Six Essential Pre-show Strategies to Maximize Your Trade Show Investment

This three-part series is directed to the marketing community in the EMSNOW audience, and will run on Fridays for the next few weeks. Even though lots information is available online, there really are no substitutes for the face-to-face contacts and networking opportunities afforded by trade shows. And there are certainly plenty to choose from for both electronics manufacturers and their suppliers. But the investment for exhibitors is substantial. Whether you are an attendee or an exhibitor, it helps to plan ahead to make the investment pay off.

By Karl Berger, Fractal Solutions



It is another year of pounding the pavement and “doing your time” at trade shows. I personally enjoy the trade show experience, particularly meeting so many people who are passionate about their businesses, but I work with many sales organizations who do not share my enthusiasm.

The three phases of an effective trade show include Before, During and Post show plans. This column will cover the first phase, before the show.


1. Where Will Your Target Customers Be?
The key of course is making sure to select trade shows that maximize the customers that are likely to buy your product. It sounds like something Captain Obvious would say, but never underestimate the importance of doing the due diligence to understand the target attendee audience for a particular show. Study the show website carefully. Don’t confuse exhibitor and attendee lists. If you see a lot of your competitors on the exhibitor list, that’s a good sign, but beware of lemming-like behavior. You know your target customer best. Is this really a show that will attract your customers? In addition, consider choosing a show that is geographically practical for your sales team as far as following up on leads. Most shows attract local attendees.

2. Can you be the Expert/Resource?
Companies and people who attend trade shows are earnest in finding out how they can help their customers buy better. Do you have content that could bring value to them? Keep in mind what it means to be positioned as an expert. The worst thing you can do is cross the line and sell without having convinced the customer that you know what you are talking about. Many trade shows have technical programs. Consider making a presentation about key technology that supports your products. These appearances can validate your sales pitch if your presentation is objective and fair and not a blatant sales pitch.

3. Sign up!
Most trade show websites include a surprising and well-thought out section to help plan your time. Review the planned Meetups, Seminars, Socials, etc., and identify the best opportunity to be seen as a peer with your target customers. Engage and listen to your customer in an informal setting. This can be valuable market research for you and your team to take back to your strategy sessions. Your customers may tell you what they WANT TO BUY, without you having to sell them directly.

4. Plan your leave behind.
Full brochures are bulky, cumbersome and, probably, immediately, headed into the trash. Consider a postcard, simplified brochure, or just gather cards and follow up electronically if you feel a strong need to give things away.

5. Create a Visit Plan.
As soon as you can, get the floor plan and identify the companies that you NEED to meet, and others that you want to visit. Include your targets, their competitors and your competitors.

6. Arrange Key Meetings.
Use the draw of a trade show to meet with potential customers, influencers and/or advisors that would otherwise not be available. Arrange pre-show coffee, lunch, cocktails or other face-to-face meetings during lulls in the show activities.

You now have a good strategy for the show. Get some rest, because the next part (During the Show) is the most exhausting yet also the most rewarding. Good luck!


Karl Berger is President of Fractal Sales Solutions and helps business owners to achieve breakthrough growth. If you cannot tell, he is a sales leader at heart, with a history as a CEO, so he is always looking at the bottom line. To learn more about Karl please see his LinkedIn page . To learn more about how Fractal Sales Solutions can help you, feel free to contact him at