Top Dog’s Top Tips for Trade Show Success

By Top Dog Eileen Proctor

Business booster or financial drain? Which side of the fence are you on as it relates to exhibiting at industry trade shows and consumer expos? Before giving your final answer, consider these recent statistics from The Center for Exhibition Industry Research:

  • 79% of attendees say that such shows help them decide what products to buy, with 91% making faster decisions because they can comparison shop amongst competitors in “real time.”
  • Converting a trade show lead to a sale costs 38% less than sales calls alone.
  • Trade show visitors will tell six or more people about their experience, significantly expanding the reach of your time and monetary investments.

Some of you are shaking your head vigorously from side to side. You’d be thrilled if your results mirrored these findings, but alas, thus far they haven’t. Before passing on this popular and perennially positive marketing method altogether, please consider the proven, game-changing suggestions provided in this three-part series of articles. Because it’s best to start at the very beginning, we’ll start with one of the most common problems befalling a good portion of Petpreneurs: preparation.

Before plunking down the big bucks for a booth, request and review the projected or historical attendee profile from the show producer to determine if it’s the right opportunity for you. Among the most important factors are their demographics (gender, age, home owner vs. renter, number of pets, etc.), economics (to determine their purchasing power), psychographics (how they think and act), and vertical market (business, consumer, or non-profit).

If exhibiting seems like the right visibility option for you, it is imperative that you set your show strategy well before showing up on the day of the event. Bringing in revenue through product sales is often deemed to be the obvious primary goal, but a number of other viable objectives could be just as important for long-term business success. These can include the following:

  • Launching or expanding a business or brand
  • Sharing information or influencing behaviors
  • Recruiting potential employees
  • Conducting market or competitive research
  • Building a database of prospects who will ultimately be converted into customers

The more specific and committed you are to your strategic goals, the better the chances are that you will achieve them. Don’t try to do it all. Focus on one or two goals for the best chances of success.

Because you will be competing with dozens to hundreds of other exhibitors, and because you will have a maximum of 10 seconds to grab the attention of the passersby, it is essential that you develop an intriguing theme for your booth, supported by an inviting layout, compelling graphics, and props. Key guidelines include large graphics, short headlines and bulleted text in large type, and bright or distinctive colors. A hard-to-resist engagement device will help to lure attendees into your booth and provide the mechanism for securing the all-important leads that will be followed up on within days after the event (more on this in the third article of this series). Captivate the crowd by incorporating one of these tried and true methods:

  • Raffle, contest or game – make it easy for them to win something they consider valuable!
  • Survey – people LOVE to tell you what they think!
  • Demonstration – ideal for groomers and trainers!
  • Local or national celebrity (or even a life-size cardboard cutout!)

Last but not least, did you know that 85% of an exhibitor’s success lies in the performance of its staff? For that reason, be sure to recruit and schedule your employees, friends, family, and even customers according to their strengths:

  • Setup/break-down team – strong “workhorse” types who don’t necessarily want or like to verbalize very much and are available to work short shifts before and after the event
  • Field team – private detective wannabes who willingly walk the show on your behalf, garnering valuable information about competitors, potential future alliance partners, and/or new products or services to provide to your customers. Be sure to provide a list of questions for them to ask so you get the information you are looking for with a minimum of personal bias.
  • Booth ambassadors – happy, peppy, engaging individuals who are ready, willing, and able to share information about your product, service, or company to potential customers. Be sure to schedule enough of them in shifts so they can take bathroom and food breaks, which will keep them happy, peppy and engaging while they are representing you at your booth.

In the next article, we will be covering the ins and outs of crafting and practicing a consistently convincing script and how to stack your booth traffic deck in advance so you come across as a not-to-be-missed booth at your next trade show or consumer expo.

Top Dog Eileen Proctor is a national pet industry and lifestyle expert, renowned for pioneering Phoenix, Arizona’s dog daycare industry in October 2000 with multi-award winning facility It’s a Ruff Life! As the Top Dog of Visibility, her training and consulting company, Top Dog Business Boosters, and exclusive 24/7 online community, Petpreneur Central, cater to the specific needs of PetpreneursTM across the United States, helping them to “sniff out” opportunity, get the “leg up” on the competition, and emerge as a “leader of the pack.” For additional information about the Top Dog, visit and For information about this or any other marketing, business development, or visibility topic, e-mail [email protected] or call 602-867-3647 (602-TOP-DOGS).

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