top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin

7 things NOT to do in Event Marketing

desk with a sketch on it and markers beside it


Here are 7 Common Event Marketing Mistakes to make sure you avoid. So while your competitors are snoozing through the pandemic binge watching Netflix and trying to figure out why TicToc exists, let's take a few minutes to examine your trade show marketing program to sharpen your skills for when things return.

Note that I am talking about Event Marketing because these ideas matter, whether you are exhibiting in TRADE SHOWS or CONSUMER SHOWS (yes, there is a difference).

1. Why am I here?

For whatever reason, some companies are on autopilot when it comes to their event marketing presence. If you ask them what they want to accomplish, their response it usually "increase sales" or "generate more leads." Really? If those are your only goals, then you might as well toss in "World Peace" too. Goals work better when they are specific and measurable. You can figure out what the show will cost you, all in. Your sales from it need to be more than the cost of it and then some.

Hopefully, your event marketing goals coincide with your overall marketing objectives, but you may not have the background / experience / knowledge to execute them in a face-to-face environment. That's where working with a knowledgeable & professional exhibit marketing company can make all the difference. Just because you read up on marketing strategies, it doesn't mean you know much about event marketing or exhibit design. Know what you want to accomplish and have a team around you to help.

2. How much space do I really need?

If you're just starting off in event marketing, start with an inline 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 until you get more experienced. You learn what works -- from graphics to display configurations -- before spending alot on an island exhibit, for the appearance of it. If you exhibit in a few shows a year, you probably have an event priority level. Having a modular exhibit allows you to ramp up for the larger shows and scale down for the smaller ones, without losing your branding messages or having multiple set ups. It may not make sense to "go big" at the less important shows and, instead, invest that money in a larger show, by adding a sponsorship option.

Remember that smaller exhibits may get less exposure and traffic than larger exhibits, if for no other reason than location. Bigger exhibits typically are centrally located, closer to the entrance, and along the main aisles. If this is an important show for you, don’t scrimp on the investment, as your space limits how much can be achieved, Some say at the very least, match the square footage of your main competitors, but that’s inefficient thinking, Figure out what you want to accomplish at the show and what it will take to exceed those goals, and then design a booth that achieves them.

3. No Pre-show Marketing

There's no reason not to have a pre-show marketing plan. You can spend a little, or you can spend a lot. At a minimum, you should contact your customers to see if they are attending the show. What they tell you may influence what you bring to the show and what you feature in your graphics. Beyond that, the opportunities are limited only by your imagination and your budget from pre-show mailings, emails, advertising, contests, Instagram hashtags, show sponsorships and industry press releases. Talk to the event organizers to take advantage of free or cost effective options that they are doing or maybe contribute an article or other opportunity for exposure (contest, promotion, draw). You already spend much of your time trying to attract attention to your company throughout the year. Take that energy and creativity and direct it to your event marketing.

4. Giveaways or Tossaways?

It's funny how free pens, stress balls, and rulers can give us an inferiority complex. Our competitors have them. We don't. So we feel like second-class citizens on the show floor. I like free stuff as much as the next person, but the free stuff better have a purpose. A bank that gives away nifty calculators is smart. The chiropractor who gives away a pen shaped like a spine - also smart. But a software company that gives away plastic water bottles? What's the point?

The same rules apply for prizes or draws. The draws should create a buzz at the show, and should serve as a opportunity to engage potential clients in conversation. Big bowls collecting business cards to win an prize attract leads, but not quality leads. Our time in the office is already stretched so do you really want a stack of unqualified people to sort through? Doubt it. Giveaways can be fun, but it won’t be the reason someone chooses your company to work with. And their distribution needs to be controlled. Have a plan of who gets them. Maybe have a tiered system based on how qualified the person is.

5. Booth staff not trained

"My staff knows the products and they know the company. Why should I have to train them?" True. Now recall the last time you went to the mall to shop. Those employees knew the products and they knew the company. Did you feel like you received exceptional service? Did they approach you promptly, ask you open-ended questions, look to begin a relationship with you, listen, and show you exactly what you wanted? Probably not.

Training before the show, as well as daily before opening, ensures that everyone understands the mission, that everyone knows their role, and that everyone gets their questions answered. Think of a show as a job interview. Every person who walks in the booth is deciding whether to hire you (or not). Will you be seen as the right candidate?

6. Too much socializing and not enough daily booth preparation

This is more for the trade shows. You're supposed to socialize during the off hours, build relationships, court potential new buyers. But you need to be smart about it. First, you're on company time. Even when you think you're not on company time, you're on company time. That's just the way it is. If the company expects you to socialize with clients, then socialize and be on your best behaviour. If someone has to tell you what that means, then you probably shouldn't be socializing with clients.

Second, trade shows may seem like a friendly gathering, and they can be, but they are actually a competition. What you say, where you say it, and who's around when you say it, can have painful repercussions for you and your employer. Everyone is on high alert for hints, innuendos, and outright gossip about our competitors. It's amazing what someone will tell you, or someone next to your will reveal, after a few drinks.

Finally, and this should go without saying, socializing should not interfere with your show responsibilities. Pace yourselves.

Every day is a new day in Show Town and, like Disneyworld, it has to look perfect before the guests arrive. Assign that task to someone every day and create a checklist. Otherwise, it won't get done, or the person with initiative will do it and resent it. Arrive early, scout out the other exhibits and make sure yours is ready for the day!

7. Poor follow-up on leads

Even though the show is over, the work is just beginning. Time to nurture all the work. The unfortunate fact is that the vast majority of exhibitors spend considerable money and time preparing and participating in a trade show and then neglect the leads they gathered at the show. Either they don't value the leads, or there's no plan on how to handle the leads. Most of the time it's the latter. Failing to plan is planning to fail and as such there needs to be a plan to follow up. Time needs to be set up to dedicate to it. It is where the real return on your investment in the event is measured. And it is where you set yourself apart from all the other exhibitors who don’t follow up.

Event Marketing can be an invaluable part of your brand building strategy, whether you have a B2B (trade show) or B2C (consumer show) focus. It puts you face to face with your customers and prospects. It allows you to gauge their reception of your product, your pricing and your brand – and make adjustments on the fly with instant feedback. But each event has its specifics that are there for you to capitalize on, if you pay attention. And they give you real time, real life feedback. So make the most of each one by avoiding the mistakes too many make in events and standing out as the best choice!

21 views0 comments


bottom of page