Certified Trade Show Marketer: What Are They and Why You Might Need One

Thursday, May 10, 2018

By Jennifer Bowman

Marketing strategy

At SummitSync, we are constantly seeking ways to build our knowledge in the conference and trade show industry. Back in February, we went to Las Vegas and attended ExhibitorLive—the trade show for trade shows. We got elbow deep into the methods and secrets of successful booth implementation. We also discovered how these highly skilled professionals make it all happen.

During our time there, we met quite a few folks who had graduated from Exhibitor’s Certified Trade Show Marketing (CTSM) program. We were curious to learn more about this emerging profession and how brands could benefit from hiring a CTSM. Here’s what we found and how having a CTSM can skyrocket your team’s success on and off the trade show floor.

What is a CTSM?

A CTSM is a “Certified Trade Show Marketer”, otherwise known as your new secret weapon. Graduates of the CTSM program are equipped with a unique expertise in the rapidly evolving industry of sales and marketing. The program equates to a graduate level program, specifically designed for conference and trade show professionals and is the only university-affiliated certification program for the industry. Regardless of the size or industry of a company, everyone can benefit from having a highly regarded professional on their team.

The CTSM program requires individuals to complete 23 sessions and five electives, totaling 42 hours (usually 2–3 years) of classroom time. The program covers trade show specific topics including “How to Measure the Value of Trade Show Participation,” “Don’t Skip the Meetings –Pre-, At- and Post-: Guideposts to Success,” and “Beyond the Basics of Booth Selling.”

On top of the the fundamental curriculum, there are more in-depth learning options for those event marketers who have been in the business for 5+ years. After completing the required sessions and electives, all participants must take a final exam and complete a portfolio project. Check out this example portfolio of a CTSM graduate.

Not only that, they allow former students to create new courses for the program and are extremely receptive to feedback. Jason Vickers, Manager of Trade Shows and Events for Verizon and a graduate of the CTSM program as of September 2017, created his own course called “Trade Show Exhibiting for Large Corporations,” as he felt there was a niche missing in the program.

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The Benefits of Hiring a CTSM

  • They Measure Your Marketing Efforts. Marketing is no longer a creative field—it’s a data-driven one. We’ve found that many companies struggle to validate their trade show efforts when they sit down to look at the numbers. With a CTSM, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are data driven and your efforts to measure ROI and the brand awareness of your trade show strategy are analyzed with detail.
  • They Know Which Events Drive Revenue. CTSM students literally take the class on choosing the right events. Selecting the right events is a strategic decision, so it pays to have a professional help you decide. You’d be shocked how many times we ask companies why they choose to exhibit at specific events and they state “because our competitor is” or “because it’s a tentpole industry event”. CTSMs understand what should go into the decision making process when evaluating event strategies.
  • Selling on the Trade Show Floor. Selling on the trade show floor is very different than writing effective cold emails or calling a prospect directly. CTSMs excel at the niche style of trade show marketing. Hiring a CTSM allows teams to steer clear of distracting sales techniques and focus on methods that drive results.
  • Negotiating and Understanding Exhibit Needs. Trade shows are a unique marketing beast. They require a huge investment not only in booth space selection, but also in the vast and muddy land of negotiation—shaking hands and making deals with potentially dozens of event dealers and decision makers. Having a CTSM on your team means they know a thing or two about negotiating contracts and ensure your team’s exhibit is both designed and implemented successfully (with half the stress).

Is a CTSM Right For You?

If your team invests millions into trade shows and looking for tangible results, hiring a full-time CTSM can skyrocket your growth. If your team invests in a smaller number of events but is looking to get more out of each one, look at hiring a consultant like Robyn Davis who can boost your overall strategy without having to manage another full-time staff member.

Already have an event marketer on your team or are one yourself? Take a look at the program and see if investing in or becoming a CTSM is right for you. As Jason said, “what is important to remember about the CTSM program is that unless you are brand new to the industry, you won’t necessarily learn 1 + 2 = 3. Instead, you will learn new ways of thinking about things and ways to approach situations. You will also learn people skills and best practices for interactions on and off the show floor.” He also mentions how “the experience gained and relationships built with people you meet are the greatest rewards,” so we’d say Jason feels pretty strongly it was worth it.

As Marcia Deem, a recent graduate states, “Having an expert that knows all the steps to create a successful event from start to finish is priceless!”

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