Making trade shows work without having your own stand - Lead Forensics

Making trade shows work without having your own stand

If you’re a B2B organization that’s keen to generate leads and speed up the sales cycle, then attending a trade show is one tactic you’ve probably considered.

And with the UK exhibitions and trade show sector estimated to be worth £19.2 billion, while US trade show revenue hit 12.81bn dollars in 2016, it’s an area that deserves some thought.

Traditionally, taking a stand at a trade show would have been a mainstay of the marketing calendar. Nowadays, however, thanks to the growth in digital marketing and all the new avenues which have opened up for B2B sales and marketing teams, that is no-longer the case.

But they can still work for some and the secret to success often lies in 3 things:

1. Choosing the right event

2. Having an effective and well thought through strategy

3.Maximising opportunities to combine both offline and online marketing

These are rules which apply whether you’re exhibiting, speaking, or simply attending, if you’re to make the most of the opportunity.

Taking a trade show stand – the pros and cons

When it comes to having a stand to promote your product or service, there are some key pros and cons to consider:

The pros

  • They offer a chance to get face-to-face with visitors and therefore to potentially generate new leads – 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority, according to the CEIR
  • They can help when it comes to building reputation and profile by placing a brand or company alongside other respected names
  • They can provide a ready-made audience, depending on how niche the event is

The cons

  • It can prove very expensive to exhibit at a tradeshow – not just in terms of booking space, but getting a stand designed and built, manning it and producing all the marketing collateral and ‘swag’ you will give away
  • You never really know who you’re going to meet – there are no guarantees that decision-makers or other individuals with purchasing influence will be in attendance or manning the stands of other businesses, no matter how targeted an event may be
  • They take up a lot of time and resources

But what if you don’t want to exhibit? Is there anything else you can do?

The good news is yes! And with a little creativity and planning, you could still generate some real impact.

8 ways to use a trade show to generate leads if you don’t have a stand

To generate leads you need to get seen by the right people. And when there’s a lot of noise and competition for the limelight, you need to ensure you stand out – for all the right reasons.

  • Look out for speaking opportunities

You may not have the time, budget or inclination to take a stand, but most industry events will offer other options, including expert presentations or workshops. If you find a trade show which will be a great fit for your target audience, then investigate what opportunities there may be to be a guest speaker or to take a session.

  • Sponsor the event

Trade shows are always crying out for sponsors and will offer different packages and benefits for different budgets. Weight up all the options and the potential ROI. If it’s a newly launched event and you get in there early, then there may even be an opportunity to have a greater level of input and to help shape the format and content of the event itself.

  • Create content

Tap into the audience of a trade show by using it as a topic within your content marketing. Think what would be relevant educational pieces that you could share in the lead up to the show. For example, develop a whitepaper on a topic that will be of interest to attendees, or produce an infographic. Also consider live streaming from the event itself or filming snippets that can be used to create content after the event is over.

  • Social media hijack

Tied closely to the previous point, social media needs to be a huge part of your campaign. Go all out in the build up to the event, always using the event hashtag and/or Twitter handle, to try to generate some momentum. See who is posting about it too and share, like, interact. Be creative with your posts. Use eye-catching graphics and images, even run a poll – any way you can think of to stand out.

  • Hit up exhibitors

Trade shows are as much about the exhibitors as they are about the attendees. Take an account based marketing (ABM) approach. Check who is exhibiting and decide who you want to target. Have a strategy outlined long before the day itself. Find out all you can about each company, what their problems and challenges are and how you might help solve them. Think of creative ways to get a foot in the door and start a conversation. Produce a tailored leave-behind to take with you. You also don’t have to wait until the event itself though, consider emailing them or using some form of direct mail ahead of the event to say you noticed you will both be attending and it would be great to meet.

  • Book appointments before you go

If you’re monitoring your top target accounts online and keeping tabs on their social media posts, then keep your eyes peeled for mentions that they will be attending a trade show. It could be a great way in. Suggest meeting up with them and see if you can get some appointments booked before you’re even there.

  • Get your guerrilla marketing grove on Offer unique freebies

Success at a trade show is all about engagement. To grab attention in a fun and clever way, brainstorm some guerrilla marketing tactics. They can be very effective for building anticipation before the event, as well as on the day – even if you don’t have a stand. For some ideas check out this piece by Handshake.

  • Offer unique freebies

You don’t have to have a stand to attend and give out marketing materials and takeaways. Get creative here too – good quality branded pens are great but you can do better than that! Think of something unique. And remember, big bags always win. They are the ones which will be used to hold all others, helping you get your name seen by even more visitors.

Further reading


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