Trade shows offer you an unparalleled opportunity to get your products in front of customers. 81 percent of the people attending a trade show have the authority to make buying decisions. Most marketers — 99 percent — find that trade shows offer a level of value unheard of in other marketing mediums. They allow you to make an impression on lots of prospective customers at once; if you set up at a national trade show with 1,000 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees, you can expect to attract at least 200 visitors each day. Seventy-eight percent of those visitors will have traveled more than 400 miles to attend the show.
So, if your business isn't attending any trade shows, you should reconsider. Though about half of the nation’s largest trade shows occur in just three cities — Orlando, Las Vegas and Chicago — you don’t have to attend the largest shows in the country, or rent the largest booth space, to reap the benefits of exhibiting. Even attending a trade show as a guest, rather than an exhibitor, can help you forge important business connections, stay abreast of the latest developments in your industry and participate in seminars and other educational opportunities.
Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of the Industry
Not everything that happens in an industry finds its way into the newspaper or onto social media. The newest, most innovative products may not make it into the media until after they’re fully developed and all the kinks are worked out. By that time, however, they've already been in the works for months or years.
Regular trade show attendance helps you keep your eye on what’s happening within your industry. Whether you’re launching a brand new business or just considering a new project, it’s important to know what your competitors are working on so you can avoid rehashing someone else’s concept.
Promote Your Business
With the heavy traffic you’ll receive at trade shows, there’s no better place to promote your business. For this reason, it’s vital to have plenty of personalized pens and other promotional items on hand to give out to the leads who speak with you about your products and services. Since many trade shows can last for days, it’s also important to keep sending your leads back to the main office throughout the event, so there’s no delay in follow-up.
Your industry’s key people will be attending trade shows, looking for new technologies, products and opportunities. If you have something new to offer, seize the opportunity to schedule a talk and pitch your product to the people who can make it a success.
Get Insider Information
In every industry, there’s some information that can only be obtained by speaking directly with those in the know. Let’s say, for example, that you’re an inventor looking for an inventor-friendly company to take on your latest product. Many manufacturers were founded on the strength of a single invention and are still run by that product’s original inventor. Naturally, these companies would be more receptive to striking a deal with another inventor. But which ones are they? You’ll have to ask around among members of the relevant trade association and some of the more accomplished, veteran manufacturer reps, and you’ll only be able to do that at a trade show.
Grow Your Professional Network
Trade shows are absolutely crawling with valuable professional contacts. Whether you exhibit at a trade show or merely attend as a guest, you’ll be exposed to numerous other companies who may, for example, make products that could mesh well with your own. You’ll be able to schmooze with marketers who could help you refine your strategy or investors who could pony up the capital your company needs to expand. Buyout offers are not uncommon if that’s something you’re in the market for.
Just remember, if you’re attending a trade show as a guest, the exhibitors are there to sell their products. Exhibitors, and the show organizers themselves, may find it inappropriate if you try to pitch your products as a guest. Try not to step on any toes.
Word-of-mouth advertising is still the most effective kind, and trade shows offer the perfect opportunity to make the kinds of impressions that get people talking about your products with their friends and neighbors. Despite the popularity of Internet shopping, 93 percent of sales are still made face-to-face, and 90 percent of word-of-mouth recommendations also occur in real life conversations. The contacts you meet face-to-face are the ones who have the power to make or break your business.
When you attend a trade show, take the opportunity to build relationships with everyone you speak to. Don’t just reel off your memorized pitch; ask questions to learn about your potential customer so you can better meet his or her needs. Make a point of introducing yourself to members of the press. Offer free review products to bloggers; it’s a great way to get people chattering about your business.
Trade shows offer incomparable opportunities to spread brand awareness and grow your company. If you’re not attending them, you’re missing out — and your company is probably suffering as a result.