Next to direct sales, tradeshow exhibitions rate second in generating new and repeat sales for most companies, according to the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR.) In fact, they report that tradeshow sales beat comparative spending on advertising, direct mail, and other marketing efforts. While the primary focus for the majority of tradeshow exhibitors is to generate qualified sales leads from the booth, it's been our experience that attacking a show from a number of different fronts delivers the most significant impact for achieving sales and business growth objectives.

To get every tradeshow you attend to really pay off, consider pursuing the following tactics:

1. Meet with Existing Customers

According to CEIR, 95 percent of executive decision-makers meet with their current suppliers at tradeshows. Within this same group of buyers, 77 percent indicate that they found at least one new supplier at an exhibit, so it is more important than ever to stay highly visible to your existing customer base or you may risk losing them to a sweet talking competitor.

First of all, make sure that your customers (as well as potential show attendees and prospects) know you are going to be exhibiting at a specific show. Use pre-show promotional teasers to stimulate interest and desire among current customers as well as prospective buyers. Develop interesting angles to motivate them to attend a demo or special event at your booth. Face time is an important ingredient in every sale, so whether you invite them to preview a new product, learn something new about an existing product, or participate in some other fun event at your booth, you need to get them there.

Tradeshows are also perfect opportunities to use entertainment as a tool for developing relationships - especially with hard-to-see-prospects. Another good tradeshow tactic is to spontaneously invite customers or prospects to join you for dinner or a social event so you can get to know them better in a relaxed environment.

2. Seek Media Exposure

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Joe Combs is a public relations professional.

Myla Wagner is a public relations professional.