Trade shows are everywhere. Every week, thousands of trade shows, expositions (expos), conferences, and seminars are held in the United States, and they vary tremendously. Trade shows vary in price, in complexity, in cost, and of course in effectiveness. However, it should be noted that only a part of the success of any trade show will be within control of others. You will have an incredible amount of control over the success of your business at any given tradeshow if you know what to look for and how to do it.
Trade shows offer an opportunity for your company to gain a lot of exposure in a short amount of time. They allow prospective customers to greet you face to face without the personal discomfort that many feel in an appointment setting. Other future customers visit trade shows not having any particular goals in mind, but there nonetheless to get ideas and see what services are available.
Trade shows do have many challenges including limited space, fatigue, limited time, and distractions. People keep moving and at best, you have a few minutes with them before they move on. But keep in mind, this is where thousands of your potential clients will come if you pick the right trade shows.
As with any project, you need to know why you are going to be at the trade show. The answers are not necessarily all that obvious. You may be looking at introducing your new company, increasing sales, be there as an information (educational resource), recruit potential business partnerships, hire new employees, sell franchises, or do market research.
Keep one thing in mind however; you cannot do it all! Focus on your trade show goals and don’t let anything else come in between. If your goals are to pick up new business, you will only frustrate yourself if you spend most of your time talking with other vendors or polling the crowd.
Get the RIGHT trade show
When it comes to trade shows, you will soon find out that most of them will find a place for you and your money will be “well-spent” at this show according to the event staff. This is not true however, and only you can take a look at a show to see if it is the type that would be focused on the kinds of clientele that you are looking for. You could potentially get a customer out of any crowd. But since shows often run $500 - $10,000 to participate, you are going to have to pick and choose which trade shows will be your best bet.
Pick a trade show that meets your marketing goals. If you are a local business, there’s no sense participating in shows that are national or international. They are generally noisy, expensive, and unfocused. Only a small percent of customers at that show would have the potential to be your clients. Even those would wonder why a local organization was at their trade show.
For those in the home care services sector, goals that are aimed at increasing sales or market penetration should focus more highly on consumer oriented trade shows where other local merchants would gather. Those companies that are looking at building local business relationships also do well at these kinds of shows. There will be many attendees who are looking for business ideas.
Consider trade show questions to ask before you book a trade show.
Booking your trade show space
How much trade show space will you need? If you book a large space, it can make quite a statement and be impressive. But it will also be expensive. And if you don’t staff it properly, your trade show’s “statement” may be that you just weren’t prepared.
The second consideration in booking a trade show is the location of booth space within the show itself. Where are the booths located? For this, you will have to study traffic flows and who else is already exhibiting.
Trade show booths at the back of any venue typically do not do as well as those in the front and down the center. That’s why these booths are typically the first to go at any tradeshow. Look for traffic and visual impediments. If there are oddly formed rows or dead-ends, booths in these areas will not get nearly as much traffic. Booths stuck behind posts, in dark places, or standing on their own will not do well at all. Booths near freight doors will not only do very poorly, they stand the risk of bad smells and people moving in and out and bumping things.
Try to determine who will be near you before you book. If you are on a row of dead and boring businesses, those few that move through will do so very quickly and you may pick up guilt by association. On the other hand, if you are set up right next to the guy that wants to run crowd demos like the guy selling the knife sets, you are likely going to have people blocking your booth all day long.
Look for neighbors who have respectable and established names, and those whose reflection on you will be most positive.
Choosing your trade show booth display
Before you purchase a trade show display, look at pricing and what you want to do with it. There’s no sense in selecting a system that is smaller or larger than you will typically use.
Visit several trade shows and kind of feel out the booths, ask questions of vendors and determine which accessories you may want. Most of all, try to keep everything flexible so that you can cut back or add on as circumstances warrant it.
One of the things you want to consider is how many people you will bring with you to the trade show and where you want customers to stand. If you want them to come into the booth to get personal and show them displays, don’t plan to put a table in front. If you need to keep your space open and there’s no reason to invite them in, then plan for a table up front to place all your brochures on. There is no “one right way” to set up for a tradeshow.
Do not forget to add carpet and padding to your booth for extra comfort and for that added bit of class. Many booths come with a small piece of carpet, others do not. Regardless, if you have your own, then you aren’t taking chances.
The trade show message
One of the biggest mistakes that people make at a trade show is to look and sound just like the competition. There may be comfort in that, but melting into the background rarely gets you noticed.
When customers go by, they should be able to quickly see who you are and what you are about. You have about 5-10 seconds to make this impression. Needless to say, if they don’t understand, they will walk right on by.
Your message needs to say who you are and why you are different. Try putting it into different forms, commonly known as the tagline and the elevator speech. The tagline says what you are about in only a few words. The elevator speech is named because it is what you can tell someone in a 30 second ride in the elevator when they ask you what your company is all about. This may be all the time you have to distinguish yourself at a trade show. Everyone in your company should have at least one elevator speech.
Keep your trade show message clean and well-organized. It’s easy to get lost in words, but tradeshow participants are bombarded with thousands of messages. You lose them quickly if you make it complicated or too long.If present brochures, keep them simple as well. Big brochures will go into a bag and never be read. However, a small brochure that is attractive and that has bulleted points will have much better chances… even between you and the next booth.