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How to Make The Most of Trade Shows for Any Industry

While the internet has undoubtedly changed the way in which businesses market themselves, the trade show has endured as a popular marketing medium across many industries. A quick search on the web and you’ll find virtually every industry represented, from technical trades such as I.T. and Construction; as well as creative industries such as Design and Craft featured in Birmingham Spring Fair, which attracts 17,000 people every year.

Trade shows offer unique opportunities that other methods don’t. Businesses can meet face-to-face with an audience of qualified, interested prospective customers, and companies can network with each other and develop valuable relationships. Trade shows are also a particularly useful marketing platform for smaller businesses hoping to gain greater exposure for their product.

The Trade Show News Network website has a pretty good search bar to find a trade show near you, or to uncover one for your industry.  If you’ve signed up for a trade show already and don’t know how to plan for the experience, or if you’re wondering what benefit a trade show might have for your business then read on for our top ten tips on making the most of trade shows. With everything from choosing the right event for your business to what you should be doing after the show, here you’ll find everything you need to make trade shows work for you.

Pick the right show

Picking the right show is important for any business, but especially so if your company is small and can’t afford to attend multiple shows every year. Your goal should be to concentrate your firepower on the shows that are most relevant to your niche, as your chances of success will then be higher.

Another way to pick which trade show to attend is to carefully consider your objectives. For example, if you’re hoping to expand into specific parts of the country you should look out for regional shows, whereas if you want maximum exposure for your brand, then find out which shows relevant journalists will be attending.

Be prepared

As with anything, preparation is the key to success at trade shows. In the run up to the event you should send out invitations to existing and potential customers – it’s ideal to have appointments booked in advance of the show. You can also use social media to promote the fact that your business will be attending, as well as useful information, pictures and videos that will let prospective customers know the who you are, what you do and why they should visit your stand.You also need to carefully plan the details of your appearance at the show, such as the products you’ll be bringing, your stand ‘fit-out’ and anything you’ll need delivered on the day.

Remember your paperwork

Make sure that you bring along all the necessary paperwork for your business to avoid any embarrassments on the day. This will most likely be your order book, catalogue or marketing materials, price list, business cards, press packs and information on your trading terms. You should also bring along plenty of stationary such as a calculator, notebooks and pens.

Set specific goals

To ensure you make the most out of a trade show, you should set specific targets for what you want to get out of the experience. The most obvious objective is to gain qualified leads that can be converted to sales of your product, so in advance of the show you should set realistic expectations of how many leads you need to acquire.You may have different ways of measuring the success of your trade show experience, such as how many product demonstrations you conduct or how much media coverage you receive. Whatever measure you use, setting specific goals will help to focus and motivate you, whilst also acting as a benchmark for you to compare to for future trade shows.

Make a great impression

The way that you and your staff present yourself on the day of the trade show will significantly influence people’s decision to come and speak to you. You should always be stood at the front of your booth with a welcoming smile. If people pause as they walk by, then take the chance to introduce yourself and chat with them. Never be caught reading, eating, texting or sitting down as doing these things will suggest that you’re unavailable and will discourage potential customers from coming over to speak to you.

Speak to the right people

The key to success at a trade show is focussing on the right customers. When people come over to speak to you, you’ll easily be able to spot those who aren’t serious and you should avoid wasting time with these people. To find the people who are most likely to lead to sales, you should be listening, not talking. Skip the small talk and ask questions that help you to establish why the person is at the show, the role they have in their company and whether your products might be of interest to them. If it’s not a good match, move on. If it is, then you can start pitching your product to them.

Go one step further

With so many companies in the same industry vying for the attention of potential customers, it’s important that your business stands out. If you’re a small business, don’t panic about being outshined by larger businesses with bigger budgets; in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t cost that much to buy a quality booth that’s customised with your own signage and displays. You could even consider upsizing from a standard ten-foot booth to a 20-foot booth and instantly double your billboard.

Consider giving out freebies

As mentioned in the point above, it’s important that you do everything you can to make a good impression at trade shows. One way to do this is by giving out freebies. As well as ensuring that you stay in the minds of prospective clients, a useful giveaway like a smartly designed bag or umbrella can act as free advertising for your business. Do bear mind though, how much money you spend on freebies and who you give them to. If you’ve invested in a particularly special giveaway, then perhaps keep it behind your desk and only hand out after a conversation as a thank-you gift.

Scout out a hideaway

Whilst you will probably carry out the majority of conversations and presentations in front of your booth, some qualified leads may call for longer, more intimate conversations. In these situations, it’s best to have somewhere private to go, so in advance of the trade show opening, scout out a quiet place where you can sit and talk with potential customers. If you haven’t yet bought your booth, you could even look into finding one that has a built-in alcove that you could use for this purpose.

Follow up on any leads

In most cases, the relationships you establish at a trade show will only mark the beginning of the sales process, so it’s important that you make an effort to maintain the connections you’ve made. Immediately after the show, compile a list of everyone you spoke to or who expressed interest in the company. At the most basic level, you should get in touch with them individually and thank them for coming, but for more promising leads, you could consider sending out a personalised package and a small gift.Another thing you should do after a trade show is to work out a final budget of how much you spent versus how many sales you made. Remember, though, that it can take a while for the leads you made at trade shows to generate orders.
Published Wednesday January 15, 2014

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