Boost your impact at trade shows with social media marketing

By Patti Rowlson
Contributing writer

Trade show season is upon us in Whatcom County. From construction pros to wedding vendors, Whatcom County event centers will be buzzing with excitement as all types of businesses step out to showcase their products and services at local events like these:

Whatcom County Home & Garden Show: March 6-8 at Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden

Spring Bridal Show: March 8 at Ferndale Events Center

Spring Business Showcase: March 27 at Silver Reef Event Center in Ferndale

Fairhaven Festival: May 24 in downtown Fairhaven

Cross-Border Expo:  June 17-21 at Silver Reef Event Center in Ferndale

Lynden Farmer’s Day Parade:  June 6 in Lynden

Did you know that your business, as a trade show vendor, can play a big part in the overall success of any event you participate in? And it has a lot to do with marketing and promotion.

It’s your job to help bring attendees to the show

Vendor fees are paid to event organizers, plans are lined up for staffing the booth and your company’s display is designed and almost ready to go. Promotional items are ordered and there are enough business cards on-hand for all of Whatcom County.

At this point some vendors think their job of preparing for a trade show is done, but they are mistaken. They need to step up and help market the event to bring attendees (ahem, consumers) to the door.

This can be done using marketing tools already in place for your business. Here are three quick and easy ideas:

1. Email Marketing: Use email marketing to let past and current customers know your business will be at the event. Invite them to stop by and visit you personally at the booth (maybe even have a special promotional item on hand just for those booth visitors). Send a “Save the Date” email about one month prior to the event, and then a reminder email the week before.

2. Social Media: Post a series of status updates promoting the event on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Try sharing one post per week the month before the show. Use the posts to promote the event, thank the event organizer, share details on any prizes/drawings you will have in your booth, give away free tickets, let consumers know what other relevant businesses will be vendors at the show, etc.

3. Brick & Mortar: Promote the show at your brick-and-mortar location. Insert event flyers in shopping bags, hang posters in your shop windows, use contests to give away tickets to the show, print the event website address on cash register receipts. The ideas are endless!

Let go of the thought that event organizers are responsible for all the marketing

Yes, event organizers are responsible for a baseline of marketing and promotion. They may be using posters, print ads, radio spots, email campaigns and social media posts to get the word out. You’ve actually helped pay for those marketing expenses in the cost of the vendor booth, so why do you as a vendor need to do more?

The answer is simple actually—the more the merrier. The more attendees that come to shows, the more successful the event will be for all involved. If vendors work with trade show organizers to spread the word the reach of promotion expands significantly which means more people will have a chance to learn about your business.

Imagine what an event would look like if each vendor helped with marketing and promotion and their efforts generated 50 more attendees. Together the vendors could bring hundreds of consumers to the show!

If you’re participating in a local trade show this year, or planning to host an info booth at a community event in 2016, consider what your business can do to help promote the event. Your efforts can make a big difference in the overall success of the show.

Patti Rowlson is a marketing consultant and social media manager at PR Consulting, Inc. She helps Whatcom County small businesses identify, implement and consistently maintain marketing-related programs. Learn more about small-business marketing by connecting with PR Consulting on social media sites or by visiting

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