Pre-Show Marketing Tips

 Trade shows are coming up in the next few months. Are you planning any marketing activities before the event happens?


Trade Show


It isn’t unusual for artists to depend on trade show promoters to bring buyers into the hall to see exhibits of handmade merchandise, without taking any proactive measures to publicize their own work. This can be a big mistake.

When buyers attend a show, they are interested in looking around, but are usually highly focused on a couple of things. First, they want to see the work of artists who are new exhibitors at the show. Second, they need to visit the artists they already buy from – again, to see what is new for the coming season, and to place reorders.

There can be a third category. Even if you are not a new exhibitor at the trade show event, you can get on a buyer’s “hot list” by promoting your work ahead of time and inviting show goers to visit your booth.

Spend nothing on marketing until you know your top prospects. Do your research, and get very clear on the type of store, and specific stores, that you want to reach with your marketing message. It’s a good idea to contact them several times before a show, because they can be inundated and miss one of your attempts to reach them.

Artists with existing accounts should always reach out to their account base. In your message, include excellent photos of your new collection, and your booth number. Let them know that you would like to see them at the show. Some buyers will set an appointment, to be sure they have the requisite time with you to go over a new order, and make sure that they will be on your production calendar and receive their order on time.

Another reason to reach out is that your customer may want to pre-schedule an order with a set dollar amount on that production calendar, so that your time is blocked off before the show even begins. When they get to the show, they can select the actual items that will be in the order. Or, if they are not attending the show, they can still pre-schedule to get on your calendar.

How much should you spend on promotion? A general small business rule of thumb is to spend somewhere between 7-10% of your annual budget on advertising and promotion. What are you currently spending on these items?

We suggest these methods to get out the word before your show begins. Try more than one method, staggering your outreach to act as reminders.

Send your own mailing. Whether a postcard campaign, or a package with catalog, line sheets, and the whole works, snail mail can be a very effective way to gain attention.

Email campaigns. One of the least expensive and most effective ways to reach out to customers, email marketing can share text, images and even videos. Links can lead to your website, the show site, or anywhere you wish to promote your line.

Use the show promoter’s mailing. Quite frequently, the show promoter will be doing a mass mailing which includes information about a number of exhibitors. You can get in on this opportunity as a reminder to your list, and to reach out to other buyers you don’t yet know.

Advertise in the show directory. Every buyer picks up a directory in their way in the door. And quite often, they keep the directory long after the show is over. Your advertisement will be an introduction to your line to every potential customer who attends.

Market through ads in trade magazines. Are you a jewelry artist? A potter? A glassblower? Trade magazines that fit your niche can be a great place to run an advertisement about the upcoming trade show and your participation.

Make phone calls. Reach out to your customers with a call and invitation to the trade show. You may be able to get an idea of how your work is moving in their store, and the level of stock they have on hand, so that you can plan your meeting.

Use social media. Another very economical approach is sharing about your show participation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms to promote to existing followers and attract new ones.


What marketing activities do you have scheduled for your upcoming shows? What have you found to be most effective?

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