Modern Trade Show Marketing for Wholesalers

Trade shows have long been the lifeblood of B2B manufacturers and wholesalers. Marked by bustling exhibition halls and in-person negotiations, these events have been instrumental in forging connections and securing new customers.

B2B businesses spend 5% to 20% of their marketing budget on trade show marketing. A medium-sized manufacturer or wholesaler attends 9 to 10 shows annually, bringing in a major chunk of their revenue from these trade shows.

52% of business leaders believe that trade shows and events provide the greatest ROI compared to other marketing channels. Some businesses achieve a whopping 400% ROI on their trade show marketing budgets.

But hey, it's not all smooth sailing at these trade shows! Wholesalers have a few tricky hurdles to jump over if they want to rock these events.

In this blog, we'll guide B2B manufacturers and wholesalers through the intricacies of modern trade show marketing, identifying issues, offering insights and strategies to ensure they remain at the forefront of their industry, capturing the attention and business of customers.

But before we dive into it, let’s see why trade show marketing is essential for these businesses and what these trade shows bring for them.

The Benefits of Trade Show Marketing

Trade shows offer a unique platform where businesses can directly showcase their products to an audience looking for such items.

It's not just about product displays; it's about building meaningful relationships. By participating, manufacturers and wholesalers can engage in real-time feedback, understand market demands, and foster connections with potential partners or clients.

In an industry where relationships often drive deals, trade shows provide the face-to-face interactions that digital communications can't replicate, making them an indispensable tool in a B2B marketing arsenal.

Here are some stats from TradeShowLabs, highlighting what these tradeshows bring to the table for manufacturers and wholesalers.

  • The primary reason for 92% of attendees to visit a trade show is to explore new and exciting products & services.
  • Nearly half (46%) of the trade show attendees are in senior management.
  • Most (82%) of the trade show attendees have the authority to make purchasing decisions.
  • As many as 77% of executive attendees discover at least one new supplier at a trade show.

Trade shows are incredibly important for B2B businesses, but examining their approach to contemporary trade shows reveals several issues that need to be addressed immediately.

The Issues with Modern Trade Show Marketing

Uniform Booths, Lost Impact

Look at the image from Las Vegas Market.

Does anything unique catch your eye? No right.

All the brands showcasing their products here have the same manual or checklist based on which they designed the booth.  

Stroll through any trade show, and it's like deja vu all over again: endless booths sporting flashy backdrops, video screens in every size imaginable, an entire catalog of products, etc.

These brands are zeroing in on product sales, overlooking the potential to immerse their audience in an unforgettable experience. This narrow focus on transactions doesn't foster the deeper, more meaningful connections that build lasting customer relationships.

Digital Savvy Trade Show Attendee

The second issue is that today's attendees, armed with digital devices and an array of online resources, have transformed how they approach these events. Even before setting foot in the exhibition hall, they're researching exhibitors, engaging with brands on social platforms, and developing their agendas based on online interactions.

Yet, many wholesalers still need to catch up with this digital shift. They often lag in leveraging online platforms and social media engagement, missing out on the opportunity to connect with attendees even before the trade show begins. This gap in digital integration leaves them a step behind in an increasingly connected and online-savvy world.

Considering these challenges, we've compiled an extensive guide to help you develop an effective trade show marketing strategy tailored to your wholesale business.

Crafting Your Winning Trade Show Strategy

Your customers start their trade show shopping experience long before the event. They start the process by researching exhibitors, reading reviews, and engaging with brands on social media. This online groundwork shapes their expectations and determines which booths they'll visit.

During the event, customers not only visit the booths that caught their attention online but also seek immersive and engaging experiences. They're drawn to booths offering interactive, unique experiences .

Post-event, attendees expect follow-ups through personalized emails or exclusive online content. Their experiences, both online and offline, culminate in their final decision-making, whether it's to make a purchase, form a partnership, or explore further.

Your trade show marketing strategy should address all these touchpoints. This guide tells you what you should do at each of these stages.

Preparing for the Trade Show

Time is limited at trade shows, so it's key to line up plenty of appointments before you even get there. And since first impressions usually start online, make sure your online game is strong before the show starts.

  • Social Media

Dig into what people are talking about on social media, not just for the current year but also for the past year. Look into what conversations you can be part of, and go ahead and be part of those conversations.

For example, if you will attend Las Vegas Market, search on social media using hashtags like Las Vegas Market. If you find any leads conversing on the topic, send them a quick DM like

“Hey We are ABC company and we are going to Las Vegas Market. We have some incredible products that might be a good fit with what you are looking for. “Insert catalog link”. Do visit us at booth XYZ.
  • Email Marketing

While most wholesalers are already leveraging this, you need to stand out. Your leads might be getting 100s of emails saying,

“Hey, we are going to this Trade show. Visit us at booth no XYZ.”

