Trade shows can generally be a bit of a waste of time… BUT choose your event wisely, and plan properly, and it can be time well spent raising your profile, making contacts, and generating new leads.
We have probably all been on the receiving end of an approach from the smooth salesman who phones out of the blue, uses our name just a few too many times (you know the ones), and offers us a free space at the perfect event. But are trade shows the right channel for our business, and if so, how do we know that this is the right one at the right time?
Well here are just a few things to consider before making the leap.
A free stand does not a free exhibition make
Although it’s very flattering as a small business to be told that the show organisers would really like YOU at their show – so much so that they are willing to eat into their profits just to get you there – you should still ask yourself why they are so keen. Especially if it’s near the show opening day. If it’s a show that you have seriously considered in the past, and would consider testing, then it would be rude not to accept their kind offer. However, if you do go down that route, be aware that a free exhibition stand does not mean a free exhibition… not even close.
The cost of the stand or space alone can be just a small part of the final budget – particularly if it’s at one of the bigger trade events. Once signed up you might find yourself being pressed into paying for extras like electrics packages, lockable cabinets and data pens. Then of course there will be the small matter of managing and staffing the stand – who will be there? Will it be you or other staff members – if you have them? Will there be the additional costs of accommodation and travel to consider? Not to mention time out of the office. Also, what will you have on display – literature, demos, giveaways? However you do it, it will all cost money.
But let’s take a step back for a moment. What about the event itself…
Is it the right show at the right time for your business?
What is the focus? How big is it? Who will be there (visitors and exhibitors)? Will the visitors be the right people for your business? …and will there be enough of them to make it worth your while? It may well be a show that typically attracts 10,000 visitors but if none of them are the right people then you are definitely wasting your money and time. Depending on your business a smaller event that attracts 200 of the right people would be a better fit, assuming that they can find your stand, and engage with your business, when they’re there.
Do your research, give the organisers a thorough grilling, and make sure you check out what others in your industry think of the event. Will they be visiting, exhibiting or speaking at it themselves? If not why not? If the people you want to engage with are not going to be there, then there’s no point in taking a stand but you might want to send someone along to check it out for future consideration.
Have you got the right products for a trade show environment?
If your product is something that needs time to absorb, or a lengthy explanation, a trade show might not be the right place to do it justice unless it can stop visitors in their tracks. For a more specialist product you might do better to organise your own event. You could even consider working with the organisers to run a reception alongside the main event while all the relevant people are in town.
Have you got something specific or new to launch?
If you have a new product or service to launch, a trade show can be a good way to get it in front of a larger audience. In which case you should make sure that you take full advantage of the add-ons, such as press releases, show guides and other pre-show promotional activities. These are usually offered to exhibitors as part of the package – use them to let visitors know what you will be showcasing so they can come to your stand and see for themselves!
If you do decide to do it make sure you do it well
This may be the first opportunity for many of your target market to see your products, so make sure you make a good impression. If you have gone to the trouble of getting a stand, make sure that everything on it looks professional. It’s worth investing in a decent display stand as you will be able to use it again. Even when it’s not on duty at an exhibition it can be used in your reception area (but do make sure that it’s looked after).
Be very clear on your show objectives
Make sure that everyone staffing the stand knows why they’re there and the potential benefits to the business. Whatever your objectives, measure the results post-event and use what you learn to inform any future decisions on exhibiting.
What do you think? Have you had a successful trade show experience? Let me know in the comments.