How To Use Trade And Consumer Shows To Expand Your Business

I’m writing this week about this topic because I recently visited my local Chamber of Commerce’s Expo, where about 200 businesses had booths and/or offered food in the food court. What a terrible experience. Not one…not one of the exhibitors had any mechanism to gather the information from a visitor.

Why would they need to do that? Because how can you contact or build rapport with a prospect if you never got them to give you their contact information.

All that was needed was to have a drawing for a prize where the visitors would fill out a card with their name and email address.

Trade Shows and Consumer Shows are one of the most abused and misused marketing tools in the world. The majority of exhibitors go into a show without any strategic plan. And if they do happen to have a mechanism to gather the visitor’s information, they do a terrible job of follow-up. Every time I go to a show, I’m just amazed watching the reps standing around in the booths looking brain-dead.

Here are some keys you should consider if exhibiting:

1. Create a detailed plan of what you want to accomplish and who you want to talk to.

2. Do some pre-show marketing in the local media. Target this to those “groups” of prospects you want to visit your booth.

3. Create a method of collecting and qualifying the leads.

4. Create a strategy for making immediate sales. No one ever asked me to buy when I stopped at their booths.

5. Create a plan for following up on the leads IMMEDIATELY after the show.

If you do one thing and one thing only, create a form to have whoever stops at your booth fill in their contact information. This way, you can communicate with them over the next few months.

Refer to my blog article at and read about what you should do to get a 95% closing rate. In order to accomplish this you need to communicate with them over the next 13 months at least 15 times.

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8 Responses to “How To Use Trade And Consumer Shows To Expand Your Business”

  1. Keith Turnage says:

    Ken, I was amazed at the results you produced when we implemented this very plan in Nashville. We collected more leads in 3 days then I could have ever imagined.


    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Keith Turnage,
    Hi Keith,
    Yes, we did well. Thanks. Hope you are doing well.


  2. Vincent Chestnut says:

    Yes, I would like to have qualified leads fill out their info and give it to me. Most trade show booths have aggressive people in your face and bombarding me with forms to fill out so I can win a prize. I feel most folks get turned off with “prize” drawings. They filled out a form for a free cruise, not a new roof. On my next show, I will just have a sign stating if they want more info, to fill out the form or drop a business card.


    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Vincent Chestnut,
    Vincent, without knowing for sure what you do (roofing?) or what your product is, I can only say that you should do some research and find out what problems your audience is having, then create a short report to offer them at your booth. (If it’s roofing, maybe the report could be about: “How To Stop A Leak In Any Roof”) If you are in B2B, I’d suggest customizing my free book 10 Marketing Mistakes that Steal Your Cash and passing it out. You can add your logo and personal greeting message to it. We can show you how to do that. Just let us know.

    Anyway, you want to offer a free report or book and let them know that since you want to also help them make their roofs last longer (or save $ on maintenance of their roof) (or grow their business, in the case of B2B) you need their contact information to send them further helpful information.

    If your business is B2B, you can contact my partner Reggie at for more information on how to use my free book.


  3. Bob Ciok says:

    Hi Ken,

    You are correct that you should always plan, set goals as to what you are attempting to achieve at the show and as noted, secure the information of those who do stop at your booth. One should be careful of using promotional/gimmick attractions to gain that data as it will sometimes over attract, in that you will capture the data of those who like to win a ___ fill in the blank and may or may not be all that interested in what you are selling. For most shows, one can use badge scanners for those who register to attend, but in a Chamber of Commerce show, you must depend on other methods (fill in a request form, pull a business card from the visitor-if they have one, give a small token gift after qualifying the visitor-either to be mailed or presented at the show, etc.). Bottom line you must find a way to find out who came to your show and then as you noted, follow up promptly. A show attendee is usually looking for something specific and they want it NOW!


    Ken Varga Reply:

    @Bob Ciok,
    Bob, these are very good and useful comments.


  4. Everyone need to get screened using this type of machine. It appears pretty helpful.


  5. Bruce says:

    I have done this and got a few emails but I find it more helpful to get them from other vendors as well working together to find more shows really helped sales for me. I am doing a show tomorrow and made the mistake of not putting it on my calender. I only found the flyer this morning and realized I was doing the show. But I have not had time to arrange a gift basket.
    What I do at these times is get a gift certificate from one of the other vendors and raffle the coupon this helps the vendor friend me. It is working I get ideas from all these sites and put them into my business plan.


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