Online marketing is attractive for its cost-efficiency and sheer potential reach, but sometimes, it’s outclassed by traditional marketing strategies. Though mistakenly seen as a dying industry, trade shows are as popular as ever, and they have the potential to be even more valuable than their online marketing counterpart strategies — so long as you know what you’re doing.

Why Trade Shows Are Still Valuable

If you’re wondering why trade shows are still valuable, we get it. trade shows can be expensive — usually a hundred to a few hundred dollars per square foot of space, depending on your industry and the nature of the event.

But consider the distinct advantages:

  • One-on-one interactions. At a trade show, you don’t have to collect leads from random traffic on the internet or use emails and phone calls to try to make a sale. Instead, you can meet with new leads, prospects, and contacts face-to-face — and gain the ability to forge a much stronger connection.
  • The lead pool. Another major advantage is the quality of the potential leads circulating at a trade show; up to 92 percent of trade show attendees are specifically there to learn about new products and services. A lead at a trade show is inherently more valuable, on average than a lead acquired through other means.
  • Location density. At a trade show, everything in your industry is concentrated in one location. You’ll have access to news, announcements, prospective customers, and competitors, making it valuable no matter what your goals are.

How to Stand Out at Your First Trade Show

That said, you’ll have to deal with hundreds or even thousands of other attendees at this event. How are you going to stand out?

  • Do your research ahead of time. First, do your research on the event ahead of time. What type of attendants are they expecting? How many are there going to be? What kind of competition will be there? The better you know your target audience, and the more intimately you know the venue and event, the more specifically you’ll be able to focus your marketing efforts.
  • Choose the right giveaway. You’ll definitely want some kind of trade show giveaway; giveaways naturally attract more visitors and generate buzz throughout the event. The question is, what should you give away? That depends on your budget, but you’ll definitely want something original, and the nicer. Find a unique promotional product to put your brand name on, or enter your visitors into a drawing for a more valuable item. If you manage to impress people, you’ll be the talk of the show.
  • Create signage that breaks the norm. People’s eyes are drawn toward signage; yours can make or break your chances of attracting more visitors. Make sure to utilize colors and a font that matches your brand, but also stand out from your competition. Extra flair, like cardboard cutouts or lighting displays, may give you the edge you need to attract a visitor over your competitor.
  • Get active on social media before the event. If you want to make the most of your trade show attendance, you need to start marketing long before the event. Get on social media and start teasing a product, announcement, or special opportunity at the upcoming trade show. If there’s a hashtag for the event, start using it. It’s good to build up the hype, so you’ll get more attendants, and hopefully, some standing buzz from the time you walk in the door.
  • Create a long line. Booths with long lines will be perceived as “hotter” or more popular than booths without much attention — that’s because we tend to associate the number of people in line for something with the value of what they’re waiting for. While it’s not good to make your visitors wait around unnecessarily, you can engineer the appearance of a long line by helping people one at a time, and encourage longer interactions at your booth.
  • Consider using an original stunt. Staging a stunt at a trade show can help draw attention to your booth — so long as you have something original, and you execute it tastefully. If there’s an opportunity to speak, consider signing up for a slot, or use theatrics to call attention to your booth when it’s time for a major announcement, giveaway, activity, or audience interaction.
  • Network before and after the event. Networking is one of the most valuable elements of trade show attendance, so don’t neglect it. Spend some time leading up to the event talking to people within your industry, and follow up with them once the event is over.

If you can follow these strategies, and maybe invent a few of your own, you can stand out no matter how packed the venue is. Put some time and thought into your marketing materials, and have your salespeople ready to be on their A game.