I Went to a B2B Trade Show, Was Underwhelmed by Your Presence and Kept Walking

b2b-social-media-trade-showB2B companies make products to solve problems and make their customers’ lives better or easier. B2B service organizations help customers run their businesses more efficiently or more cost effectively. These are noble causes. Sure, if we are successful at it, we make money, but a business product that doesn’t add value to the business is not worth considering.

And social media doesn’t help this problem.

If you have a bad product or service, social media provides both an outlet for frustrated customers and the means to amplify the message further.

So let’s assume that you have an awesome product that solves problems, a great team to provide services, and even a great sales staff to explain the value proposition and close deals. With all that awesomeness in mind, take a look at your trade show presence.

Really take a look at it.

Are you telling a compelling story? Are you enticing prospects to stop by and chat about your great products and services?

Or are you giving away pens and hard candy? Maybe you have progressed to give away squeeze balls in the shape of the world. Maybe you made enough of them that it is in the shape of your logo. These are perfect for the conference attendees who need a gift for their children. I know it has always worked for me. Even as a teenager my daughter still loves kitschy trade show giveaways.

And don’t even get me started on collecting business cards, scanning badges and any other means of gathering leads. “I just need a business card to give you one of those squeeze balls.” What’s the follow-up plan for those leads? Gathering dust on the sales manager’s desk?

Are you building awareness at the top of the funnel? Are you qualifying prospects or are you just trying to hit a metric that someone else imposed on the marketing team?

How about sending them an email newsletter or your latest ebook? It’s better than many of the emails I get. “Thanks for stopping by our booth. Did we tell you how awesome we are while you were there? Can we schedule a phone call with our junior level inside sales person to remind you how awesome we are?” This is not a follow-up plan. This is spam. And nobody will respond.

This is what happens when your only trade show metric is gathering leads rather that acquiring qualified prospects. And it is obvious to everyone who walks by your booth.

Here are 5 tips to change the outcome of your next trade show:

1. Adapt your personas for the trade show audience to make sure you present the correct message to the onsite audience.

2. Focus on qualified prospects as a metric of success, not raw lead numbers.

3. Don’t bother giving away something with no connection to your business that provides no value.

4. Create a true follow-up plan with a timeline, prepared emails and phone scripts and areas of responsibility.

5. Enhance your trade show presence with social media by posting and sharing content resources before, during and after the event to provide value to all attendees, but especially your targeted prospects.

Photo credit: Flickr


  1. says

    Solid read! At times, tradeshow attendance seems like a mere formality. An industry-bestowed obligation. My business partner did a blog post about the cost per lead of attending a tradeshow vs. cost per lead of inbound marketing several weeks back and if you look at the numbers they’re pretty interesting. His point really seems to be resonating with some of our clients. Many are shifting dollars and seeing results. That said, one client in particular is still attending select shows and seeing results. So I can’t say that eliminating all tradeshow attendance makes sense, but I definitely think there is an argument that options, sometimes better options, do exist.

    Here’s the article if you’re interested in reading: http://www.gorilla76.com/cost-per-lead-comparison-trade-show-vs-website/

  2. says

    I suggest you make a trade show successful by selling your products at these shows. This isn’t a new concept as it was the original intent of these shows years ago. Most trade show attendees work within a 300 mi radius of the show location, so you have a target audience. Introduce trade show sales incentives like offering free project take-offs and estimates, volume discounts, and trade show sales discounts to your audience immediately prior to the show. Direct mail (USPS, email, social) special offer PINs to be redeemed at the show. Promote the sales promotions at the show with your booth signage. Have the right people at the show to write estimates, negotiate sales, and write orders. Post show you can extend the sales promotion to those that could not attend or to those that did attend that you obtained their contact info. The point here is simply to improve your trade show investment, sell verse tell at your next show.

  3. says

    Shared this already earlier last week but came across it again and had to comment. Great post Jeffrey – I used to run social media for trade shows and it was an important (and fun) component to the show’s success. Yet so many companies would simply tweet “Come visit us at booth 3587!” with the event hashtag. It hurt my soul.

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