Trade fairs offer companies an ideal setting to present themselves and their products to a large audience and are thus among the most effective marketing tools in B2B communication. To generate leads, it is not enough to act freely according to the motto “see and be seen”. The trade fair appearance must be subject to clear goals. Work on achieving these goals begins months before the actual trade fair – by means of pre-show marketing.


Meaning of pre-show marketing

At trade fairs, you compete with many other companies for the attention of visitors and thus potential customers. This makes it all the more important to secure the attention of interlocutors relevant to you even before the actual trade fair. The strategy to achieve this can be reduced to one essential component: Advertising you and your participation in the fair . The term “pre-show marketing” not only covers all the activities you use to advertise yourself and your company. A successful pre-show marketing concept also helps you to sharpen your brand message and identity, readjust your market positioning and set clear goals for your trade fair activities. Surveys from recent years indicate that exhibitors with pre-show marketing can convert their trade fair activities into more leads than those without. This makes it one of the most important pillars to secure your investment. In addition, pre-show marketing can be used to expand the target customer base and as a starting point for systematic lead generation.


Types of trade fairs and target groups

The marketing strategy can differ depending on the type of trade fair and the target group. The following types of trade fairs are distinguished from each other:


  • Trade fairs
  • In-house fairs
  • International Fair
  • Multi-sector fair
  • Digital trade fair


Whether it’s a digital or analogue fair, you encounter two target groups here: Visitors and other exhibitors. Both groups need to be considered when designing the communication strategy.  While at a B2B trade fair it can be assumed that visitors and exhibitors have a certain level of expertise and that the stand staff should be prepared to answer more in-depth questions, at supra-regional public trade fairs in particular it is a matter of conveying general knowledge and an explanation of the product or the market.


Before and during the fair

Before the trade fair, clear goals must be defined for the trade fair participation . Do you want to improve your image, win new customers or open up new markets? Depending on the overarching goal, the measures to be taken in the run-up to the trade fair also differ. In addition, it must be clear whether the goals are linked to key figures to be achieved – for example, 100 leads and the resulting 20 meetings within the first four weeks after the trade fair.

Once the goals have been set, start beating the advertising drums. Let your contacts know that you will be attending the fair, communicate topics you would like to discuss and make appointments with potential interlocutors. An important part is advertising via social media: post on LinkedIn or other platforms. Some trade fairs offer an online platform for networking and appointment management – make sure your details are correct and up to date and also use such platforms as a promotional tool. Further marketing measures in the run-up to the fair can consist of a landing page, newsletters, a modified email signature or specialist articles.

During the fair, marketing measures and advertising campaigns should not stop. Social media can be used to inform a wide audience about your activities. New technologies such as VR offer the possibility to bring your products closer to your visitors, even if they are not physically exhibited. Interactive participation options can also help to attract visitors to your stand.


And after the fair? Post-show marketing!

Ideally, a trade fair participation generates a large number of new contacts. In order for these to lead to projects, follow-up is required. An important point here is data utilisation.

Even before the trade fair, the question arises as to how data should be recorded and later utilised. One method is to make small protocols during the conversations and to staple the business cards to these analogue conversation protocols. For those who prefer to work digitally, there are a variety of solutions available: From QR codes, to digital business cards, to apps that cover the entire recording and utilisation process. With personalised follow-ups after the trade fair by email or phone call, you can thank people for their visit and conversation and discuss further topics. Ideally, you should send an initial email on the day of the contact and directly request a follow-up meeting.



Pre-show marketing alone is no guarantee, but it is the most important condition for your trade fair success . Stand costs, stand builders, equipment, travel expenses and catering quickly add up to several thousand euros. To make the investment worthwhile, participation in the trade fair should lead to as many leads as possible and thus a positive ROI. But most companies often lack the capacity for pre-show marketing due to their daily business. In such cases, external support from experts should be sought to help with trade fair preparation and, above all, pre-show marketing. This way, the investment and the success of the fair are secured.

But the focus must not only be on pre-show marketing. Following up on the contacts made after the fair is just as important. Thereby, pre-show marketing is not only appropriate as an exhibitor. Even if you participate as a visitor, you can adapt certain points of pre-show marketing for yourself. Regardless of whether you participate in a trade fair as an exhibitor or visitor, keep your goals realistic and only set ones that are concretely measurable.