Trade Show Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

While industry trade shows are typically the largest marketing expense for companies selling business to business, they also seem to be the least understood. At Gerard Marketing Group, we often see clients getting caught up in trade show FOMO, “fear of missing out.” If a competitor is at a show, you feel like you have to be. If a competitor is not there, you feel like you should be.

Consider participation and to what degree you participate carefully:

Measure ROI

Treat trade show decisions as you would any other marketing tactic. Look at the number of attendees that are your primary target and divide that into the total cost to be there. Don’t forget to include some of the extraneous expenses involved:

  • Booth space rental, carpet, lighting and other accessories
  • Booth shipping and labor for set up and take down
  • Shipping employees there and their cost to sleep and eat while there
  • Cost of giveaways or promotions

Your cost per lead (CPL) at a trade show will be higher than most any other marketing tactic, but they should also be the most qualified. If you decide to be at a show, it is imperative that you track booth visitors and the amount of business they bring to your company after the show.

Tchotchkes (Chach-keys) Aren’t Necessary

Giveaways like branded bags have the added value of brand recognition throughout the show, but in general, decision makers will care most about the information, training or new innovations you can share with them vs. a new stress ball for their kids. If you don’t have new products or innovations to talk about, you probably should wait to exhibit until you do.

Work It Before, During and After

Maximize your investment with tactics before, during and after the show:

Before – Build excitement about your new innovations with direct marketing to show attendees.
During – Create buzz around your announcement with social media and event sponsorships.
After – Follow-up with attendees and leads to attain appointments.  

Pre-show direct marketing driving buzz and traffic for the launch of Avid, a client of Gerard Marketing Group.

Be True to Your Brand

Recognize that it doesn’t matter what city the trade show is in or how large or small your company, you must invest in a space that communicates your brand message accurately.

Assuming the Flavor Depot provides discount, high volume product, their small, modest booth space is arguably branded better than the well-designed, considerably larger booth with the Elvis impersonator.

Cheeky impersonator dilutes brand credibility.


Small and utilitarian is o.k. if that’s your brand position and where you want to stay. 









Professional Execution

Don’t stretch your marketing budget so thin that you have to skimp on booth size and construction to be at more events. Your booth is your first impression for trade show attendees, so don’t blow it. Communicate what you do quickly so attendees walk up and ask about a certain capability instead of asking “now tell me, what do you do?”

Use a professional company to design and build your booth. Structure, traffic flow, lighting, layout, furniture, storage, colors and graphics are must work together to have a successful booth space.

Gerard Marketing’s client’s presence at a Pharmaceutical Supply show was on point with their brand.


Coach Booth Representatives

Obviously, your sales people are integral to any trade show, but also have some of the people that design and/or make your product available also–the people that your clients and prospects wouldn’t normally get to meet. Help representatives be at their best while in the booth space by scheduling their booth time and coach on the following:

  1. Make eye contact with people walking past your booth and greet show visitors at the edge of the booth with conversation. Bring them into the booth space as you would invite someone into your home.
  2. Ask compelling open-ended questions vs. waiting for them to ask you.
  3. Have a compelling answer if asked, “What does your company do?”
  4. Be engaged and present. Check email, return texts, post to social media and eat on your breaks or after hours. Turn your phone to silent.
  5. Spread out–don’t cluster together with fellow employees.
  6. Be on time and communicate with each other if there are scheduling difficulties or if you’re going to be late.
  7. Bring plenty of your business cards to distribute.
  8. Use the scanner to scan prospect business cards. This will save hours of data entry later.
  9. Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be in a better mood.
  10. Of course, be friendly, smile and have fun. (More so than the reps working the Flavor Chem booth pictured above.)

    Booth space and representatives are not the most approachable.

Again, Gerard Marketing Group’s client was on point, with focused, professional booth representatives from across departments in the company, sales, management, as well as research and development.