The Four Biggest Stumbling Blocks to Trade Show Success

Trade Show SuccessA report by PwC values the B2B trade show market at $14.3 billion. By 2021, that figure is expected to reach $16.8 billion. Renowned as the best content marketing strategy for B2B companies, these figures come as no surprise.

By offering face-to-face exposure to large numbers of high-quality prospects, there are few if any comparable B2B marketing opportunities than trade shows and in-person events. But just because trade shows have the capacity to deliver ROI doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.

Critical to achieving trade show success is identifying and removing the most common pitfalls and stumbling blocks. Fortunately, we’ve come up with the top four challenges that every B2B company should be sure to avoid.

1. Lack of focus

Whether a company has misidentified their target prospect or failed to identify one at all, lack of focus is a serious risk.

In the absence of a clearly (and narrowly) defined buyer persona, it is impossible to develop a well-aligned, effective marketing strategy to attract, engage, and enroll future customers.

For more on developing a clearly defined buyer persona, check out this post.

2. Persona creep

In the presence of 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 people at a trade show, marketing professionals have a tendency to widen the scope of their carefully conceived buyer persona in hopes of attracting more prospects. At MEET, we refer to this tendency as persona creep—the dilution of marketing and messaging in hopes of broadening reach.

The problem with persona creep is that it attracts too many suspects—picture people on the trade show floor looking for a free pen or to Enter to Win your free I-Pad. The result is that high-quality prospects are crowded out, wasting valuable resources in the process.

3. Opportunities are not refreshed

With so many complex growth strategies in place, many B2B companies let their trade show plan run on autopilot, failing to refresh and analyze new ways to reach target prospects. Beyond that, many companies select trade shows based on what’s been done in the past or by following the industry crowd.

At MEET, we recommend basing your trade show selection on a range of criteria, all of which enhance your overall engagement strategy. The obvious place to start is with shows that feature your target persona and your industry.

Trade Show SuccessBut don’t stop there. Remember that it’s also important to go to shows that are only relevant to your prospect, i.e. not relevant to your industry. Sitting in the audience alongside prospects allows you to build relationships, learn their language, and gain further insight into how to address their concerns.

Events such as these may also help you find additional, even unexpected partners. Keeping tabs on all kinds of in-person event opportunities available to you and your customers is fundamental to maintaining a successful trade show strategy plan.

Need help identifying a range of high-value opportunities? Reach out to us today.

4. The Lazy Susan Approach

If you’re familiar with a Lazy Susan, you can picture a device that rotates for the purpose of conveniently delivering content. The problem with a Lazy Susan approach is that in exchange for convenience, your view is limited. You don’t see the entire picture of what is available to you.

As each opportunity pops up you are left to decide – do I take it or do I leave it?

When a client asks us whether or not to attend an event, our response is always the same: let’s look at how it fits within your annual trade show strategy.

At MEET, we strive to help our clients approach each decision from an analytical rather than emotional perspective, utilizing formulas that allow for good decisions to be repeated and optimized.

What’s the best approach to overcoming the four most common stumbling blocks to trade show success? Four words: trade show strategy plan. And while building and managing your trade show strategy plan may seem like a large investment, the ROI is incomparable.

For more on how to ensure trade show success in 2020, check out our recent webinar on this topic. To check out all of MEET’s webinar content on how to successfully scale your company in the U.S. market, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.


MEET ( helps international B2B growth companies soft-land and scale in the U.S. through trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward.  Contact Bill Kenney for a no-obligation conversation: or +1 (860) 573-4821.

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