Got a Trade Show to Go To? Make it Pay Off for Your Small Business
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: October 27, 2011, 7:32 am
- Updated: March 2, 2012, 4:15 pm
Trade shows are big business. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, more than 14,000 are held annually in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and no doubt some of them fit nicely with your small business marketing strategy.
Trade shows provide a great venue for showcasing your business and its products, entering new markets, meeting and spending time with customers and suppliers, and of course, checking out the competition.
But trade shows are also a huge investment of time, people, and money – all precious resources to a small business.
Below are some tips for getting the most out of being a trade show attendee.
Tips for Attending Trade Shows
Attending a trade show is akin to rolling your most important business travel and meetings into one block of time. You, quite literally, have one opportunity to get it right – here’s what you need to plan and consider:
- Know why you are there – Formulate a mission plan in advance and build your trade show strategy around it. The first thing you need is an understanding of exactly why you’re there and what you want to accomplish. What are you tasked with? What are the individual staffers there with you tasked with? Are you there on an intelligence-gathering mission? Do you want to meet vendors and customers while you are there? What ground do you need to cover? What customer outcomes are you seeking? What seminars or breakout sessions does it make sense for you to attend?
- Take Care of Registration and Other Logistics in Advance –Educate yourself about trade show pricing incentives. For example, can you take advantage of early bird pricing, group pricing, or other timed incentives and pre-register at a discounted rate? The same goes for booking your travel arrangements – have trade show organizers reserved blocks or rooms at a discount? Or, if you are traveling with others, ask about group pricing for hotel rooms.
- Reach Out to Customers Ahead of Time – Prioritize who it is you need to meet and decide on the most appropriate venue for that meeting. For example, you may wish to reserve an executive suite at the conference center or hotel for business-critical meetings. Perhaps other customers can be accommodated with a lunch meeting, or coffee break chat on the trade show floor. Obviously if you need a meeting room, schedule it in advance.
- Broadcast Your Attendance– Even if you don’t have specific meetings planned, don’t forget to let other customers know you are there and give them a way to contact you during the event, in case you have time for a meeting on the fly.
- Plan your Trade Show Route – Tradeshows can be vast, knowing who you want to visit and where they are located ahead of time can save you time and blisters on the day! Revisit the plan when you get on-site, in case anything has changed. Organize your list of exhibitors into “must-see” and “want to see” companies and plan what information you need to get from them.
- What to Bring – To travel light, use a technology such as a tablet PC or flash drives to store presentations, demos, etc. Stock up on flash drives if you have the budget and use them as giveaways or leave-behinds.
- On the Trade Show Floor – Be visible. Wear your badge prominently, and if you have a polo shirt branded with your logo, wear it – unless of course you are on a competitive intelligence-gathering mission. Be on time to business meetings. Look for networking opportunities – at lunch, in seminars, get invited to hospitality suites, and be sure to carry lots of business cards.
- Follow-Up is Paramount –After the event, your main priority is to follow up with the people you met at the show, but don’t forget to allocate time to a post-show review. Were your objectives met? What did you gain? Was it worth the investment? Could you have achieved the same outcomes without attending the show? What would you do differently next time?
You should also reach out to the folks you didn’t get a chance to meet. Call or email to let them know you were at the show and apologize for missing them. Ask for the information you needed (product demo, literature, etc.) or provide them with the information they wanted from you.
What About Exhibiting at a Trade Show?
Now, if you stumbled on this blog hoping to find tips on getting the most out of trade shows as an exhibitor – let me refer you to fellow blogger Rieva Lesonsky’s tips for “Effectively Marketing Your Business Through Trade Shows”.
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General small business tips and tricks.