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The 5 Stages of Ad Agency Involvement With Trade Shows

As co-creators and champions of their clients’ brands, ad agencies can immensely help their B2B clients achieve their marketing goals at trade shows.  And because trade shows are the largest marketing expenditure for B2B companies, ad agencies have good incentive to get involved.

Yet some ad agencies have not fully reached their peak involvement with their exhibiting clients.  Let’s look at the 5 steps along the way:

  1.  Unaware of client trade show participation.  Sure, ad agencies execs know that trade shows exist – they’ve been to the local car show or home show, or they hear about CES on the news every January.  But they do not know which shows their clients exhibit at, and most of all, don’t see why they need to know.  It’s simply something they’ve never given much thought to.
  2. Aware of client trade show participation.  At this point, ad agencies know that their clients are going to shows, and maybe even which shows.  Their clients have asked them to provide high-resolution logos and art files so they can give them to their exhibit house for their trade show booths.  These ad agencies consider trade shows to be that odd, old-school marketing medium they don’t want to learn about, preferring to focus on print, digital, social media, and so on.
  3. Involved with clients trade show marketing.  At this phase, the ad agency may create graphics for their clients, or even complete trade show exhibit designs.  They might even make a brochure just for use at the show.  But at this level, there is still a reluctance to participate in the trade show marketing.  And whatever help the agency gets from an exhibit house is strictly on a vendor basis, chosen only by price, without asking or trusting the exhibit house’s expertise in the trade show medium.  These ad agencies know their clients’ brands and key messages, but they do not know how to translate that vision into a truly effective exhibit design … let alone an integrated exhibit marketing experience.  This short-sighted approach can backfire and damage the ad agency’s relationship with their client if the agency makes a significant mistake due to their lack of understanding of the trade show medium.
  4. Integrated with clients’ trade show marketing.  Ad agencies that reach this higher phase understand and value the unique marketing opportunities trade shows offer their clients.  These ad agencies know to ask the right questions of their exhibiting clients:  Which objective is most important for your show, to get awareness, leads, or meetings?  How can we best help you get more of the right people into your booth?  How did the exhibit we helped design for your last show perform, and how can we improve it?  They can design an exhibit that doesn’t need to be modified to adhere to the laws of physics.  These ad agencies are not afraid of face-to-face marketing.
  5. Advocating trade shows for their clients.  At the pinnacle, select ad agencies are advocates for trade shows – they “get it.”  These evolved agencies aggressively strategize with their clients how to fully take advantage of their clients’ premier events, becoming true partners who help decide themes, promotions, even which shows to exhibit at.  These ad agencies have become experts in their clients’ industry shows, knowing how to get their clients booked as a speaker, where on the show floor gets the most traffic, and what in-booth experiences will be most appealing.  These agencies see trade shows can be the best marketing moments their clients will get all year, and do all they can to ensure its success.

Trade shows are a huge part of B2B companies’ marketing, and deserve significant attention from the ad agencies that serve them.  As ad agencies become more aware of the power of trade shows, they push to be more involved at the strategic level of their clients’ exhibit marketing, to help bring their brands to life.

What's Working In ExhibitingAd agencies and exhibitors alike can get more results out of trade shows with the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper.  Click here to request your free copy.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits' Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

4 responses to “The 5 Stages of Ad Agency Involvement With Trade Shows

  1. I propose Step Six in which the exhibit is used as a resource for marketing, In this scenario, the booth is a stage with a complete cast of characters ready to play their parts. All you need is a videographer to record the event and edit the material to create video content that supports social media and e-marketing efforts. I did this for a publisher, creating Author Videos in which authors talk about their books with images from inside the book edited in later. We used them to support sales on amazon.com, our own wesite, telemarketing, youtube, etc. An unanticipated benefit was the very positive feedback from our authors. No doubt there are many possibilities depending on the business.

    1. The comment, “…the booth is a stage with a complete cast of characters ready to play their parts” is inspired!
      Every exhibitor should review their cast before sending them to shows – Are they engaging? Or sleeping? Are they active and apparent? Or AWOL catching a smoke outside or a beer at the mini-pub? Are they helpful to attendees? Or looking to eliminate them as potential buyers? In over 150 shows produced, I have seen it all. If exhibitors view the presentation on an imaginary stage, you’ll know INSTANTLY why you succeeded or failed.

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