Trade shows are great for business. Simple.
They offer a place where you can be in a room full of people who you know are your audience — the show floor is filled with potential new customers, and it’s a chance to get to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry (and your competition).
But if you’re looking to exhibit for the first time, it can be daunting just trying to find the right trade show, particularly for a start-up or small business who perhaps are limited on resources.
After fifteen years in the exhibition industry I’ve learnt a thing or two, so here are my seven insider tips on how to find the best trade show for your business.
Know your target customers
It might sound like a very basic place to start but before you even start to look at exhibiting at a trade show, you need to fully understand who it is you’d like to meet.
Knowing the exact job titles/functions of your top 20 dream customers will help you select the right show for you. Keep this in your mind when approaching exhibition organisers about exhibiting and even share this list with them. They should be able to give you a stand location and exhibition package that helps you target your prospect clients.
Go niche. I mean like super niche.
There are more trade shows that you can ever imagine.
Once you really understand who you’re looking to target, it will allow you to be super selective with which trade show will help you get in front of your key audience.
Whilst going to the biggest exhibition or the ‘number one’ in your industry might seem like a great idea, for a start-up or small business there is the risk of you being ‘lost’ amongst the big boys.
It is seriously quality over quantity with the leads you’ll pick up at trade shows. You’re looking to find your next sale, not simply weak non-qualified data to boost your sales database. By going niche, you’ll be able to put your company in front of a smaller amount of the right companies and have serious conversations with them.
Really interrogate the organisers
When approaching an organiser, don’t be afraid to ask for previous attendee visitor samples. Due to GDPR they won’t be able to give contact names and addresses of course, but it will give you an insight into visitors who attend.
Look at who previously exhibited. Are there any other industry ‘friends’ on the list who might be able to give you the inside scoop on how the event has performed for them?
Oh and don’t be pushed into making a snappy decision because there are only ‘three stands left’. If you are particular about stand location then of course speed is of the essence to secure your stand, however, it is important that you make the right decision for you and your business. Make sure you have plenty of time to maximise your investment and properly plan your exhibition strategy.
Ask your PR company
If you’ve got an engaged PR company, who will know your industry and will be able to give you advice and feedback on the trade shows you’re looking to attend. You’ll usually find they’ve been to a number of them and even had other clients exhibit.
If your time is precious, consider asking your PR company to do the research for you. They fully understand the market and have your company interests at heart.
Ask your customers
A simple survey of your current customers can give you insight into which trade shows they attend. Ask them if they met anyone there? Did they make any purchases as a result of attending?
You’ll need to ask quite a sample to get a bigger picture of whether the trade show is valuable to them or not. Remember, simple things like a terrible train journey to the event can put a visitor off attending for life so you need to make sure they are giving you relevant and insightful feedback.
Also, some people just don’t like going to exhibitions. They prefer the comfort of their office!
Look to join forces with a partner company
If you’re a start-up or small business, trade shows can seem really daunting in terms of time and money. Why not team up with another business that complements your own to share the cost and help you manage the stand.
Be careful — some exhibition organisers will charge you a “Co-location” fee to have both companies listed in their directories and show marketing materials. Make sure you ask before signing up. It may be as simple as adding an additional marketing package to your stand cost.
Going abroad? Look for funding
If you’re looking to expand your business outside of your usual country of business, you can often apply for grants and funding from your local government.
In the UK for example, the Department for International Trade run the Trade Show Access Programme (TAP) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tradeshow-access-programme in which you can apply for grants to go to trade shows on their approved list.
Also, speak to your industry associations and local chambers of commerce, often who take trade delegations out to exhibitions abroad and may have a pavilion stand that your company could feature on.
In short, do your research and be prepared to ask questions. Look around and speak your industry network — make sure you’re choosing the right event for your business and you’ll have the very best experience.