Five Steps to Help You Select the Right Trade Shows for Your Business:
Exhibiting at a trade show can be a great way to attract new customers, strengthen relationships with existing and prospective customers, and increase awareness of your company and your products. Trade shows also provide an opportunity for you to network with attendees and other exhibitors, and even investigate potential partnerships.
However, trying to decide which trade shows to participate in can be exhausting. Exhibiting isn’t cheap – and in addition to the money spent on the sponsorship and the booth, you have to budget time: both for planning and for staffing. It’s important to make sure you’re investing wisely by selecting the right events.
Clearly define your goals and objectives
Your objectives for any event should tie back to your marketing and sales goals. These can include items such as lead generation (marketing and sales leads, mailing lists), awareness, media attention, analyst meetings, customer retention, and partnership building and support.
Start with your personas. Who are the people you ideally want to reach? What kind of company do they work for, what is their job title or department, where in the purchasing cycle should they be, what type of purchasing authority do they have, how old are they likely to be, where do they live? Once you have those demographics, it’s much easier to figure out what events your target audience is most likely to attend.
Rule out events that do not work with your schedule
The most important question you need to ask before committing to any event is whether the right people are available to staff your booth. It could be a great show, but if you don’t have the right employees there to answer questions, show demos, and engage with prospects, the show is not only a waste of your money, it can also actively hurt you by leaving a negative impression of your company.
Determine how much money you’d need to spend
There are all sorts of trade show ROI calculators available online, but it doesn’t matter what your ROI is if you don’t have the budget to participate in the first place. Do a rough estimate for each event on your list. When you’re calculating cost, be sure to include “hidden” costs such as rental carpet, AV equipment, internet service, booth design, and shipping & handling fees. Do you have staff locally or will everyone need to fly in? Does travel come from your event budget, or potentially impact who may be able to attend? If so, you should factor that in as well.
Follow your business model (bigger isn’t always better)
Large events can be overwhelming, especially if you are just one in a sea of hundreds of small booths that all look alike. Many companies also do not have the bandwidth to engage with or follow up with prospects outside of key areas. Think about what will work best for your business model. Does it make sense for you to have a larger presence at a smaller number of events, or is it more important to cover multiple industry segments, regions, or niche markets? You may get more value from exhibiting at one large event and a series of regional user group meetings in cities where you have highly involved sales reps vs. participating in multiple national or international events.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Make sure you have a full understanding of what to expect before committing to any investments. Many established trade shows have shrunk over the years, while others are in a growth stage. Ask if the show has been independently audited. This is more common for large independently operated events, but can be helpful for you to know that the attendee numbers being quoted are accurate. Does the show give out free passes, and if so, are those counted in their attendee figures?
If there’s a show you aren’t sure about, see if the show organizer will give you a free or discounted “evaluation” pass to attend – this is a great way to see the exhibit hall traffic and confirm if the audience is right for your brand. While not all shows have the budget to be able to do this, it’s always worth asking.
- Danalynne (Wheeler) Menegus