10 Out-of-the-Box Marketing Ideas for Your Next Trade Show [+Examples]

Posted Feb 7, 2024 | Updated 3 months ago

Trade shows offer an opportunity for small businesses to get out in front of an audience and engage prospective clients while also connecting with other industry-relevant companies and organizations.

One of the biggest challenges when participating in a trade show or business expo is standing out and capturing people’s attention—especially in a crowded, bustling environment.

You only have so much time to connect with event attendees and make a lasting impression. That’s why it’s important to put careful thought into your trade show marketing strategies and be prepared to make the biggest possible impact on those you encounter.

Creative Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows

A benefit of attending trade shows is the chance to interact with interested buyers and representatives who are already motivated to become buyers. They are looking for new vendors and sellers. The industry specificity also provides helpful common ground. On the flip side, there’s also a level of competition, as you seek to leave a meaningful impression in a short amount of time.

You want to catch the eye of prospective customers using a few unique and out-of-the-box marketing ideas, while also implementing effective strategies to foster meaningful connections that yield long-term results. While some strategies will depend on your particular industry or trade—as well as what type of activities and opportunities are available to exhibitors at each individual trade show and your main priorities when participating—there are some concepts that will work in a variety of situations.

As you prepare for your next event, here are some fun trade-show activities and creative marketing ideas to connect with people and get them started on the journey to becoming new customers:

1. Run a Social Media Campaign Before the Event

Before you even get to the trade show, you can use it as an opportunity for marketing your Colorado Springs business. Put together a social media campaign that highlights when and where the show is; your booth number and where you can be found at the event; who from your team will be participating; and information about any workshops you’re leading or giveaways your hosting; and if new products or services will be revealed at the event. A few trade-show social media post examples include behind-the-scene Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts of preparing for or setting up at the trade show, a teaser video for a new product or service that’s going to be revealed at the event, or a puzzle or quiz with prizes to be redeemed at the event. That can start to drum up interest and motivate people ahead of time to visit your booth. Additionally, share about your plans to participate in the expo or trade show in your email marketing and on your company website.

2. Develop Unique High-Value Content

Another marketing idea for trade shows is to develop a specific landing page ahead of time that offers the visitor high-value content. You can use this tool at the expo or event to drive traffic to your website, or you can offer it to those who subscribe to your email list. A benefit of setting up a trade-show-specific landing page is that it enables you to track what sort of attention and traffic is garnered from that specific event. You can also tailor the language to themes you’re using for your booth.

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3. Host a Giveaway with a Worthwhile Prize

One tried-and-true marketing method for trade shows and expos is to host a giveaway or content. The key is to offer a high-value incentive that stands out from your competitors, whether that be a gift card to your business, a gift basket with products, or a coupon for free services. This encourages people to visit your booth and engage in some way to be entered. That engagement could be as simple as adding their name to your mailing list or taking a photo and sharing it on social media with your account tagged. To make this experience more fun, consider adding a backdrop or Instagram photo wall to your booth.

4. Lead Interactive and Engaging Games and Activities

If you want to have some sort of game or activity at your booth to motivate people to stick around longer, there are numerous options. Ideally, you want to tie in the activity to your company’s products or services, such as a short bingo or trivia game with industry-specific questions and clues, a quiz that people can fill out, or a design-your-own-product game. However, it’s not entirely necessary that everything relates directly to your business. If the event is outside, you could set up a cornhole game or a prize putt, or you could do a spin-the-wheel game with prizes. The main idea is to give trade-show attendees something fun to do—maybe even using nostalgia to remind them of going to fairs or carnivals as kids. And then your branded swag makes the perfect prize while also marketing your small business.

5. Livestream Any Demos or Workshops You Lead at the Show

If you are hosting any workshops, presentations, or demonstrations during the trade show, be prepared to livestream it to your social media platforms. This will enable you to not only connect with interested parties at the expo or trade show, but also reach a much wider network of potential partners and customers. Make sure you go to the event with the right audio and visual equipment to do a high-quality stream. You can also then use it for other digital marketing through your website, YouTube, or social media.

6. Use a Variety of Tactics to Collect Email Addresses

Two potential goals for participating in trade shows include meeting prospective customers and collecting feedback about your products and services in real time. Both of these should be easy to do. Provide a signup sheet and physical comment cards, as well as digital versions that are accessible via a QR code. Make the process as convenient and simple as possible.

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7. Use Slideshows and Videos for Brand Awareness

Visual elements are key to increasing brand awareness among your target audience at a trade show or business expo. Large signage, free-standing banners, and hanging billboards are useful tools to reinforce your company’s brand image. Plus, you’ll want handouts and brochures to use as marketing collateral. However, photos and videos can go a step further in capturing and highlighting your brand identity, and the products and services you offer. Put up a projector or screen with a high-quality slideshow or looped video that balances personality and professionalism to give people a taste of what your company is all about. A few ideas include BTS footage, interviews with team members and customers (to serve as social proof), product demonstrations, or tours of your facility.

8. Include Displays that Capture Your Products or Services

It’s important to think of your booth as one large display. You can get it up like a storefront, putting up samples of your products or items that event-goers can touch and test for a truly hands-on experience. Educational materials and infographics can communicate success statistics, testimonials, and other important facts related to your offerings. If you sell products that are too large to display—such as playground equipment, vehicles, or household furniture—you can use scaled-down models, dioramas, or other visual aids. For service-oriented companies—such as landscaping businesses, professional photographers, hairdressers, or construction contractors—bring portfolios and boards with high-quality images of completed projects in the Colorado Springs area.

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9. Incorporate VR and AR for a Fuller User Experience

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can also make your booth stand out from the competition and create a more lasting impression with your audience. If you have a budget, create a virtual or augmented experience that lets people interact with your products and services in some way, whether it’s “test driving” a car, digitally designing a landscaping or home improvement project, take a tour of your healthcare facility or nonprofit headquarters, or do a shopping spree. 

10. Follow Up with Emails and Phone Calls

Few prospective customers will actually turn into buyers at a trade show or business expo. After the event, you want to follow up with all your qualified leads by sending them an email or even making a phone call. You can share photos or a highlight reel from the event. Also, let them know you enjoyed meeting them and offer exclusive promo codes or early access to products as an extra incentive. Your social media platforms provide another opportunity to share about the event, with a heavy emphasis on photos and videos. 

Preparing for Your Next Trade Show

If you’re signed up to participate at a trade show or business expo in the coming months, now is the time to get prepared. Our team at Third Angle can help you set up a trade-show-centric landing page of your website, create physical marketing collateral, or collaborate on a social media campaign. Tackling the event with a streamlined theme and marketing strategy will help you have a greater impact on prospective customers and partners at the event and cultivate more qualified leads for your local business.