The doors to the Las Vegas Convention Center open two weeks from now for the 2016 Mr. Olympia Expo.  The Mr. Olympia Expo is arguably the most important domestic trade show of the year for the fitness and sports nutrition CPG industry.  Though the Arnold Sports Festival is larger in overall attendance, the Mr. Olympia Expo is a preferable meeting place for potential international distributors, specialty retail owners, and strategic partners because of the better location and weather compared to Columbus, OH in the winter.  Staying with the practical theme of the articles and content lately, I have decided this would be a perfect time to discuss trade show tactics.  With the Mr. Olympia Expo being so close, companies should (wait…NEED to!) be focusing their attention on securing meetings, getting brand standards in place for the expo (if they are exhibiting), and brushing up on hand to hand expo sales strategies.  If you are looking for more of a “how do I know if I should exhibit at a fitness expo type of ROI strategy article,” check out this article I wrote a few months ago.

Now lets get straight to the practical tactics to make sure you are attaining a higher ROI on your trade show marketing expenses.

Trade Show Tactic #1 –  Make sure EVERY person (even the booth models) that are attending the trade show understands what the purpose is for the event.  This means answering the simple question, “What are we trying to accomplish?” If you are attending a trade show; do you want sales leads, brand awareness, build customer relationships, or new product awareness?  If you muddy the waters with too many of these things, your team will be unfocused, leaving you with a negative ROI.

Trade Show Tactic #2 – Stand up and be ready!  This is a simple tactic but walk around the trade show floor and the majority of companies don’t follow this one.  Don’t be caught sitting. Your company is paying thousands or tens of thousands for you to be there for very short periods of time. You can rest later.

Trade Show Tactic #3 – Give something away.  The obvious way that most brands do this is by giving away a cheap widget or sample to all customers that either walk by or put their email into a marketing list.  This is effective if you are building an email list to use for direct to consumer sales conversions.  The less obvious one that brands forget about is to offer their vendors a free prize.  This should be something bigger in nature and not necessarily having to do with free product.  Vendors get tons of free product and most just sell it, so it has to be something thoughtful and useful that is branded.  The ideas here are endless so I won’t list them but its a good way to say thanks to the vendors that spread your brand to thousands of their customers.

Trade Show Tactic #4 – Have your trade show sales people sell a “feature” not a “benefit.”  Consumers are going to hear 100s of times about how this will make them skinny or give them insane pumps.  Your sales people should be focusing on a key feature that differentiates your product or brand from the rest of the pack.  If you don’t have a value proposition (key feature) then enjoy mediocrity and being forgot by the time they leave the expo floor.

Trade Show Tactic #5 – Target the people you want to meet for a one-on-one meeting and give them a unique meeting time and place.  First point is easy, you should have a detailed list about who you want to meet.  After you secure the meeting, you should have all the research on them so you can use it to build a better relationship.  The second point is a bit more interesting.  If you ask any of my meetings at the Mr. Olympia, they will either tell you I am meeting them at a unique spot or holding a meeting at times like 10:35.  Why 10:35 and why unique places?  It’s a subconscious mindset thing so people don’t forget my meeting in all the hustle and bustle of the weekend.

Trade Show Tactic #6 – Have all your booth workers be conscious of trends in comments or questions.  If you understand the data that is being presented to you, you can have a better understanding of how to fix or enhance features or branding to better serve your customer base.  Trade shows are a great feedback loop but the people that need the data will likely not always be present at the show and they definitely won’t be everywhere to hear everything going on.

Trade Show Tactic #7 – Be clear but overly precise in your information given during meetings or conversations with customers.  This goes along with the second half of #5.  You need to make sure you leave the customer with a lasting impression and something like telling a customer that your pre-workout increases bench press strength 27.3%, will tend to leave an impression.  Similarly, if you let a potential vendor that you pre-workout sales have grown 53.2% in the last 3 months it will leave an impression that you know your numbers and will be detail-orientated to grow their specific business.

Trade Show Tactic #8 – Diverting traffic is better than creating traffic.  This probably confuses you but its a better use of time and energy to have an employee divert the flow of traffic then to yell and try to create traffic.

Trade Show Tactic #9 – Follow up immediately with any potential new/existing vendor.  I mean within before the end of the day!  Make sure to email them a recap of the conversation and any value adds that you can bring to the relationship.  This will almost always impress your vendor.

Trade Show Tactic #10 – Make sure you are not forgetting about the 99.9% of your fans and customers that aren’t able to make the trade show.  People are voyeuristic in nature so make sure you are posting up to date or even live content from the event.  With platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope, their really is no excuse.  I would also throw a digital direct to consumer sale for all the customers that can’t make it or even a contest for them to follow along with the content.  All of these will go along way to create brand equity.

I wish everyone that is attending the 2016 Mr. Olympia all the luck in the world.  If you are interested in meeting me at the show, please send me an email at  If you need any help last minute getting your tactical or strategic trade show plans in order, definitely send me an email ASAP and we can get something handled for you to WIN at this trade show and others!  Don’t expect that trade shows are a waste of money…