Tradeshows can be a costly but worthwhile endeavor, and almost every small business reaches a point when the owner must decide if the time is right to make the investment and exhibit at a trade show.
This decision is dictated in part by the readiness of the company’s products and services, as well as the market opportunity.
When the decision is made to move forward, there are several steps the small business owner can take that will enhance his or her chance for success. Here are just a few tips to make the most of your trade show experience:
- Make a newsworthy announcement. Perhaps the date of the show coincides with a product launch or a new partnership with a company that also happens to be exhibiting at the show – turning this into a larger announcement during the event can draw attention to your company from both media and potential customers in attendance. If you find your core media targets are going to be attending, ask the show organizer if you can pass along the news to the media in advance of the show and consider offering them an exclusive in advance of the release date.
- Throw a party! Trade shows are a great place to entertain existing customers and potential prospects. Rent a suite at the hotel and provide an open bar. If budget is a factor, invite select customers or prospects to the hotel bar at an appointed time. The goodwill you create will more than pay for the bar tab.
- Spruce up your brand. This is the time you want to splurge on the slick brochure, since that may be the only takeaway the attendee will have, other than your business card. If other employees will be joining you at the show, consider wearing the same polo shirts with you company’s logo. This will emphasize professionalism and consistency.
- Identify partners. Trade shows are a great place to grow your business by building partnerships. The floor is a fertile ground for companies that can help you move product or sell services. Perhaps your company has something they want. Communicate immediately and identify what each company can derive from a partnership. Deals can be finalized in person in a matter of hours, when it may take weeks to negotiate through email and conference calls.
Within days after you return home from the conference, round everyone up involved and document the experience. Was the show worth it? What could you have done differently? Should you return next year, or consider other shows? Most assuredly, the conference told you more about your company and its prospective customers than you knew before. Use that information to make your next trade show an even better experience.