7 Ways Trade Shows Can Boost Your Small Business

trade shows small business

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Over the years, many of our clients have attended industry trade shows. The client feedback on their experiences does indicate that, for the most part, trade shows can be very beneficial for a small business. 

So, how can having a booth at a trade show boost your small business?

  1. By attending a trade show, you’ll be able to directly interact with your target audience and potential customers.
  2. You’ll have full control over what you display at your booth and you can boost your overall brand and connect with your audience with the right marketing.
  3. Vendors who sell products at trade shows often come away with new orders they would not have obtained otherwise. It’s also a great place to showcase a new product to your industry.
  4. If you’re selling a product (especially a new product) you can have the audience test that product and get immediate feedback. 
  5. You could generate many new leads and/or build a new mailing list while at the trade show.
  6. Some trade shows have events, speakers, or vendor presentations during the show. You’ll get extra promotion if you try to coordinate being a speaker, making a presentation, or at the very least, networking at events.
  7. You can scope out what your competition is doing.
  8. BONUS: Trade shows can be great learning experiences when it comes to sales and marketing.

Is a trade show the right choice for your business?

This all depends on the answer to this question: Is your target audience at the particular trade show? If the answer is yes, you then need to determine how best to reach that audience while at the trade show and if the cost will not be prohibitive in your overall marketing budget.

Some industries have very large, very well known trade shows. For example, SEMA is the premier, trade-only, automotive speciality products show in the world. NAMM is the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products industry. Attending shows of this caliber might be difficult or cost-prohibitive for a small business, especially one who has no previous trade show experience. However, there are many smaller events that happen yearly. A great way to start looking for one would be to search trade shows for your specific industry. Study the demographic that attends the shows you target and determine if your customers are part of that audience. 

The next steps …

Once you’ve committed to a trade show, you’re going to have a lot of planning to do! The first stage of planning has to do with logistics, travel arrangements, and scheduling the time off from your regular work. It’s best to plan for at least 2-3 employees attending. 

You’ll also want to do more research into the show itself. There may be additional opportunities to advertise while at the trade show. Some trade shows offer a magazine or a “goodie” bag to all attendees and vendors can be included for a fee. Many shows offer a way for vendors to sign up for product demonstrations or have a schedule of speakers who are industry experts. See if you can coordinate any of these while you’re at the show. Research who might be attending, and if any of your dream customers/clients might be there, try to coordinate a meeting with them while at the show. 

Next, come up with a list of goals for the show. Do you want to come away with x-amount of sales, a particular number of leads, schedule a few meetings with key potential clients, network, showcase your brand … ? You’re going to need to consider these goals and the actual audience of the show in order to craft the best marketing materials. Don’t skimp on this or go D.I.Y. when it comes to those materials because that’s not going to cut it. Trade show booths are often very visual, and depending on the show, can actually be major attractions (and quite elaborate)! You’ll want an edge over competition. You’ll want your brand to stand out. You’ll want to attract the right kind of interest and attention. A professional designer and marketer is your best bet. You’ll want to get started on the design and marketing right away. There’s nothing worse than trying to come up with something at the last minute and get it all printed (and potentially shipped to the location) a few days before the big event. 

A few extra tips … 

It helps to create a checklist of everything you’ll need to bring. 

Have a plan for technical difficulties such as computers not cooperating, an electrical cord going bad, etc. Always have a, “Plan B” you can fall back on so your investment isn’t a waste because of unexpected difficulties. 

Be professional and take it seriously. Whatever you do, don’t use the trade show as an excuse to party after hours. Remember, you’re representing your business and your overall brand. Vegas rules don’t apply (even if the trade show is in Vegas!) … what happens at the show, might not stay at the show and can impact your brand negatively. 

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