Your emails might get lost among these.

To ensure you are not one of these emails, you need to brainstorm with your team and find ways to make sure your leads open and read your emails.

  1. Start your email marketing strategy by segmenting your list. Here are some segmentation ideas, but tailor them according to your audience.
  2. Attendees from last year’s show
  3. Your targetted prospects in the industry
  4. Your current Customers

Based on these segmentations, write subjects and emails that will compel them to open and read your mail.

  1. Personalize your emails as much as you can. Both the content and the logistics of it. Instead of mass emails, send them a specially curated mail. Instead of sending it from an email like sales@company.com, send it from the ID of a sales rep they know. Try to establish a personal connection.

Bonus Tip: Ask your sales rep to capture all the information related to your customers in your CRM.  Even information related to their kids or pets. This information helps to send personalized emails to your customers and build connections.

  1. Convey as much value as possible so that they realize the importance of stopping by your booth. Additionally, highlight unique features or exclusive opportunities at your booth to further incentivize them.
  • Update Company Assets

Update websites, product catalogs, and social profiles for a cohesive brand image.

During the Trade Show

Remember when we talked about the issue of how businesses try to fit in during a trade show instead of stand out? We don't want to bore you out by telling you how to set your booth up or talk to your customers. You already have a generic manual/guide that takes care of that.

Instead, we will tell you how to stand out from the crowd.

  • Have a theme

Are you a wholesaler selling Turkish rugs? Then have a Turkish theme for your booth.

It’s time to leave your comfort zone. Dress for the occasion.

It doesn't have to be just Turkish. Suppose your focus is on Sustainability. Use a green theme with live plants and eco-friendly materials. Offer reusable water bottles or seed packets as giveaways. If your brand deals with health and wellness, design a relaxation-themed booth with a mini zen garden and soothing music. Distribute health-focused items like fitness bands or stress balls.

Whatever you do, toss out those yawn-inducing outfits and snooze-worthy setups.

Bonus Tip : Ask AI to give you ideas regarding the theme by giving it details of your products/value propositions. The image you see above is AI generated.

  • Make your booth entertaining.

There are endless ways you can do this. Just make sure it goes with your overall theme.

For example, if your theme is Turkish, set up an ice cream booth and hire one of those Turkish Ice cream tricksters. If you are focused on wellness, hire a masseuse who can work on those tiring muscles of your attendees from all the walking and carrying bags during the show.

  • Stand Out with Unique Giveaways

While shirts, stress balls, thumb drives, and folders are common swag, to make a mark truly, opt for more unique and unexpected giveaways. For example, consider Turkish fortune-telling coffee cups, offering a mystical and interactive experience, or mood-altering light glasses, promising a novel and high-tech approach to wellness. These distinctive items stand out and create memorable experiences for recipients.

While these themes and unique giveaways help us stand out, it's equally important to remember the tech-savvy attendee. We should also focus on tailoring experiences that cater to their digital preferences and modern tech expectations.

  • Update your Trade show Tech stack

59% of companies still use paper-based lead forms and business cards to collect and share information from attendees.

Instead, use digital tools that allow for a quick and seamless exchange of contact information. Use digital forms where your sales reps can easily capture information and are automatically logged into your CRM.

Similarly, attendees should be able to scan a code or tap their phone, instantly receiving all relevant details regarding your products.

Sourcewiz offers a suite of features that take care of order taking, inventory management, and instant upselling at tradeshows. So do check it out.

  • Social Media Engagement

Sharing live updates, interviews, or behind-the-scenes looks can engage those both at the event and those following from afar. Use event-specific hashtags to increase visibility and encourage attendee interaction.

Post-Trade Show: Nurturing the Leads and Close Them

It is true that not all trade show leads are equal, but it's essential to follow up with each of them.

Often, the sales rep follows up with the hot leads and completely ignores the other.

I am not saying that you shouldn't prioritize your hot leads. But you should remember the other leads too. Don't make assumptions. Follow up with everyone.

You can segment your leads based on their interest and send them tailored follow-ups.

Log all your leads and interactions into your CRM. Record any specific notes unique to a contact so you can use them in your outreach. Your CRM should be your single source of truth.

Conclusion

And that, my trade show trailblazers, is how you transform from just another booth in the crowd to the show-stopping sensation of the event!

Remember, it's not just about showing up; it's about standing out, making those connections, and rocking the trade show world.

So go ahead, unleash your inner trade show titan, and make every show your playground of success. Here's to your next trade show adventure – may it be as fabulous and fruitful as your wildest dreams!

Article published by
Krishanu Borah
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