Trade show marketing isn’t complicated. It can be reduced to three simple rules. Everything else is a business decision. Here’s the difference: Buying a 10 ft. portable vs. 20 ft. custom island — that’s a business decision. Staying at the Hilton vs. the Quality Inn — that’s a business decision. Getting a professional presenter for your booth — that’s a marketing decision. Confused?

Here’s ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW about trade show marketing to be successful.

Rule #1. Problem and Solution.

Your message must state a problem and a solution, either explicitly or implicitly. Attendees are there to find solutions. They may not know they have a problem until you provide the solution. When Chrysler introduced the minivan back in the 80’s, it showed families that the vehicle they were driving was either too big or too small. In an attempt to be clever or creative, we forget that we’re selling something. Selling is all about identifying needs and pains… and then providing the right solution.

Rule #2. Get Noticed.

There’s a reason it’s called a “show.” You spent money to be seen at the show. BE SEEN! Does that mean dressing in a clown suit and standing in a booth made of balloons? No, unless that’s your culture (or you’re selling balloons). Most companies approach trade show exhibits and graphics like they’re buying a mid-priced sedan:

“I’d like a Honda Accord in silver.” Take a chance. You want to be different. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be practical and contain everything you need to showcase your product or service. Does your product lend itself to a professional presenter? That’s one way to get noticed.

Pre-show marketing. There’s no better way of getting seen than by developing a pre-show campaign that drives attendees to your booth. In today’s Internet-driven, social media-focused market, getting someone’s attention before the show is as important, if not more important, than being seen at the show.

Rule #3. The Right People.

If you bring ten people to the show, at least six are the wrong ones. They don’t know the products or services, they don’t have charismatic people skills, they are not personally invested in results, and they did not participate in pre-show planning or post-show implementation. Two out of four doesn’t cut it. A trade show isn’t a vacation. It’s a strategic investment.

You’ll often hear that 80% of trade show leads are wasted. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that bringing the right employees to the show solves that problem. The right employees won’t let a lead sit on someone’s desk or be forgotten on a jump drive. They’re relentless about post-show follow-up because they understand how much time, effort, and money went into planning and participating in the trade show.