As we learned in this year’s Sales & Marketing Report for Manufacturers, trade shows are still the number-one marketing tactic used by manufacturers…but over half of those same individuals have seen a decline in trade show leads over the past few years!

Where are all those leads going!? Online. The question is…are you following them?

It wasn’t that long ago that we released an episode about how your website is like a 24/7 trade show booth. If you or your company are comfortable with trade shows but feel sadly lacking online, we’ve got great news!

In-person events like ProMat, hosted by MHI, have a lot to teach us about online marketing. Think about it.

You need to treat your company website like the 24/7 trade show booth that it is:

  1. It’s meant to generate traffic.
  2. People will make snap judgements about you based on its appearance.
  3. High-quality videos draw people in.
  4. You’d better be offering free stuff!
  5. Have sales reps primed and ready.


There’s nothing quite like the crowded hall of a trade show. People come and go: some are swift and on a mission, while others meander at a leisurely pace. The internet is the same way.

Trade shows have foot traffic. The internet has web traffic.

Promat was huge, especially because it was combined with Automate 2019. Thousands upon thousands of people were there. But…the internet is still bigger.

Millions of prospects are marching around on a mission online.

Your website is the trade show booth that you’ve brought to the internet– the largest ‘trade show’ in the world.

It takes a special something to make any prospects stop and give you their full attention. With so many places to go and “stations” to see, you need yours to stand out. It should communicate clearly that you have a solution that can solve the problems of your prospects.


Contrary to the old saying, people always judge books by their covers. It just saves time, frankly. And that habit extends to other areas of our lives: like trade shows and browsing online.

With only two days instead of four to explore ProMat, our team knew we wouldn’t be able to explore every single aisle of the show (it was really a shame). But it also showed us a lot about how online leads too may be prioritizing their time if their research is rushed.

Passersby have to make the best use of their time by sometimes judging booths/sites at a quick glance and only approaching those that seemed interesting or worth their time of day.

We didn’t always connect with booths that were small or plain– not unless the people at those booths actually approached us first. Many people saw the camera and it sparked conversations. Similarly, social media is your company’s way of stepping out of the booth and chatting with passersby, or asking about their lives.

Not everyone will come to you, so sometimes you need to go to them.

However, your booth or website still needs to garner enough attention to bring in visitors on its own– otherwise, passersby may not stay for long.


Booths with gigantic video screens or even huge, 3D video walls dominated huge portions of traffic in the Promat display hall! And why wouldn’t they?

Business videos, especially if they’re that high in quality, absolutely reek of professionalism. That’s why search engines rank videos so highly in their results. The more videos your website has, the higher it will rank with Google’s algorithms. But that’s not the only reason you need to build your website with videos.

59% of executives would prefer to watch a video about a product, rather than read about it.

Videos are one of the most popular (if not the most popular) forms of education in the world today. They’re great at drawing in trade show attendees from a distance (or web traffic from, say, social media sites).

People who aren’t ready to buy from you may still be drawn in by your videos. The footage sticks in their heads even after they leave.

The Toyota booth at Promat featured entire cubed walls that were, in fact, video screens. Knapp featured two gigantic walls that were not just video screens– but touch-screens. Scheduled vehicle or robot demos drew eager crowds, just like pre-scheduled webinars on a website might.

Videos continue to push the limit, both at trade shows and online. If you don’t display videos, your prospects will move on to somebody who does.


When you’re at a trade show, what might draw you in to even the smaller, less appealing booths? Two words: free stuff.

Nothing brings people in like free stuff– especially when there’s no strings attached.

Full confession: we probably spent twenty minutes or more at the booth for Battery Watering Technologies just because they were baking fresh cookies. We smelled their offer from three rows away, and we decided that the trade-off was worth it. Getting free, warm cookies from them was definitely worth giving them our time of day. (Maybe they should re-name the company ‘Mouth-Watering Technologies!)

Some companies offered other free snacks; coffee or espresso; or a chance to play around on a VR headset. Danny collected hand-powered styrofoam rockets to bring home to his kids. Canvas bags to carry around tchotchkes were also a thoughtful gift from many exhibitors. Even a couch to rest your feet was soon a hot commodity amongst the never-ending aisles.

This concept also applies when you build your website, too. Not everyone is ready to buy, but they will remember if you were helpful or made them smile.

Some trade show booths (and websites) use celebrities or hands-on games to draw people in.

Pop culture and nerd sensationalism certainly worked at Promat– and it can work online, too!

Companies can find wild success when they participate in well-timed memes or take advantage of their niche – like Roboteq flaunting their role in the Astromech Droid Builders Club. They’re a major contributor to the recreation of unmistakable Star Wars droids like R2D2.

Another company, Kollmorgen, exhibited the live analytics of their mechanical sensors through a life-sized game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots!

Online, SAAS companies like CHEQ are getting in on the action, too. CHEQ recently released a comedic video spot featuring their new Chief Blocking Officer, Dikembe Mutumbo.

We remember the companies that gave us the greatest experiences. We’ve already forgotten all the companies that handed us bottom-of-funnel brochures.


Once people stop at your booth (or website), the battle isn’t won yet. What you do next can make or break the conversation.

The moment we stepped into some booths, we were bombarded by sales pitches all about the company in question. We were handed little brochures or postcards all about the business, its products, its history, or even its pricing!

But unless we were ready to buy, most of that effort on their part was for naught.

Their technical jargon went in one ear and out the other. Those papers probably ended up in the trash.

Sales pitches and user videos are bottom-of-the-sales-funnel offers. They simply aren’t valuable to everybody.

Offer your visitors, be they online or at a show, something of value. Something useful. It may not always feel as productive as handing out price cards, but you’re starting a relationship. And that’s the key here.

Chatbots are a great example of how your “online trade show booth” can still be populated by your sales team. Chatbots are little instant-message windows we’ve discussed on this show before. They allow visitors on your website to search for answers or ask questions, without having to commit to anything.

Chatbots on your website are especially useful because they can connect to the emails or cell phones of your sales reps wherever they are. And even if it’s midnight where you are, the bot can answer some of the basic questions of a visitor on the other side of the planet.

There’s nothing worse at a trade show than when half your sales team leaves for lunch or the restroom…and then you get a huge influx of visitors you can’t handle by yourself.

You want to give every new arrival a stellar experience. At trade shows, they may leave because you took a few minutes wrapping up with someone else before you could attend to them. That’s the worst!

Having a company website, especially with chatbots, is a 24/7 version of your booth where people can ask questions and find the answers at their leisure. If they want to speak to a real person, they can! If they’re just browsing, they can do so to their heart’s content!

This new online world is the reason why so many companies, once “underdogs,” are now growing larger and larger with every successive year. You remember the days when their booth was one little table…but now they’re massive contenders.

It’s because they understand that you need to build your website like you’d build a trade show booth.

What would it mean to you if your company could have fully-populated trade show booths running 24/7 around the world?

That is precisely what your website is doing.

What kind of digital “booth” have you built?




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