Build Your Business:

5 Tips to Win Customers at Your Next Trade Show

By Ed Levy, Contributing Writer

September 25, 2019

Industry trade shows can be an effective way to gain exposure for your work. Not only are these events ripe with potential clients and collaborators, they create an opportunity for face-to-face interaction, genuine connections and future sales.

To make the most of your trade show display, it’s important to stay on-brand and clearly convey your company’s capabilities and specialties. Also keep in mind that today’s consumers are much more interested in an overall experience than a traditional product-driven transaction.

Here are five tips to help you nail your next trade show event—and return home with a handful of new customers.

1. Show your branding expertise. Put your knowledge to work by creating clear, consistent branding at your booth. Your company’s name and contact information should be displayed on your booth and all product giveaways and marketing materials to ensure interested attendees know how to get in touch with you.

2. Focus on creativity—not cash. Creating a booth that stands out from the others doesn’t immediately translate to spending more money on your display. Think carefully about your branding, and aim to immerse visitors in your brand story and products in a creative way. Incorporate interactive games, life-size art, virtual reality experiences, photo booths and other activities that will draw a crowd.

3. Run a pop-up shop. Mobile equipment like table-top presses and printing machines give customers a firsthand look at your processes. People love to see garments decorated on the spot—especially if they can choose their design and keep the finished product.

4. Tie in tech. If you’ve created a fun and playful experience for attendees, they’ll likely want to share it on social media. Give attendees a hashtag to use when posting, and set up an area where they can pose for pictures in front of an eye-catching branded backdrop. Happy customers are your most influential brand ambassadors!

5. Be clever with giveaways. Offer useful items such as gift certificates for your services, food, drinks and quality wearables. Remember, giveaways must be small and travel-friendly, as many people fly or drive long distances to attend shows. Consider hosting a drawing for a grand prize, asking people to sign in to an app (or leave their business card) for a chance to win. The prize will be sent to the winner once they’ve returned home, and you now have hundreds of new contacts in your database.

Above all else, become an expert at communicating why your services fill a need in the industry you’re serving. Regardless of how fancy your booth is, your main goal is for attendees to walk away knowing exactly what you do and how to get in touch if they need your services.

Ed Levy has more than 25 years of apparel-decorating experience. Levy, who’s director of software technologies for Hirsch Solutions, is an in-demand speaker at trade shows and regular contributor to industry magazines.