If your business is attracting new customers from advertising and word of mouth, it can be very tempting to write trade shows off as something that you don’t need to do to attract new customers.
While trade shows are far from easy, they can be one of the most rewarding forms of marketing when approached with the right strategy.
Trade show veterans will attest to the fact that the ROI achieved from a successful trade show is difficult – and often impossible – to match using other forms of outbound marketing.
So before you write off trade shows as secondary to your current marketing tactics, it pays to learn about their benefits. These ten reasons, each immensely relevant to your sales-driven business, explain why trade shows should be on your radar.
1. Meet and connect with prospective customers
Have you ever tried to follow up on a sales lead, only to end up leaving one message after another in their voicemail inbox? Getting your voice heard is the most difficult part of outbound marketing, and when your business is one of many trying to gain a new client or customer, ignored messages and a lack of interest are the norm.
One of the greatest advantages of exhibiting at a trade show is that it allows you to meet and connect with prospective customers in person instead of communicating with them over the phone. On the phone, you’re just another voice – in person, you become someone that they know, recognise, and want to connect with.
Although some prospective customers will buy your product or service on the trade show floor, many won’t. Those that don’t commit to a deal in person, however, will become far more responsive to your sales efforts once they know you as a genuine individual instead of just another salesperson.
2. Strengthen your bond with existing customers
Just like trade shows give you the opportunity to better connect with prospective customers, exhibiting at a trade show also allows you to meet existing customers face-to-face. While most of today’s business is conducted over the email inbox or phone, face-to-face meetingsare undeniably a fantastic way to do business.
The Wall Street Journal agrees. Citing a study by Oxford Economics, the well-known financial publication reports that face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to strengthen relationships with both prospective customers and current customers.
Have you ever had a customer double their monthly spending over email? While it’s rare for customers to commit to large deals over email or a phone call, trade shows are often a place for customers to approach you with their long term plans and big orders – orders that can be incredibly lucrative for you as an exhibitor.
Technology has made it easy to write off face-to-face meeting as a thing of the past, but the data doesn’t lie: face-to-face meetings at trade shows are excellent for your business’ relationship with its customers
3. Learn about new developments in your industry
When your business attends a major industry event, it puts itself at the centre of the action. Trade shows are a place for businesses to announce and display their latest innovations and developments – often developments that can have major effects on your industry as a whole.
"...keep your customers close and your competitors closer..."
In a competitive industry, would you rather be aware of your competitors or out of the loop? Exhibiting at a trade show doesn’t just give you the opportunity to make new sales and connect with existing customers – it gives you the chance to look at cutting edge developments in your industry and the opportunities they create.
Because of this, it’s worth sending more than just sales staff to a trade show. Invite your technical staff to trade shows and let them attend presentations that keep you up to date with new technologies, techniques, and industry trends.
4. Meet new companies that can help your business
Whether you’re attending a vertical or horizontal trade show, you’ll have the chance to interact with both prospective customers and prospective vendors. This makes a trade show more than just an opportunity to expand your distribution, but a chance to expand your supply chain.
While your sales and marketing team focused on connecting with prospects to make new sales, your Purchasing Manager can connect with new vendors and contractors that can help your business grow. This makes a trade show a two-sided opportunity for your business – one to expand its sales, and to expand its supply chain.
5. Close deals with new customers during the show
There are few situations more tense than the average outbound sales call. From the endless objections of the prospective customer to the stress of losing a valuable sale, it’s natural to face rejection and nervousness as a salesperson.
At a trade show, however, the atmosphere is different. According to the Simmons Market Research Bureau, almost half of trade show attendees make purchases at trade shows. A staggering 91 percent of all trade show attendees claim that shows are ‘extremely useful’ to their product and service sourcing efforts.
When you speak to a Purchasing Manager or Director on the phone, you’re often dealing with someone that’s already juggling a variety of obligations and deals in their mind. As such, they’re understandably disinterested. At a trade show, you’re dealing with prospective customers that are there solely to find good deals.
Unlike traditional outbound marketing, in which rejection is the norm, trade shows are one of the few environments in which your sales team benefits from an audience of prospective customers that are genuinely interested in buying your products and services.
6. Strengthen (or establish) your brand
Trade shows are one of the few environments where you have the same amount of access to prospective customers as your larger competitors do. This makes them a valuable opportunity not just for direct sales and marketing, but for strengthening your brand and positioning your business as a leader in its industry.
From free giveaways to trade show displays, there’s no better opportunity to give your brand a sizable boost than a trade show. If you can design an exhibition stand that attracts the right type of attention, a single exhibition can be all it takes to change your brand from up-and-comer to established industry leader.
7. Learn what your competitors are doing right
In the world of business, it pays to keep your customers close and your competitors closer. Exhibiting at a trade show allows you to observe what your competitors are doing right and apply their tactics to your own business.
Is there a particular competitor in your industry that seems to be growing at a rapid pace? While your sales team uses the trade show as an opportunity to meet existing customers and connect with prospective ones, spend a moment looking at the other exhibitors to see what they’re doing differently from you.
Great businesses are aware of their competitors, and trade shows are one of the best opportunities to connect with competitors and understand their sales strategy, their pricing, and the reasons for their success.
8. Rapidly expand your database of sales leads
While skimming through the phone book might give you thousands of unqualified phone numbers, nothing gives you qualified leads quite like a trade show. If you’re exhibiting at a show with tens of thousands of attendees, you can expect over 200 visitors per day at your exhibition booth.
That’s 200 prospective customers that you’ve personally connected with – a number that you could never hope to reach using outbound sales calls. This gives your sales team a valuable resource to market your products or services to while you focus on fulfilling the deals that you’ve closed during the show.
While cold calling and online marketing might not have the same initial expenses as a trade show, there’s no greater way to fill your contact book with prospects than a successful trade show effort.
9. Speak directly to your target market
Email surveys are a fantastic way to learn more about what your customers want and don’t want. Unfortunately, their low response rate makes them useful only to businesses with a large enough email list to tolerate very few responses.
Trade shows, particularly vertical trade shows where you’re able to speak directly to people within your industry, allow you to solicit a huge amount of feedback that can help your business expand and improve.
A great way to get useful feedback and valuable sales leads at the same time is by conducting a short survey on your exhibition stand, and rewarding participants with vouchers or gifts from your business. Where else but a trade show can you generate new leads and valuable feedback at the same time?
10. Optimise your sales and lead generation strategy
Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to expose your sales team to hundreds of different prospects in a short period. In many ways, they’re advanced sales training on fast-forward – a quick experience that allows you to rapidly test new sales tricks and marketing strategies in a very responsive environment.
If you want to test and optimise your lead generation strategy, you’ll find no better place than a trade show. Try several different sales pitches on prospects and you’ll quickly learn which ones work and which ones don’t, allowing you to perfect your sales strategies in just a few days for future trade shows and industry events.