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 August 6-7, 2024 | Rosemont, Illinois

How Is Your Show Prep Game?

We promise to work hard every day to get as many attendees to the show as possible. That's our job, and we take it seriously! We also want to share information that will help you prepare for the show, have a better show experience, and get the best results from your after-show follow-up work.

That's what this page is all about! It is a handy checklist of planning and promotion ideas to help you have the best Garden Center Show experience.

For more inspiration, check in regularly with the GCS Inspiration blog!

You Need These Three Ingredients for Exhibit Success

Plan Completely

Execute Expertly

Follow-Up Flawlessly

Quick Guide to Garden Center Show Planning

Know Your Objectives

It's important to define your objectives, and decide how you will reach them. Set goals around:

  • Generating sales leads
  • Reactivating lapsed customers
  • Introducing new products
  • Selling to existing customers
  • Increasing name awareness
Message Clarity

Do you have a crystal-clear brand message? Do you have a specific theme or goal for your 2022 sales initiatives? Decide what message you are trying to communicate.

  • Define your message with three key points
  • Develop each point with clear details
  • Use succinct, understandable language
  • Use descriptive words that paint a picture
Define Your Target

It's important to develop a target profile.

You are the right supplier for a unique subset of clients. Instead of trying to be all things to all customers (which never works for anyone — not even Walmart), identify which customer is most likely to appreciate your brand and your products.

Once you clarify who your primary customer target is, create a profile. Don't just think about it — write it down! This profile work will help you do a more efficient, effective job of prospecting and qualifying.

Read the Exhibitor Service Kit

Be prepared! We have produced a lot of information to help you meet deadlines, have clear expectations, and show up to the show prepared to sell.

Your Exhibitor Service Kit will arrive about 4 months prior to the show (projected early May). Watch for it!

Send in Forms by Due Dates

Send in your required forms by the required dates - it may even save you money. Look for carpet, electrical, plumbing, furniture, floral, and other booth accessory forms.

You'll get all the forms you need in your Exhibitor Service Kit (which should arrive in early May). Watch your email!

Make a Promotion Plan

If you want great exhibit results, you need great promotion. The Garden Center Show team will do a lot of promotion for you, but that won't be enough. You also need your own promotions.

Make a plan for pre-show promotion, consider the use of social media, email marketing, phone calls, personal emails, and even postcards (which work pretty well again, now that nobody receives much physical mail these days!).

Then, once your pre-show promotion is rolling, make a plan for your at-show promotional elements, leaving plenty of time to design, proof, and print (if necessary).

If you have ideas for promotions, please feel free to share them with the GCS team! We're always looking for fresh ideas to bring more people to the show and keep them engaged while they're there!

Grab Attention!

Giveaways, contests, sweepstakes, and other promotional ideas can be fantastic attention-getting devices. Make a plan for how you'll get customers to the show and to your booth.

Pro tip — make it a requirement to visit your booth to enter!

And please - when you come up with a great idea for a show special, share it with us! We'll help promote it too, by sharing it through attendee emails and putting it on this website.

Plan Booth Staff

If you have sufficient staff to manage your booth, and if that staff has the right combination of energy and personality, you'll find closing sales at the show and after will be a piece of cake.

Plan your booth staff well in advance. Look for staff that have the following attributes:

  • Good attitudes in general, and genuine enthusiasm about participating.
  • Warm, friendly personalities.
  • Good product knowledge.

Previous experience exhibiting is a plus, but if you have to choose between a poor attitude with experience, or a great attitude with a willingness to learn, don't hesitate to go with the great attitude and train at the show!

Review and Get Input

Exhibitions require buy-in from and coordination with all your team members, whether or not they plan to attend. Review the plan with everyone in your organization. Ask for input, look for weaknesses in your plan, work together to improve your plans, and get commitments as early in the planning cycle as you can from everyone involved.

