One of the most effective methods of getting traction in an industry is attendance or renting booth space at the industry trade show. When you are starting a new business or expanding your business into a new channel, it is always wise to check into the details of any trade shows that are applicable.
A Few Tips for Attending a Trade Show
In some cases, you will want to attend these shows because your suppliers rent booths at the show.
It may be very convenient to spend 1-3 days walking the show, meeting with established suppliers, checking out new ones, and also finding out what new products, fixtures, and services might be useful to your company.
The cost of transportation, accommodations, and attendance fees might be steep, but if you work the show wisely, the ROI can be very good.
Most shows also provide speakers on various subjects, many of whom do not have the content of their talks online or otherwise available.
Many suppliers may offer parties and showrooms outside the show.
These can provide excellent networking opportunities far different than what is possible on the show floor.
For best results, plan your days working the show well in advance.
Make appointments with key individuals or companies that you wish to speak with. The more popular companies will be very busy during the show,
so if you want a serious conversation, it is better to set an appointment.
Decide which other booths you want to be sure and visit.
Layout your plan of attack.
Many trade shows are extremely busy during the first two hours, but people are funny, and most will go through the main doors and go all the way to the right. During that first few hours, you’ll find that booths in the middle or to the left of the main doors will be lightly attended.
Most presidents and other executives will only attend the first day or two.
If you need to speak with those individuals, either arrange appointments or make it a point to hit those booths during the first two days.
The last four hours of most shows are very lightly attended. You will get all the time you need in most booths during that time if the show has otherwise been very busy. This is also a good time to make purchases of product samples in the booth. Some companies won’t want to pack up and pay the drayage and shipping costs for many such items.
Many of the seminars and industry talks are valuable. Try to attend as many as you can that are of interest. However, make wise decisions between what you can accomplish with suppliers versus what you can accomplish listening to these talks.
A Few Tips for Showing at a Trade Show
If you are a supplier of products, fixtures, or services to a certain trade, you may want to set up a booth. Sometimes you will only need to walk the show and set appointments if you think the cost of the show isn’t worth it.
Start by deciding what you could accomplish or wish to accomplish by attending. Then you can evaluate the costs versus the potential gains.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF REASONS TO ATTEND BUT MANY REASONS IN THIS LIST ARE NOT COMMONLY PART OF THE PLAN, BUT SHOULD BE:
TAKE ORDERS FROM NEW AND EXISTING CLIENTS
– trade shows provide a very different environment for this activity and bring lots of potential trading partners together in one spot.
BREAK INTO A NEW TRADE CHANNEL
– Maybe your products sell very well in certain trades, but you are curious to see if you could also be successful in a related industry. A trade show is a perfect test ground for finding out.
– Sometimes your failure to attend would be a disaster, giving your competition free reign to rope in some of your customers. Of course, if your competition has shown in that show for years, it would indicate that the show has been profitable for them, thus, you might do some damage by competing in that event.
NEW PRODUCT OR SERVICE INTRODUCTION
– This is my favorite reason for shows. I love to pitch and you might get to pitch a new product ten times an hour. As you explain your new item, you can hone the pitch based on responses.
By the end of the show, you should have learned:
Size, shape, color, design issues are wrong, right, etc.
Packaging works or doesn’t work
Top killer headlines for advertising, packaging, etc.
Possible testimonials could be taken on your camera
New use cases you hadn’t even considered
Similar item was tried before and flopped. Why?
LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES
to add new products, services, buy companies, find sales representatives, attend industry talks, network at show functions, and even meet with your competitors.
SPEAK AT THE EVENT. – Shows are always looking for speakers. If you have something to say, you can gain industry credibility by taking a slot.
What about the Costs?
A very rough estimate is that a trade show will cost you $3000 per day per booth. From the list above you can see that there are opportunities to recover those costs many times over. Unsurprisingly, your results will vary and will be related to your preparation.
Optimizing Your Trade Show Experience
START PLANNING MANY MONTHS IN ADVANCE.
If you don’t have a booth, you can either buy one and transport it to the show or rent various kinds of backdrops at the show. There are inexpensive pop-up booths today that will serve you very well. The booth is the canvas. What do you need that canvas to do for you?
DESIGNING YOUR ACTUAL LOOK IS ONE KEY.
If you don’t have graphic designers on staff, you should almost certainly look outside your company for help in laying out the look. As prospects walk by, you are only going to get a few seconds of their attention. What are the main things that will cause them to stop and have a second look?
Personally, I don’t like to wait for prospects to decide to come in. I PREFER TO GO GET THEM.
If my staff doesn’t have the necessary boldness to grab them out of the aisle, then I’d rather hire professionals to do so. Some companies go for attractive so-called booth-babes. I prefer professional-looking individuals who could easily be hawkers at the county fair. My feeling is you only get one shot at that passing prospect. Use every bit of possible firepower to get them to at least take a look.
On the other side of the coin, some who are passing by are NOT REMOTELY INTERESTED IN YOUR PRODUCT.
Train all booth staff to quickly determine if any prospect is actually a potential customer. Don’t waste time on those who are not.
MOST INDIVIDUALS WHO COME TO A SHOW ARE CONSCIOUS OF THE CLOCK.
You should also be doing your best to present your best idea quickly and close. Once you’ve closed on a single idea, now the client may relax a bit on the time issue and will want to know what else might be a fit.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
First look for corners. Sometimes corners will require buying two booths or more. Even if singles, they may be more expensive. There’s a reason why they are more expensive. They are worth it.
ACROSS FROM MAJOR BATHROOMS OR EATING AREAS.
Obvious right. No obstructions like structural posts in your booth or next to your booth. NO DEAD END ROWS. They are death. NO OTHER FLOOR booths. New companies are often relegated to the overflow room or floor. More death.
Assume that no one ever looks through their brochures after the show. Most commonly, the collateral materials and cheap plastic printed stuff stay in the show bags in the corner of the office until chucked out months later. So, don’t give away expensive catalogs or merchandise at the show. Take customer information and ship them the stuff after the show. Then follow-up the shipment with a call.
It has occurred to me from time to time to write an entire book on trade shows, but this is not the place to do so. Hopefully this has been a helpful jumping off place.
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