How to Maximize Trade Show Success: Tips for Pre- and Post-show Marketing

Gerri Knilans
5 min readMay 6, 2024


Attending industry trade shows and events is a valuable strategy for organizational growth. The B2B trade show market was $10.2 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach nearly $15 billion by 2027. While digital programs can bring together global experts and peers, 95 percent of marketers say in-person events are vital to fostering real-life connections with target audiences. When a company exhibits at a trade show, it creates opportunities to build new connections and reinforce existing relationships.

To maximize the benefits of trade show participation, it’s essential to put a strategic plan in place. “If a given trade show isn’t pre-planned at the level of the Normandy Invasion, it’s doomed to fail,” says Mark Moran, chief marketing officer for Simplilearn. Cristina Danila, global marketing manager of Backbase, agrees. “Connecting with your prospects and clients in person is a main driver for sales and marketing, and events are still a top choice for this. But engaging with customers and prospects needs to start well before the event itself.”

B2B trade shows offer companies the opportunity to debut new products and services, demonstrate thought leadership, enhance brand awareness, examine the offerings of competitors and industry leaders, and introduce new products and services-all in one location. In addition, individuals can gain valuable knowledge and insights by attending educational sessions and visiting vendor booths.

Choose the Right Shows

Attending and exhibiting at trade shows require a significant investment of resources. Make sure to attend only those events that align with your target audiences. Doing this will deliver a positive ROI and maximize the benefits of participating.

Consider the following steps to determine whether a show is worthwhile:

  • Establish clear goals and objectives. Do you want to launch a new product or service, gather industry insights, generate leads, or educate attendees? A solid focus will help you optimize your efforts.
  • Reach target audiences. Review last year’s exhibitor list and educational programs. If your competitors are investing in a show by exhibiting and speaking, it’s a good indication that you should as well.
  • Consider timing. Select shows that allow for adequate time to prepare internal resources and promote your attendance to clients and prospects. In addition to offering early-bird discounts, shows have firm cut-off dates for sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees. Pay attention to deadlines to capitalize on cost savings. Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to start planning a year out, often right after the previous show concludes.
  • Establish a budget. Consider the costs associated with booth space, design, or rental, travel, printed and digital marketing materials, giveaways, and other expenses. Choose shows that match available financial resources. “Events can be expensive to execute, in terms of both time and dollars, says Lauren Bocci, vice president of marketing at VictorOps, “but if you have a comprehensive plan of attack and an understanding of what success looks like for your organization, they can be tremendously successful.”
  • Identify speaking opportunities. If sharing thought leadership is important, consider applying to speak at keynote or breakout sessions. Securing a spot on the event program is no easy task. But when done well, trade show speaking engagements help brands and thought leaders increase visibility and connect directly with prospects, customers, and industry influencers.

Once you’ve selected your trade show(s), conduct extensive research. The more you know about the exhibitors, speakers, and attendees, the better you can design your marketing, booth, presentations, and materials to create a lasting impression.

Pre-Show Marketing Tips

A host would never throw a big party without sending out invitations. That’s why pre-show marketing is essential to creating a buzz around the show and your participation in it. Pre-show marketing isn’t just about getting attendees to visit your booth. It’s about engaging them, stimulating their interest, and encouraging them to seek you out on the show floor.

Pre-show marketing efforts should begin early but establish a frequency that generates interest without overwhelming recipients. A good rule of thumb is to begin outreach six weeks to a month before the event.

If the show provided a list of attendees and their contact information, put it to good use. Otherwise, focus on your own lists. Develop emails that encourage attendees to visit your booth, attend educational programs or hosted events, or set up one-on-one meetings with sales reps. After emails have been sent, conduct personal follow-up calls to key contacts to gauge interest and arrange appointments.

Leverage social media to generate excitement, promote the show, and let attendees know what they can expect at your booth. Connect with prospects and other stakeholders on LinkedIn and express your excitement about meeting them at the show. As the show date nears, provide specifics about where attendees can find you at the show.

Marketing Doesn’t End After the Show

Now, think about the day after a big party. Do you simply put away the decorations and forget about the connections you made? No. A good host sends thank-you notes, expresses gratitude, and keeps the conversation going. While the excitement of the show may have waned, your opportunity to nurture the relationships you made hasn’t.

Following up with leads generated at the show might seem like a given, but it doesn’t always happen. It takes a strategic effort to convert those leads into customers. Customize communications and focus on a human touch. Connect on LinkedIn with a personalized message. Send an email with some specifics about why you enjoyed your conversation. Suggest a way to reconnect after the show-and follow through to make it happen.

Be sure to enter all leads into your CRM system and maintain consistent outreach. Share your follow-up blog post about the event, ask them to join your newsletter list, and be sure to invite new contacts to your next webinar. Individualize communications and content to show attendees. This could be a white paper that explores a topic you discussed or an invitation to another event that aligns with their interests. The goal of post-show communication is to develop a relationship and demonstrate your value.

Measuring Trade Show Success

Trade shows are a significant investment so it’s important to ensure that the investment pays off. To accomplish this, measure ROI and tie outcomes to the established goals and objectives.

Leverage analytics tools to track interactions, post-show behaviors, sales conversions, and other success metrics. Understanding post-show results will give you a clearer picture of your efforts and their impact. Beyond tracking leads and sales, consider these additional metrics:

  • Meetings booked
  • New email subscribers
  • Referral traffic
  • Social media engagement
  • Connections made
  • Organic traffic from location- or event-specific keywords.

It’s important to understand that results will grow over time. If trade shows are part of a long-term strategic marketing plan, an authentic and customer-centric approach will pay off. Blending human touch with intelligent marketing transforms trade shows into a powerhouse tactic for long-term growth, partnerships, and results.

Originally published at on May 6, 2024.



Gerri Knilans

Marketing communications strategist. The right message. The right medium. Guaranteed.