Debunking 6 Tradeshow Marketing Myths

Monica Orrigo
April 6, 2016

In ancient times, people found long ivory horns washed up on ocean beaches and wondered what creature could have left behind such a beautiful object. From this, the legend of the unicorn––a mythical flying horse with a horn on its head––was born. In reality, the horn came not from a mythical creature at all, but from a narwhal, a relative of the walrus. Okay, so what do unicorns and narwhals have to do with tradeshow marketing? If the idea of profitable tradeshow marketing seems more like a mythical creature to you than an effective way to target potential customers and build your business, then perhaps you’ve given in to one of these six tradeshow marketing myths:

Debunking 6 Tradeshow Marketing Myths

1. One tradeshow is the same as any other.

If you believe this, then your tradeshow marketing efforts are already in trouble. The fact is that every tradeshow has a specific audience, and if you don’t know how to reach them, you’re unlikely to have much success. Early in the planning process, look into the attendee and exhibitor data for any shows you’re considering attending to find out whether that show is the right one for your brand.

2. There is lots of downtime after hours.

Although tradeshows are often held in locations known for their tourist or leisure activities (e.g. New York, Vegas or Orlando), you’re not there to party. You’re there for one reason and one reason only: to develop relationships, build new contacts, and turn those contacts into customers. Every activity you undertake at a tradeshow should support this. Are we saying that the social gatherings that are so often part of trade shows aren’t important? No, we’re actually saying the opposite. Attending after-hours events associated with the show can be a huge opportunity to network, and it goes without saying that your approach to these events should remain professional. Take a pass on that second glass of wine, and listen carefully to the sound of opportunity knocking.

3. There’s nothing special about tradeshow marketing.

Many companies think that tradeshow marketing simply means taking a booth, some marketing collateral and a few samples to the convention center. Wrong. Companies need to fully understand why they attend tradeshows: it’s not just to stand around in the booth handing out pamphlets. It’s to actively engage attendees, capture leads, and maybe even meet with prospects that you’ve already scheduled appointments with. There’s more to this than meets the eye, so you’ll need to do your research and strategize well in advance to ensure success.

4. Anyone can staff a booth.

Although it’s true that technical expertise isn’t necessarily a requirement to be an effective trade show booth staffer, your booth personnel should be well-trained in what your––and their––goals are for each and every show. There’s nothing worse than investing in a booth, shipping, and travel expenses, only to have your booth staff standing idle as attendees walk by.

5. Tradeshows are a waste of time.

Exhibitors who’ve been unsuccessful at tradeshows in the past may feel that they are a waste of time, or that they take away from more important business activities. But consider this: according to a recent survey, more than 75% of tradeshow attendees ask for quotes at the show, and more than 22% are likely to sign a purchase order. Does that really sound like a waste of time? The truth is that tradeshows are like most activities: what you get out of them is directly proportional to what you put in. If you approach a show as an opportunity to gather leads, develop relationships and make some important sales, you are more likely to get those results.

6. Smaller brands can’t make a splash at tradeshows.

Although it’s easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond when it comes to tradeshow marketing, don’t let that persuade you that trade shows are only for big brands. Smaller brands simply need to be more strategic as they select and prepare for the shows that they will exhibit at. If your budget won’t let you make a big splash at the biggest shows, consider regional or more targeted shows. Don’t give into these trade show myths. If you need more facts to encourage you to get out there, keep in mind that 81% of tradeshow attendees have buying authority, and 92% of them are looking for new products. 46% of them will only attend one show. These facts mean it’s important to take every show seriously as a real marketing and sales opportunity for your business. Is your brand planning to do any tradeshow marketing this year? Why or why not? Let us know about it in the comments.