Trade shows have been a great solution to help small businesses expand their market share for years. It’s one of the few marketing strategies that allow a large number of prospective buyers to have access to a company. Small business and trade shows go hand in hand. The high cost of a trade show is often a deterrent for many small companies, but in the right industry it can be a stepping stone to greater sales and exposure. There are some key features a small business needs to look for to create an effective trade show: image, presentation, company information, and follow up.

Small Business and Trade Shows

Company Image

Image can be one of the most important focuses for a small business at a trade show. Image can portray many things such as size, quality, production capability, and professionalism. Different shows or marketing efforts might require different forms of marketing and highlighting different aspects of the company. It is key not to “fake” an image because buyers will either be able to see through it upfront or find out after working with the company for a while. The question is, “how do I promote my image to an audience without being fake?”

It’s very possible to honestly promote a company toward a specific audience without being fake. For example, if the company is a small, quality manufacturer facility but is capable of very high production abilities it would be smart to highlight the “small, high quality” aspects of the company at a show with a local audience. While at a show with bigger names and higher demand it would be more beneficial to promote the large production capability of the facility. Targeted marketing efforts can be extremely beneficial and can make or break a trade show.


Presentation for a small business at a trade show can determine if the show is a success. Regardless of the industry or audience, professional presentation is always extremely beneficial to a small business. We have recently completed a great info graphic on etiquette for trade shows which highlights key features of a proper presentation. There are simple points such as wearing a name tag and having a consistent dress code. They may be easy to forget, but go a long way in a professional environment.

Backlit Hop Up Displays Set Up ProcessPresentation also includes the actual booth set up in regards to the backdrop, flooring, and accessories. Trade show booths such as the Hop Up display, that have a clean and professional look, will highlight the company and make it look professional. This is a much better option than hanging a banner from the pipe and drape assembly or using a pop up with Velcro graphics. The cost to rent a booth space is so high that it doesn’t make sense to cut cost on the booth presentation. A cheap looking booth will present the company as cheap or unprofessional, whereas a quality, professional booth will make any company more appealing to the target audience.

Company Information

Properly displaying company information is a key component of attracting new clients. This can be done using the display back drop, brochures, catalogs, trade show giveaways, and social media. Marketing campaigns are essential in displaying consistent company information that is remembered by clients. Using the same logo, color scheme, tag lines, and contact info throughout marketing efforts will make it much easier for a prospective client to either remember or recognize a new company. Social media is another way to keep the company name active. Blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter are great ways to keep the company relevant and solidify company information. A great website with company information, testimonials, and contact info can be an essential tool in providing information to a large audience.

Follow Up

Follow up after a trade show can be a key factor in gaining new clients. It’s a fact that most trade show attendees visit a large number of booths and can’t always remember every company. Following up with potential clients that stop by the booth sometimes will yield the highest results. Note taking is a great tool when trying to remember which clients have the most potential. We have a great blog post, trade show tips from top exhibitors, that covers many of these strategies in detail. Another great resource is archiving comments and success stories from previous shows to improve future shows. Improvements from every show will be seen in the number of visitors and the total number of leads generated at each show!

Remembering key points:

  • Marketing an honest company image that is focused toward specific industries
  • Present the company in a professional manner with proper booth design and staff training
  • Insure attendees can recognize the booth space by maintaining company information
  • Follow up after every trade show with clients as well as booth staff to insure the next show is even more successful

All of the points covered in the article are essential for small businesses to have a successful trade show. While we only covered four key areas, they are a building block to making trade shows profitable for any small business. Our other resources, including blogs, info graphics, and articles, offer mounds of information on helping exhibitors to be more successful. Following these simple, specific points will insure an improved trade show experience which results in more leads and higher profit!