Trade Shows

They’re up. They’re down. They’re in. They’re out.

In the world of marketing tactics and trends, trade shows are unique in their cyclical nature. For a while, they’re hot: no one who is anyone in the business would think of skipping KBIS, the AIA Expo, Neocon or Greenbuild. Within a few short years, they begin to cool down. The ROI is questioned, and all at once the biggest brands in an industry will start scaling back or backing out entirely. But it never takes long for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction, and trade shows come roaring back to life.

The future of trade shows is more uncertain than ever, after a season of mass cancellations due to COVID-19. Will marketers decide to come back with a bang after a silent year, or will they determine that they didn’t miss much when they missed the show season?

One thing is certain. When SBA clients participate in trade shows armed with our strategic guidance, onsite support, media assistance and client network, they come back armed with leads and opportunities that make the show worthwhile.

Are trade shows still worth the investment?

Only if you do them right. That means focusing on the right goals and using all the tools at your disposal – before, during and after the show – to achieve them.

Maximize Your ROI: How to Justify Your Trade Show Spend is our e-book guide to everything home and building products manufacturers need to know to make the most of the show, from the big events like AIA and IBS to regional and vertical market shows.

Get tips on:

  • Keys to successful booth design
  • The top 5 trade show mistakes
  • Taking your booth staff from zeros to heroes

Download: Tradeshow Essential Guide 2023 >

Trade Show Strategy & Planning

Successful show or waste of resources? It all comes down to planning.

It’s not about the big booth, expensive swag or open-bar happy hour – it’s about having a smart strategy and executing a great plan. That doesn’t mean ignoring the role of booth design, premiums and networking opportunities. It just means doing them the right way for the right reasons.

An effective trade show strategy starts the same way any effective strategy begins: with a clear, measurable goal. Trade shows aren’t about selling – especially in the design and construction industry where the decision process is long and impacted by numerous influencers along the way. Architects, designers and contractors got to shows to see what’s new, to network, and to kick tires. A successful show for home and building products manufacturers includes generating a targeted number of leads, making connections with qualified attendees and getting a next step for follow-up. A strategic trade show plan focuses ensuring these goals are met.

A Stoner Bunting trade show strategy includes three distinct plans:

Pre-Show Plan

The average trade show attendee has 75% of their booth visits determined before they even set foot on the show floor. Pre-show planning is designed to make sure our client’s booth is on that list through:

  • Pre-show promotions
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media
  • Press releases and media outreach

At-Show Plan

What will happen during those two or three short days to drive traffic and convert it into qualified leads? This is where SBA lends our expertise in:

  • Booth organization, messaging and graphics
  • Special events during or after show hours
  • In-booth promotions that create buzz
  • Booth staff training
  • In-booth editor appointments and onsite support

Post-Show Plan

The end of the show is just the beginning. Having a post-show plan in place ensures that the leads and opportunities gathered on the show floor don’t wither and die for lack of attention. SBA can help establish:

  • Lead nurturing campaigns
  • Effective sales support materials
  • Media follow-up and feature article cultivation

Media Appointments & Onsite Support Page Content

Take advantage of SBA’s close media relationships to maximize trade show coverage

Stoner Bunting’s experience has allowed our public relations team to develop a standard approach for leveraging the media throughout the trade show process, which includes three phases: Pre-Show-, At-Show and Post-Show marketing. Each phase plays a specific role in the success of the show.

During the pre-show phase, we reach out to ensure media know our client will be at the show and to schedule a time for editors to walk through the booth. With hundreds of booths at any given show, only the biggest fish can count on the weight of their brand to ensure media attention. For smaller, newer or lesser-known brands, it is essential to have an experienced PR team working on their behalf to secure media appointments.

At-show time is then spent meeting with the editors during those scheduled tours and providing marketing support to the client in the booth. Often, because of how well we function on behalf of our clients, we are able to perform in the booth as an extension of the client marketing and sales teams.

The value in having and SBA team member on-site during a show lasts well beyond the end of the event. When we are handling editor appointments and booth tours on the client’s behalf, the transition to post-show media follow-up is seamless. Editors continue to deal with professionals they know and trust during the post-show phase when we work to leverage feature article and show coverage opportunities for our clients.

Multi-Client Promotions

Extending client dollars and amplifying messages by working together

One unique benefit of working with experts who specialize in a particular industry is the ability to leverage the knowledge and opportunities that arise from an entire network of related but non-competitive clients. Thus hardware manufacturers and custom cabinetry brands can be pitched together for kitchen and bath design trends. Ceiling, wall and flooring clients can be brought together to share their expertise on acoustics, resulting in a complete 360° perspective on interior spaces that provides architects even greater value than single category- or brand-focused content.

Connecting clients in complementary product categories with shared audiences, Stoner Bunting is able to create opportunities that are cost-effectively shared among multiple clients while boosting the audience appeal with a more dynamic offering. We have coordinated multi-client opportunities in a variety of tactical executions.

Manufacturer Influencer Events

For years, SBA has been bringing clients together with A&D media editors and architectural influencers in custom events to learn, network and play. These popular events developed around key industry occasions give clients one-on-one access to more than a dozen influential professionals for an affordable buy-in.

Tradeshow Space

Creating a destination for show-goers that showcases three or more manufacturers in one booth space not only reduces individual trade show investment, but shows attendees how various manufacturers’ products interact with others, inspiring future design opportunities for all brands.


Grouping SBA clients together for the multi-sponsor CEUs offered by leading A&D publications helps streamlining the process and ensures balanced representation and topical cohesion within the piece.

Media Opportunities

From acoustics to sustainability to biophilic design, publications are always looking for content that touches on industry trends and hot topics. Writing, pitching and placing feature articles that include thought leadership from multiple clients representing multiple categories provides added value to clients and media connections alike.