What Should You Pack for Trade Shows in 2023?

Trade shows can be game-changing for businesses. With the right booth and marketing strategy, a trade show can convert deals, facilitate new relationships, and build brand awareness. Think of a trade show as an opportunity to have a hundred mini-demo calls with your target audience – sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, if done correctly, trade show marketing is one of the best tools for business growth around.

At every trade show, there are tons of potential leads who will walk right by your booth and glance at your marketing materials. In that split second, the potential lead will decide whether to engage with you or not, which is exactly why trade show marketing is so important.

Going to trade shows isn’t enough, though – you also have to stand out. Too many businesses spend thousands of dollars but end up simply blending into the background. Don’t be one of them. Successful marketing for trade shows is achievable, but you need the right strategy and tools. This guide will walk you through the most important tools for catching your lead’s eye and how to bring them to your booth.


trade showsFirst things first, you need to have a sign or banner with your business logo and name on it. If someone is going to walk by your booth, they need to know who you are. This sign will be pivotal to brand awareness, as it should be well-designed, large, and set up in a way that it can be seen from far away. With a well-designed and eye-catching sign, even if leads don’t come up to your booth, they may recognize your name down the road and be more likely to buy.

Once you have a sign with your name and logo, the next thing is to get a well-designed sign featuring a well-written snippet describing what you do. It’s incredibly important to be concise here, as most passersby will skim your materials. If the copy isn’t skimmable with a clear call to action, you may use your lead’s attention as soon as you have it.

In general, don’t give more information than you need – that’s what your reps are for. Once someone sees your sign and stops, your reps should immediately go to introduce themselves and strike up a conversation. Instead of overwriting, focus on getting a high-quality and well-designed sign that will catch a lead’s eye and get them interested in learning more from the people at the booth.

Business cards

Not everyone carries business cards anymore, but you always should. If a lead asks for your business card, you do not want to disappoint. This is especially true at trade show networking events, where you will no longer have the support of your booth, flyers, and signs. These networking events are pivotal to success in trade shows, and they often happen at night. The goal here is often to get your lead to stop by your booth in the morning, and without a physical card to remember you by, they may forget (especially considering that these networking events are often coupled with free drinks).

When designing and selecting business cards, be sure to spend the time and money to do it right. In the right hands, a well-done business card will signal professionalism and legitimacy that can go a long way toward improving your odds of closing the deal.


Proper trade show marketing always includes a brochure or flyer of some kind. These can really tell the story of your business. Give these to those who are interested in learning more about your product or service, and ideally, they will read it that night and come back the next day to start the sales process. For those that like details and prefer tangible information to digital, these can be a game-changer. You spent thousands of dollars on a booth, don’t skimp on the brochure that could make the difference between capturing a lead and letting them slip right by.


For the right business, bringing samples of your product can really sway a lead in your favor. If your product is small and affordable enough, it can even be used as a promotional tool as well, where you can offer free samples of your products to those that visit your booth.

Swag and promotional products

Swag and promotional products get people to your booth; people love free stuff. Now, a lot of businesses will have swag at any trade show you attend, so you need to stand out here too. Most businesses give away chargers, phone cases, etc., so think outside the box. Branded apparel, if well designed and well made, can do really well and become consistent reminders of your brand to whomever you give it to. If you are in doubt about what to do, let us know, and we can help you get it right.

If you know that your swag is already awesome, be aware that many of the “leads” that approach your booth will only be feigning interest to get your free stuff. With swag or promotional products, be sure to train your sales team to weed out unqualified leads on the floor.

trade shows


Let’s face it, trade show food courts are often underwhelming at best. If your trade show allows it, offering small snacks and drinks (especially coffee) can be really effective. At Spotlight Strategies, we offer branded k-cups, logo’d chocolate bars, individual branded popcorn bags, and much more! Just check with your trade show rep first, as there is often an associated fee with bringing or serving food or drinks. Granola bars and water bottles tend to do really well on every occasion. Sometimes, you can even get the trade show to give you permission to serve alcoholic beverages, which often have to be served by an event-approved bartender. While it may be expensive, there is no better way to get a long line of leads to your booth.

Be creative!

Think of a trade show marketing idea that isn’t on this list? Great! Standing out at trade shows is all about creativity, and the more you can be unique and stand out, the better your chances of seeing a huge return on your investment.

You can do it all yourself or let the professionals handle it. If you’re ready to take your trade shows to the next level, talk to our team today. 

Erin Smith

Erin Smith is co-owner of Spotlight Strategies, a marketing solutions firm specializing in print, apparel, promotional product and signs.  An accomplished health care administrator turned business owner, Erin brings rare behavioral expertise to the world of small business.

With a Master’s degree in social work, and a thriving business she is a sought after advisor, coach and mentor to many of Indiana’s small business owners and support associations.  Erin demonstrates unwavering commitment and facilitates profitability to any organization to which she directs her time and talent, and is successful in motivating and empowering people whether supporting a cause or building a company.