Regardless of business sector there’s bound to be a trade show opportunity for your company at some point. Exhibiting at a trade show can provide countless benefits for the growth of your business. From reconnecting with existing customers and meeting new ones to scoping out the competition, the list goes on. On the flip side, trade shows are very competitive and require a lot of time and effort that might not be suitable for every company.
Here are a few general categories to keep in mind as you make your decision about whether a trade show is worth the investment:
Picking the best venue
With the variety of trade shows available, you will have no shortage of options to choose from. To make the most of a trade show and avoid unnecessary costs, however, it is important that you choose to participate only at trade shows that make the most sense for your business. Deciding between attending consistently successful industry trade shows or less established ones can be tricky. If you are going for the less established route, then it will be useful to do your research beforehand to see what kind of media coverage, guest speakers, and attendance there’s been for past events.
Every successful trade show depends upon a tremendous number of activities coming together seamlessly in a matter of days. The process of preparing for the trade show must therefore begin months in advance and involve multiple departments within a company including marketing, sales and communications. The planning process must be thorough in order to gain the maximum amount of impact and results from your booth and includes everything from brainstorming to budgeting. If you want to stand out amongst competitors, either learn from them by taking a look at how they presented at past shows, or consult with a third-party to get some fresh ideas. Anything that helps generate the most traffic and buzz for your products should be considered during the planning process.
Get the word out
Contrary to popular belief, the bulk of the work for trade shows actually happens before the event itself! The sooner you start the better – especially when getting the word out on your booth. Start with social media – announce the trade show to your followers and keep them updated with constant tweets and posts. You should also take advantage of the event hashtag to gain attention from people who aren’t following you and to keep yourself associated with the event. In addition to social media, reaching out to the media is a necessary step if you want your company to be noticed in a sea of trade show booths. Get a hold of the media list from the trade show organizer and send out a release announcing your attendance at the show, as well as any major product announcements. Also try to secure one-on-one meetings with the media to help you get the most media coverage as possible.
With the amount of competitors at trade shows, you have to make sure that you are thinking out of the box and doing something to stand out so that people remember you. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the average time that each visitor spends at each booth is about 5-15 minutes. In order to keep them interested and get them to stay longer, your booth needs a dominant theme, 1-3 highlighted products/services, and something interactive for people to engage with and remember at the end of the day. Less is more when displaying and talking about your company’s services or products – you don’t want to overwhelm them with information but you do want that information to be memorable enough to stick in their minds.
To properly relay product information and to promote your company, you need to choose the most outgoing and capable staff members for the job. Networking is key at industry events and hiding in your booth won’t do the company any good. Make sure the staff is well versed on product features as well as providing quality engagement with visitors, so the company is represented in the most positive and beneficial way.
While trade shows are a lot of hard work, most of the work takes place before and after the show. You need to be able to track results following the show and follow-up with connections made. Send the people you met an email or a follow-up note on LinkedIn to let them know that you want to keep in touch. Even consider asking for their feedback about the trade show booth to get the customer perspective and discover ways to up your game next time around. It’s also a good idea to share any media coverage around your booth or company. Track all media placements and then share the media coverage on your company website and all social media platforms. It’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments and share them with others!
Aquilah Allaudeen is a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications, an Austin based tech PR and marketing communications agency specializing in B2B technology startups and fast-growth enterprises. Aquilah is a Marketing and Corporate Communications major in his final year of studies at the Singapore Management University.