April 9, 2021

Maximizing event results with strategic marketing

As we get closer to holding in-person events and trade shows again, it’s important that you’re setting your company up for success. A crucial step in ensuring event success is marketing it to your customers. Without marketing, you’re leaving your meetings up to chance, your foot traffic or attendance may be low and you may be putting on an expensive show instead of getting a return on your big investment.

While most of these suggestions are framed as applying to trade shows, they are just as applicable to other events, such as those you may host at your business, such as open houses, showcases and field days.


As with any successful marketing initiative, planning is the crux. As discussed in a previous post, planning helps ensure that you have the resources for all of the initiatives you need to execute for the trade show or event. Create realistic deadlines ahead of time to help you stay on track and get the best results for your investment.

When you start planning will depend upon the type of event. For trade shows, for example, a good rule of thumb is to check when you have to submit orders for services like electrical or carpet and be prepared with your plan prior to that date.

Consider brand messaging, a new product launch or other initiatives you want your booth to showcase. This means that if you’ve done any rebrands, that your logos are consistent throughout the space, your products featured on signs or banners are current and any freebies are relevant to those in attendance. If you do not have an inventory of booth materials, check what’s in storage and make a list of what you need to redesign or re-order.

Plan each initiative, whether it’s targeted emails, social media marketing, mailers or phone calls to make sure there’s plenty of awareness for your event.

Make a list of customers you’d like to meet with during the event and personally market to them with unique emails to ensure that your key buyers are present and ready to book. “Make sure to let your customers know ahead of time that you’ll be there. In 15 years managing and marketing events, I’ve found that when paired with partnering with the show we are exhibiting at, this is the best way to set yourself up for success, no matter how you measure it,” said Stephanie Leon-Santiago, marketing and events manager at Great American Media Services. Leon-Santiago plans and markets 25-30 programs and events, including trade shows in a normal year, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, a few more virtual events were added for the 17 Great American Media Services brands.

Schedule enough staff to cover your busiest times, but also schedule the right staff. For some companies, this will mean that all sales and marketing team members are in the booth for much of the trade show or are at the event with specific tasks they’re empowered to execute. At trade shows, sales staff will need to schedule customer meetings in blocks so that there is always coverage in the booth.

Choose a look for your staff so that there is cohesiveness throughout the team. This could include logo-wear or a set wardrobe (such as black bottoms, black shoes and white shirts with a branded lanyard). Make sure that anyone walking into the booth or event knows who to talk to based on a quick glance, without making them stare at badges to decide who works for your company.

Decide as a team what your goals are for leads, sales or anything else measurable. Be sure that you consider all staff costs, such as hotels, per diem, travel and time are covered and know what your break-even number is and what will allow a return on the investment.    


In the weeks leading up to the event, finalize any meetings or appointments you need to have with key customers. If you plan any giveaways, get those orders ready on time but be sure to follow any show guidelines regarding what is allowed to be handed out in your booth or showroom.

It seems every exhibitor will offer something free, but it’s imperative that the items you’re giving away are not only on-brand, but relevant. “The top things that attendees want mostly have to do with organization. A high-quality pen or a small notebook is better for you and them than candy with a disposable wrapper or something else that will go right in the trash. Consider something for their badge or a pop socket, a pen that won’t break right away or hand sanitizer. With most shows and in-person events re-opening, I suggest washable branded face masks. If you’re on a small budget, pick something memorable,” Leon-Santiago said. 

Utilize every free marketing option the show offers and consider their paid marketing options such as improved website listings or list rentals. You never know – your biggest customers might not be your customers yet, and they need to know where to find you during the event, too.


We all know trade show food isn’t the best, so if you can get away with it and any restrictions due to COVID-19 allow it, offer lunch to key customers. This does triple duty of keeping your reps in the space, getting your customers to stop by and creating buzz around the busy traffic to your booth.

Offer deals for those who meet with their rep in your booth or on-site, such as a percentage off, better payment terms, free shipping or better minimum order quantities.

If you can, hold a larger giveaway. This is definitely something that should be advertised in advance and will help you build your email marketing lists and give your sales reps a chance to chat with potential customers. The show management may have limits on the value of what you can give away, but consider your top products, a gadget or something related to what you make or sell with your logo on it. Schedule a time for the giveaway and draw the winner’s name live on social media for maximum exposure.

This set of recommendations is, of course, not all-inclusive. For a refresher on lead follow-up, check out this post.

Interested in assistance marketing your event or trade show? Talk to an expert today!

About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.