jim | website copywriter // Dec 25, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    A little off topic but…the “secrets” marketing strategy works–that’s why there’s so many people using it. From a marketing perspective, using the term “secrets” accomplishes so many things at once: it builds on and exploits CURIOSITY on the part of the reader, it also builds EXPERTISE because the squeeze page/lead generation page/blog talking about the “secret” speaks from a position of assumed authority, and finally it suggests a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE since only people who receive the secret supposedly know about it.

    It’s a great marketing ploy but I’m not sure in of itself it would be a great ORGANIC search candidate (ie., it would be worth the time and effort to SEO) . Indeed, a search at for “trade show secrets” shows a mere 170 monthly searches for the term.

    Not exactly a ‘preexisting’ brand but perfect for buzz marketers. What I mean is YOU, the marketer/blogger, will CREATE the buzz for the term you own. ie., you rank #1 for a term because no one searches for it and no one optimizes it and YOU create the buzz/idea virus for it so people talk about it. When the search volume/interest perks up–there you are at the #1 spot, ready to cash in.

    “Secrets” works. Applies to almost every possible niche and is custom tailored to Web 2.0–ie., how people spread influence and ideas around in the social web.

    Sorry about the spiel. Just wanted to add value to the notion of “SECRETS” and how it works from a marketing perspective. I’ve used “trade show secrets” as an example.

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