For many entrepreneurs and business leaders, trade shows can provide a bit of a conundrum. In a world with such an emphasis on e-commerce sales and a digital presence, are trade shows worth the investment?
Short answer, yes. Trade shows can give you an up-close look at your competition, increase your exposure, create new partnerships, and help you build momentum in your sales and development.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of trade shows, we will help you determine whether or not you should even be attending in the first place!
Should You Attend Trade Shows?
Trade shows provide a unique opportunity for vendors and buyers to come together and explore what is taking place in the industry. The relationships and information that can be gained on the trade show floor are invaluable but they do need to be weighed against other factors that may be more important for your business model. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Can you afford to go?
If you cannot afford a big spend on your booth space, you might want to reconsider. No matter how confident you are in your sales ability, there are no guarantees that you will get the returns you expect. If you have to travel to the show, you also need to factor in the costs of transporting your representatives, your products, and materials, as well as lodging and food costs, on top of the trade show price itself. For some businesses, these margins can be a little too close.
If this is the case, it may be more prudent to skip this particular show and participate in another down the road. Or, look for trade shows that are a little closer to home. This can help save you travel and shipping costs, making participation far more powerful and profitable.
Is it the right trade show?
Exhibiting your products at a trade show that does not match your audience will be a waste of time all around. If you are unable to connect with the show's attendees, there is no point in going at all. You may be able to seek out sales, you may be able to build new relationships, but the likelihood is slim. Before you set out, consider your ideal audience and prospects. If the trade show will not put you in front of the right people, it is not going to be worth your investment. Knowing your target market in advance will help you know how best to interact with people on the floor which leads us to our next point.
Will you get good feedback?
Trade shows vary widely in size but it is not unusual to have thousands of people visit your booth during the course of the event. You should be able to gain valuable information from each of these interactions. Any feedback, positive or negative, will help you grow your business. This is why it is so important that you are interacting with your ideal audience. You want to know from them what you are doing well and what can be improved. Gaining feedback from people you are not looking to win over in the first place will not be particularly useful to you.
When at a show that aligns with your targets, be sure to write down all feedback you receive so you can review it later with the rest of the team. It is this feedback that will help you improve your services and offerings.
Things to consider when attending a show
Deciding to attend a trade show can be a huge boon for your business. Few things can help you build relationships and partnerships like the face to face interactions that take place at your booth. To get the maximum benefits of a trade show, here’s what you need to know.
How to gain brand exposure
Trade shows are about more than making sales, they are also about increasing brand exposure and brand awareness. This exposure will translate into brand recognition that will increase your sales in the future. There are a few active steps you can take towards this end.
Start with advanced marketing. Most people attend a trade show with a list of vendors and exhibitors that they want to see. Send direct invites to these important prospects. An email invitation (or a physical invitation) will let these people know you are at the trade show and give them the opportunity to add you to their “must see” list. Similarly, use your social media accounts to announce that you will be at this particular event. Again, people cannot find you if they do not know you are there.
Do not ignore the impact of visual branding. A picture is truly worth a thousand words so be sure that your booth says exactly what you want it to say. Be consistent with your visual branding. Make sure your name and logo are prominent and that all materials not only match your brand’s colors and fonts but are of a professional quality. Place your name and logo large and high so it can be seen from the greatest possible distance and keep important details like your brand philosophy for eye-level signage. Be careful to avoid too many words. Say what you need to say as concisely as possible. Less is more.
Give attendees an experience. More and more people want to feel a real connection to a brand and if you can supply them with an experience they will remember, that connection is easier to get. Include a hashtag or QR code on all of your branding. If you can find a way to encourage people to take pictures and videos at your booth to share and tag on social media, you are ahead of the game. If this social sharing happens organically, even better. The excitement and moment will surely translate. People will see these images online and be encouraged to check you out for themselves. This is perhaps one of the most valuable benefits to attending a trade show.
What to spend at a trade show
Before you know how much to spend on a trade show, you need to decide on your goals for the show. What is it you hope you achieve? Once you have the answer, you can plan your budget. There will be obvious fixed costs, like registration and the shipping of your materials but once you have calculated them, you can decide what to spend on your booth. Creating a bigger display may not necessarily be the answer but improving your materials is always a good idea. Eye-catching branded items and a stylish setup can really draw some attention.
You obviously do not want to spend beyond your expected ROI but providing a top-shelf experience is critical. Free giveaways, for example, are a good way to increase your ROI and your brand recognition but that cost can add up. What is free for the attendees is not free for you. It is not appropriate for all businesses to hand out product samples, so perhaps offering something different as a hand out is worth consideration.
What exactly you spend at the trade show will depend on your goals, as we mentioned above, but it also depends on your product or industry niche, the size of your display and the number of people you send to work the event.
But is it really worth it?
Trade shows offer major sales potential for your business. 82% of trade show attendees are directly involved in making purchasing decisions and their experiences at trade shows contribute to these decisions.
This type of exposure can be huge for you. If you are able to generate leads that you can later cultivate into returning customers, there is no telling how large your returns will be. It may take time for you to see all the benefits, something like brand exposure, may take a while to really develop but, again, it could provide you a great return on your investment.
The initial spend for a trade show can be significant but the returns you may receive can be even more significant. For small to medium businesses, trade shows give you one of the best opportunities to showcase your brand in front industry influencers, allowing them to see and feel your products or discuss your services. This exposure alone can be more than worth your original spend.
There are no guarantees that you will get back what you put into the trade show. There are no guarantees that you will secure enough sales or leads to make the trip truly worth your while. But, by doing your research first, you will increase your chances of success. The right trade shows, with the right attendees, should give you the growth you’ve been searching for.