Trade shows can easily run a few thousand dollars to purchase the booth space, marketing
material, hotel, travel, etc. However, they are an incredible opportunity to meet face-to-face with
clients and investors and give them a personal invitation to check out your business. Recently,
Column Five on behalf of LinkedIn surveyed businesses, and found that 70% felt that in-person
events were more effective than any other method of advertising. But are trade shows worth
attending? Can you recoup the cost of the conference or convention and also use the event as
an opportunity to grow your business? You can, if you effectively work the event.
Choose the Right Show
There are hundreds of events that you could possibly attend, but some will be more beneficial
than others. Find out which events your peers attend, and feel free to ask the show directors if
they think you are a good fit for their event. Attend events that will bring your clientele to you.
It is important to start planning for your trade show 30-60 days in advance. Set goals for the
trade show, and create a way to track your success. Make sure your goals are measurable and
realistic. Do you want to generate sells, launch products, build your brand, conduct market
research or find new suppliers? Gear your trade show materials and products for the market
that you want to reach. Make sure that all of your signage and fliers are prepared weeks in
advance, as many companies charge rush delivery fees.
Trade shows not only give you the opportunity to meet personally with clients, but you also
network with industry leaders, suppliers, and other businesses that you can create a symbiotic
relationship with. Bring others to help run your booth so that you can have the freedom to
explore the other vendors and personally meet with them. Review the attendee list in advance
and decide who you would like to reach out to.
Trade shows are a learning experience, and every moment you can glean information about how
to run a better show next year. Instead of becoming discouraged when things don’t work out the
way you planned, learn what you did wrong and try again. Check out the competition and learn
from their booth what things you can improve on and what things you are doing well. If you are
attending a multi-day conference, take a moment at the end of each night to analyze your
successes and failures from the day and decide how you can improve the next day. At the end
of the show, take the time to find flaws in your booth and correct them before the next event.
It is imperative that you follow up with the leads that you generated at the event. Do so in a
prompt manner that helps customers or other businesses remember you while you are still fresh
on their mind. Expect that people won’t follow up with you, so make sure you get the contact
information of those people interested in your business.