Common Exhibit Marketing Mistakes: Ten Tips on How to Avoid Them

The key to great exhibiting is marketing. But
marketing is a very inexact science that leaves
room for a multitude of errors to occur. The
following are 10 of the most common marketing
mistakes that exhibitors often make. Learn to
avoid them and you will increase your chances for
a successful tradeshow.

1. Have A Proper Exhibit Marketing Plan

Having both a strategic exhibit marketing and
tactical plan of action is a critical starting
point. In order to make tradeshows a powerful
dimension your company’s overall marketing
operation, there must be total alignment between
the strategic marketing and your exhibit
marketing plan. Tradeshows should not be a
stand-alone venture. Know and understand exactly
what you wish to achieve – increasing market
share with existing users; introducing new
products/services into existing markets or into
new markets; or introducing new products/services
into new markets. This is the nucleus on which to

2. Have A Well-Defined Promotional Plan

A significant part of your marketing includes
promotion – pre-show, at-show and post-show. Most
exhibitors fail to have a plan that encompasses
all three areas. Budget is naturally going to
play a major role in deciding what and how much
promotional activity is possible. Developing a
meaningful theme or message that ties into your
strategic marketing plan will then help to guide
promotional decisions. Know whom you want to
target and then consider having different
promotional programs aimed at the different
groups you are interested in attracting. Include
direct mail, broadcast faxes, advertising, PR,
sponsorship, and the Internet as possible ways to
reach your target audience.

3. Use Direct Mail Effectively

Direct mail is still one of the most popular
promotional vehicles exhibitors use. From
postcards to multi-piece mailings, attendees are
deluged with invitations to visit booths. Many of
the mailings come from show management’s lists
and as a result, everyone gets everything. To
target the people you want visit your booth, use
your own list of customers and prospects–it’s
the best one available. Design a piece that is
totally benefit-oriented and makes an impact.
Mail three pieces at regular intervals prior to
the show, starting about four weeks out, to help
ensure your invitation is seen. Wherever
possible, use first-class mail. There’s nothing
worse than a mailing that arrives after the show
is over.

4. Give Visitors An Incentive To Visit Your Booth

Whatever promotional vehicles you use, make sure
that you give visitors a reason to come and visit
you. With a hall overflowing with fascinating
products/services, combined with time
constraints, people need an incentive to come and
visit your booth. First and foremost their
primary interest is in “what’s new!” They are
eager to learn about the latest technologies, new
applications, or anything that will help save
them time and/or money. Even if you don’t have a
new product/service to introduce, think about a
new angle to promote your offerings.

5. Have Giveaways That Work

Tied into giving visitors an incentive to visit
your booth is the opportunity to offer a premium
item that will entice them. Your giveaway items
should be designed to increase your memorability,
communicate, motivate, promote or increase
recognition of your company. Developing a
dynamite giveaway takes thought and creativity.
Consider what your target audience wants, what
will help them do their job better, what they
can’t get elsewhere, what is product/service
related and educational. Think about having
different gifts for different types of visitors.
Use your website to make an offer for visitors to
collect important information, such as an
executive report, when they visit your booth.
Giveaways should be used as a reward or token of
appreciation for visitors participating in a
demonstration, presentation or contest, or as a
thank-you for qualifying information about
specific needs etc.

6. Use Press Relations Effectively

Public relations is one of the most
cost-effective and successful methods for
generating large volumes of direct inquiries and
sales. Before the show ask show management for a
comprehensive media list, and find out which
publications are planning a special show edition.
Send out newsworthy press releases focusing on
what’s new about your product/service, or
highlighting a new application or market venture.
Compile press kits for the press office that
include information about industry trends,
statistics, new technology or production
information. Also include good product photos and
key company contacts. Have staff members at the
booth who are specifically assigned to interact
with the media

7. Differentiate Your Products/Services

Too many exhibitors are happy to use the “me too”
marketing approach. Examine their marketing plans
and there’s an underlying sameness about them.
With shows that attract hundreds of exhibitors,
there are very few that seem to “stand out from
the crowd.” Since memorability is an integral
part of a visitors’ show experience, you should
be looking at what makes you different and why a
prospect should buy from you. This is of
particular concern with generic products in your
industry. Every aspect of your exhibit marketing
plan, including your promotions, your booth and
your people should be aimed at making an impact
and creating curiosity.

8. Use The Booth As An Effective Marketing Tool

On the show floor your exhibit makes a strong
statement about who your company is, what you do
and how you do it. The purpose of your exhibit is
to attract visitors so that you can achieve your
marketing objectives. In addition to it being an
open, welcoming and friendly space, there needs
to be a focal point and a strong key message that
communicates a significant benefit to your
prospect. Opt for large graphics rather than
reams of copy. Pictures paint a thousand words
while very few exhibitors will take the time to
read. Your presentations or demonstrations are a
critical part of your exhibit marketing. Create
an experience that allows visitors use as many of
their senses as possible. This will help to
enhance memorability.

9. Realize That Your People Are Your Marketing Team

Your people are your ambassadors. They represent
everything your company stands for, so choose
them well. Brief them beforehand and make sure
that they know: why you are exhibiting; what you
are exhibiting and what you expect from them.
Exhibit staff training is essential for a unified
and professional image. Make sure that they sell
instead of tell; don’t try to do too much;
understand visitor needs; don’t spend too much
time; and know how to close the interaction with
a commitment to follow-up.

Avoid overcrowding the booth with company
representatives. Have strict rules regarding
employees visiting the show and insist staffers
not scheduled for booth duty stay away until
their assigned time. Assign specific tasks for
company executives working the show.

10. Follow-Up Promptly

The key to your tradeshow success is wrapped up
in the lead-management process. The best time to
plan for follow-up is before the show. Show leads
often take second place to other management
activities that occur after being out of the
office for several days. The longer leads are
left unattended, the colder and more mediocre
they become. It is to your advantage to develop
an organized, systematic approach to follow-up.
Establish a lead handling system, set time lines
for follow-up, use a computerized database for
tracking, make sales representatives accountable
for leads given to them, and then measure your

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event
Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through
coaching, consulting and training. Go to to sign up for a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week.