Small Business Marketing Tips – Marking the Most of Trade Shows Part 1

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In a series of 2 articles we will give you tips on how to maximize your small business at trade shows, conferences and exhibitions. This article will focus on when to use this marketing tactic, the main benefits of exhibiting your product or service and areas you should consider before you spend money and time participating.

There may be many reasons why you have considered exhibiting at shows, such as when you want to demonstrate a new product or service, communicate changes to your business or your products or services and when the trade show relates specifically to your industry and therefore you basically have a captive audience. Whatever the reasons, you need to estimate the cost in both time and money and determine what sales you will need to cover those costs.

Choosing the Right Trade Show
Trade publications, trade associations, your local council or the Chamber of Commerce should be able to provide you with a list of industry trade shows planned for the year. Choose the trade shows that are key to your industry and will attract your target market. It is also a good idea to ask your most valuable customers which trade shows they like to attend to determine where your target market will be.

If you planning to exhibit next year and before you commit any money, visit the trade shows this year to determine:

  • Which booth (s) stand out? Why?
  • Which booth (s) is drawing the most consumer attention? Why?
  • Where is the greatest traffic flow at the trade show?
  • What are your competitors' stands like? What do you think they are doing well and not so well? If your competitor knows you, get a friend to visit your competitors stands to gather information

Ring the trade show organizer and ask for details about the trade show including the costs associated with being involved eg. cost of booths, cost of sponsorship etc and attendance rates for previous shows. It is also well worth asking how they are going to promote the trade show and if it is a business trade show or conference, the organizer should be able to give you a list of businesses that have attended the trade show / conference in the past and who are expected to attend. Ask if you can use the registration list of delegates to conduct a mail out prior to the show to let the delegates know your business will be attending and where they can find you.

Choosing the Right Booth
Once you have decided on the show, you will need to decide on where you want to be located and what size booth you want to pay for. The larger the booth, the greater the cost although the larger booths are generally located where the highest traffic flow is ie near the entrance.

Ask the organizing committee to send you a map of the exhibition hall and where each booth is located. If you can not afford a large booth you may be able to locate yourself in an area where people will congregate eg. near the food hall, bathrooms etc. These type of shows generally operate on a first in, first served basis, so book as far in advance as possible to secure a good location for your business.

If you can not afford your own booth, you should consider sharing the cost of a booth with a business that complements your product or service but does not directly compete with you.

You will also need to get information from the show organizer on what the cost of your booth will include eg. chairs, table, lighting etc. Most trade shows can put you in contact with a company who hires out additional lighting, chairs, display units etc to make your booth more appealing.

Staffing the Booth
Your staff manning the booth should be well briefed, look professional and have all the necessary tools eg. samples, brochures, demos etc to make the show a success. If possible, get your staff to wear a uniform that includes your logo, so that your existing and potential customers can easily identify them. Supply your staff with business cards and relevant sales literature to make their selling job as simple as possible.

Trade shows can benefit your business as they allow you to demonstrate your product or service, gain more insight into your customers in a more relaxed atmosphere, gain knowledge about your competitors and most importantly attract potential customers for your business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008