3 Elements of Creative Trade Show Marketing

What marketing opportunity creates both of these situations simultaneously?

  • The ability to see a large number of prospects and customers over a short period of time.
  • Face-to-face meetings with prospects and customers and a wide variety of players.


The answer is a trade show. And according to 99 percent of exhibitors polled for a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, these scenarios are unique opportunities not possible through other marketing channels like email marketing and inbound efforts. Consider these elements of creativity when planning your next trade show display.

1. Humor

A customer who laughs is one who lasts. Incorporating humor into a banner display or sales pitch has been a successful strategy for decades. Collaboration software company Central Desktop was certainly creative when they used a grown man dressed as a baby angel sitting on the “cloud” as their trade show marketing ploy. The cigar-chomping, lyre-playing baby angel was a hit at the show and earned a viral buzz afterward, according to Forbes. The humor and awe approach can go wrong, though, so be cautious. SocialStay CEO Seth Epstein tried to recreate marketing success in Austin when he hired a parcour group to resemble ninjas. The group failed to follow instructions and ended up scaring attendees who thought they were terrorists.

Humor is definitely a recipe for trade show success but make sure you know your audience and your entertainment. Demo the routine before the show to make sure it’s something your company can stand by. An in-booth entertainer opens up sales opportunities by allowing the crowd to feel comfortable near your display.

2. Interaction

If attendants don’t feel the need to engage or interact with a display, they will move on. Creating that interaction is the biggest marketing potential of trade shows. Be it a hands-on demo, game, free shoe shining or photo booth. Tech Company 3M took the interactive approach to a new level when they created virtual presenters at a trade show last year. The life-like human apparition maintains eye contact as it repeats information upon being signaled by a motion detector or button push. This example of technology growth shows the importance of keeping your banner fresh. Build a new display each year to keep up with the competition.

If holograms are out of budget, simple elements like videos or a game of darts are also effective. Any game with the potential of a prize creates another marketing opportunity. When it comes to branded marketing, trade show attendees often wind up with an unwanted bag of pens and shirts upon exiting. Think of something practical instead that guests can put to use. A conference in southern California would warrant towels and sunscreen for pool goers. Conversely, a New York City audience would be better served with a ride-sharing coupon or city guide.

3. Social Media

Interacting face-to-face is just half the trade show battle. Be active on social media before, during and after the event. Facebook and Twitter posts before the event tell your audience where and when to come over for booth offerings. Provide sneak peaks but reveal impressive aspects at or right before the show. Create blog posts or an infographic about what is to be expected from this year’s event. This will build a buzz and establish your company as an authority in the field.

Tweets or email blasts can work to lure in potential customers during an event, especially if free stuff is involved. A QR code, which is impractical in many facets, can be useful at exhibitions. The QR code can send attendants to an optimized landing page or sign-up screen. Live stream and record demos so people showing up later can see presentations. Another creative tactic is to have a live social media board where someone can be tweeting and answering questions from attendees.

Social efforts after the event also bring in additional leads. Reaching out to reporters who might need an interview is a free marketing resource. Write a wrap-up post and announce any contest winners. Be sure to connect or follow prospective clients. The stage after a trade show is the chance to close leads cultivated by creative trade show marketing.

Image via Phillip Jeffrey

Written by Ryan Lum

Ryan Lum is the founder and editor of Creative Guerrilla Marketing. He is passionate about creative marketing, social media and design. Connect with him on LinkedIn,Twitter or Google+

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  1. One great example of this that I saw at a show recently was a stand that was using puppets. The girls involved were having a great time and were managing to approach people with humour thanks to their hand puppets that were waving, “talking” and so on. It really got a buzz from the crowd and everyone seemed to be having a great time!

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