The amount of trade shows occurring not only every year, but every month can sometimes appear daunting. Which ones do you go to? How much do you spend? When getting started down this road of presenting your brand at exhibitions, figuring out which of these kinds of shows to attend can be tricky. For instance, picking the right show to go to can mean boosted sales, a sharp increase in brand awareness, and overall another rung climbed on the ladder of success. The wrong show, however, can leave you with less than you started, having only the sunk cost of the show as your financial lesson.
All is not lost. Below are some considerations to think about when planning to take that next step into the world of exhibiting at a trade show:
Pick a Relevant Show
While this advice seems obvious, larger trade shows can sometimes appear to be all-encompassing events with brands and businesses from corners you might not expect. Doing the legwork and researching who attends the trade show you are interested in going to yourself can prove extremely fruitful. Not only do you need to ensure that your brand and/or product is directly related to the industry that the trade show encompasses, but examining the vertical niche of the show is vital as well. For example, if your company produces software for colorizing photographs from one-hundred years ago, you would not attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo. While both are related to computers and software, the Electronic Entertainment Expo focuses more on gaming and the like, and therefore is not within your vertical niche.
While researching the various trade shows, think about your audience. What kinds of people have turned out in droves to attend these shows? Clearly they all have an affinity for the area of interest, but is this trade show more geared towards business-owners or the every-man? Knowing who attends the specific trade show you are interested in as well as they role they play in your business model can steer your first trade show experience towards one full of positive outcomes and desired results.
Regional vs National Trade Shows
A big question often asked is, “I’ve heard about these national shows that garner a huge audience, is it worth it to allocate the funds necessary and go there instead of smaller shows?” Quite honestly, there is no right or wrong answer, and it truly does depend upon your business. What we can say is that while smaller, regional shows are an excellent option for up-and-coming businesses as well as businesses who might have smaller budgets.
On top of saving money and exorbitant travel costs to some of these shows’ destinations, staying local and regional has a wide variety of perks. Your (potentially) new customers that attend regional shows will, in all probability, be geographically close, and therefore can patronize your business that much more than someone who attends a show that you yourself have to travel to get to. Not only does this translate into the chance of higher revenue with the influx of new customers, but can also mean customers that, since they are nearby, give you the opportunity to cultivate long term relationships with. Remember, it can cost ten times more to attract new customers than it does to keep existing ones. Start off small, and soon you will can have a plethora of customers loyal to your brand.
Have a Clear Trade Show Objective and Measure Success
Going to a trade show, especially your first one, can sometimes be tough to gauge how “successful” attending it was. This success can only be measured by you, and is easier to do when you have a clear and concise goal in mind when going to the show in the first place. In this way, success is defined by you, in black and white terms, and allows you not to compare yourself to your competitor next door. This goal keeps you focused like a race horse with it’s blinders on; only paying attention to the task in front of you and not concerning yourself with the sidelines. Perhaps this goal is a certain number of sales made, or to break even with your trade show investment. Perhaps it’s to get X amount of passersby on your subscriber list, or to make X number of connections with other businesses. Having a clear objective allows you to walk out of the show knowing you set out for what you wanted to achieve, and hopefully achieving it in the process!
All shows differ in size and scope, even the regional ones. Knowing where you stand in the grand scheme of the show can illuminate not only how much you can spend on the show, but also how far those funds will get you. To start, purchasing a small booth (around 10X10 feet) in the best location you can find on the floor should be what you aim for, especially when just starting out. This prime location may require you to sign up earlier than you were planning, but planning ahead of schedule is a key component of the trade show process to ensure that you will have all that you need come showtime.
This goes for all aspects of the trade show, including getting your necessary products ordered, employees organized, and signage ordered. When it comes to signage, starting off simple can still mean effective. Portable trade show signage including Trade Show Back Walls, Counters, and various Banner Stands are all transportable and won’t necessarily break the bank while having a huge impact at the show. Setting these up on your own can also be one less cost on your end.
Finally, local and regional shows will most likely not require you to board a plane or ship your various wares and signage, which means less money spent on travel costs. All in all, knowing your financial limitations and maximizing your marketing budget is one way to help ensure a well planned and potentially successful trade show.
Trade shows can be intimidating, but knowing your limits and planning accordingly can make turn that dragon into a gecko. Setting personal goals for yourself and knowing what you want to accomplish at the trade show can put everything into perspective. Keeping an eye on that trade show budget is crucial as well. Remember, you are in this for the long haul, so treat this experience as the first step in a marathon, not a sprint. Slowly increasing your number of goals or specific goal threshold after your first show can put you on a well paved path to success.