Now Let's Focus on Promotion

A List of Promotional Ideas

There are so many ways to promote your presence at The Garden Center Show! Here's a list to get your ideas flowing:

  1. Email your customer list.
  2. Email your prospect list.
  3. Advertise in the Show Directory.
  4. Include show information in your company newsletter.
  5. Send a print invitation or postcard.
  6. Use Garden Center Show-supplied invitations.
  7. Send a personal letter.
  8. Create advertorials — articles about your company, product, or service — that you can publish as white papers or use as paid ads in industry magazines just prior to the show.
  9. Make personal phone calls.
  10. Use a banner in your trade press ads that says "See us in Booth #0000 at the Garden Center Show!".
  11. Post on social media.
  12. Do social advertising to targeted custom lists (available on Facebook and LinkedIn).
  13. Put an invitation banner on your website that links to a special page describing the show and your offers.
  14. Develop and send a press kit to all invited press.
  15. Invite the press to your booth, especially if you are introducing new products.
  16. Sponsor hospitality suites, coffee breaks, or cocktail receptions.
Tips for Direct Mail

If you're planning to use direct mail (postal mail) for your pre-show promotions, please use these tips for best results:

  1. Tie your booth theme into your promotion.
  2. Use odd-sized envelopes. They will stand out more than #10 (standard business envelopes).
  3. Use an envelope color other than white or manila.
  4. Handwrite or type the address on the envelope. Don't use a label - it just looks like junk mail.
  5. Hand stamp envelopes, because that will look more personal.
  6. Use a teaser on the envelope — something like "Look inside for a shameless bribe!" will entice prospects to open the envelope.
  7. Identify the show on the outside of the envelope. "Important information about the Garden Center Show inside" will entice prospects to open the envelope.

Tips for During the Garden Center Show

  • When you eat in the dining area, choose a table with prospects. Don't just hang out with other vendors or your usual colleagues!

  • When conversing with prospects, concentrate on the benefits and values your firm offers. If you just focus on your products and features, the prospect may not know how to relate your features into benefits he or she needs.

  • Use audiovisual tools to demonstrate benefits.

  • Talk about outcomes. Give examples of successes.

  • Look professional and interested at all times.

  • Never (ever!) eat in the booth.

  • Respond with respect to any reference to competitors.

  • If asked a question you cannot answer, call the office right from the booth and get an answer immediately.

  • Introduce visitors to top-level company executives that are at the show.

  • Repeat the name of visitors as you speak with them. This will make the conversation feel more intimate, and will help you remember the name later!

  • Listen attentively.

  • Listen more than you speak, and when you speak, ask questions!

  • Respond to the needs of the visitor, rather than rushing to share your selling points.

  • Provide information, tips, checklists, or techniques that are of value to the visitor.

  • Ask for a business card, and offer your own.

After the Garden Center Show


Immediately after the show (or, ideally, each evening after the show closes) debrief with your team. Discuss what worked well, what didn't, and what you'd like to try next time.

This is why debriefing nightly is better than debriefing after you return to the office. If you have ideas for improvements, you still have time the next day to try them. Why wait for next year?

Rate Your Leads

Determine the number of leads generated, and rank them as hot, medium and cool. If you use a CRM, set up tasks for follow-up so you don't forget!

Plan Follow-Up in Advance

Different leads require different types of follow-up.

For example, a hot lead should be followed up with before a cold lead. And different types of clients may require different types of follow-up.

Take time before the show to anticipate the types of leads you will encounter. Write your follow-up emails and email campaigns before the show, so you can just plug in your lead contact information as you receive it and get those follow-up communications rolling!

Write Down Your Insights

Trade events offer the best opportunity to collect customer feedback and observations. Take time to write down the things you learned and observed, including:

  1. Better ideas for presenting your company
  2. What audience you expected, and what you encountered (and if they are different)
  3. Specific reasons people spoke with you and visited your booth
  4. Specific reasons people would not speak with you or stop at your booth
  5. What people expected of you
  6. What you did that exceeded expectations
  7. How you would change your:
    1. Literature
    2. Approach
    3. Booth
    4. Booth Location
Write Your To-Do List

Don't count on memory! No, not even if you have a terrific memory. Write down tasks, which makes it easier to remember, delegate, and follow up on them. And make sure everything has a due date!

Follow Up

There's really nothing more to say about this. Just do it.

Follow Up Again

OK, there is something more to say. A few weeks after your initial follow-up, follow up again. Send a letter, an email, or make a phone call.

Rinse, repeat. Every few weeks.

Two-Month Status Check

Two months after the show, review hot, medium and cool leads. Note current status. If there are no new customers from leads, discuss why. Repeat exercise two months later.

Communicate with Show Management

Contact us with any questions or concerns or issues you had with the show that will improve your next show experience. Remember — we are here to assist you!