If your company has tasked you with getting your business brand out in front of potential customers by exhibiting at b2b trade shows, your first thought is probably, “Where do I even begin?” and running for the hills!

While it may seem like a daunting task…sort of looking down a straight highway to nowhere only to see looming mountains in the distance…the only way to proceed is to create a detailed game plan and set up milestones along the way.

There are 5 things you need to consider BEFORE you even pick out that shiny new trade show booth.

1. Figure out what your goals are for exhibiting.

  • To gain more leads and or sales?
  • For more brand awareness?
  • To strengthen relationships with prospects and customers?
  • To launch a new product or service?

Once you define your objectives, then you can start searching for shows that will help you meet those goals.

2. Research trade show opportunities.

You’ll need to research what trade shows would be good place to exhibit to meet your goals. For example, a search by industry on one of many available websites like The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group is a great place to start. There you can filter the search by industry to help give you an idea of what shows are coming up in the next year.

3. Decide what shows fit your persona target best.

You’ve picked out a handful of possible venues to exhibit. Now you’ll need to do more sleuthing to figure out if they’re the right ones. Check on the history of the show. How many exhibited and attended the show in the past few years? This way you can get an idea if it was a good show and relevant to your goals. Understand who actually attends those shows and who may be speaking at the show that may draw the people that you’re trying to reach. If you know the size and demographics of the audience, you’ll be able to get a better picture if the show is worth your time, effort and money. You can even get some testimonials from other exhibitors that share your target audience to get a better feel about the show’s quality.

While all your research may look good on paper, consider attending a high profile show yourself before becoming an exhibitor. Exhibiting at a show can be expensive, so this may be a good way to put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer and take note of what types of personas attend the show, what type of booth styles you like, what drew your attention, and what sorts of information you took away from the show. You can learn a lot by watching and listening all around you. Gleaning information you get by attending a show may help justify the costs to exhibit at that show next time.

4. Research your competition.

This is so you can have a feel of what your competition is doing and where they go. On each trade show website is a list of exhibitors. Check those out to see who will be exhibiting. Not to say that you should be at ALL the shows where your competition is, but if the show draws the demographic that you’re targeting for YOUR business, then they’re shows to consider. This will give you the best bang for your buck rather than showing up everywhere.

5. Execute a trade show marketing strategy.

This is the most important step. Just because you’re exhibiting a show, it will not be a “If you build it, they will come” experience. You will need to let your target audience know you’re exhibiting at (or even attending) a b2b trade show and how to find you! Perhaps you can give them a preview of what you’re exhibiting ahead of time. Are you sharing exclusive industry insights? Unveiling a new product? Offering a show discount? All this should be thought out and planned ahead with your b2b marketing team. They are the ones that can help map out a b2b trade show marketing plan and utilize all the social media, PR, email and print media resources they have to get the word out there.

Once you have a clear trade show marketing strategy, only then you can start thinking about the next steps. Deciding on where you’re going to exhibit, booth size and designs, supporting materials like literature, giveaways, etc., who will staff the booth–these are just a small handful of details needed to make a successful exhibit.

If you’ve found this information helpful, check out our 4 Tips for Getting the Most From B2B Trade Shows.


In B2B tech marketing, tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating new and traditional marketing tactics, your marketing program become more effective and cost efficient. To learn more about how you can increase your lead generation and overall marketing, download our free eBook: Modern Integrated Digital Marketing—A Better Path for B2B Technology Marketers.

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991_Debbie MackenzieDebbie MacKenzie is a 1991 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where she majored in graphic arts production management. Deb cut her professional teeth managing production and customer relations at major printing companies before coming to Schubert b2b 14 years ago. Debbie's a versatile big hitter overseeing all things financial and operational.