If your business is looking to expand and reach new audiences, you may want to consider exhibiting at a trade show or exhibition.
However, you need to make sure you are targeting the right audience and not wasting all your efforts (and budget in the process!), so choosing the right trade show is the first step to success in your trade show journey.
Outline Your Objectives
Different trade shows may suit different business needs, so outlining your objectives is crucial to choosing the right show. Have a look at the list below and think about what you want from the event
Build long-term business relationships
Do more business locally
Launch new product range
Interact face-to-face with existing customers
Meet New Clients
Once you have decided on one or more of these, it’s a case of reading profiles of shows to see if they match your criteria. Of course, most trade shows will advertise meeting new clients as their primary focus, but if you want to do more business locally you may consider a regional trade show, or if you want to source suppliers or launch a new product, perhaps an industry-procurement show is right for you.
For certain businesses choosing an industry-specific tradeshow is absolutely vital. Think carefully about your audience, if you are offering B2B products or services suitable for any business (eg. accountancy services), you probably don’t need to think too much about industry-specific shows – targeting local business shows may be your best approach.
However, if you offer a highly-specialized product or service (eg. a piece of software designed for hotel bookings), then you really need to exhibit at shows for the hospitality industry. You may find these shows are slightly more expensive than generic business shows, however it is worth it for access to the top movers and shakers in an industry.
Another great way to find shows relevant to your brand is to ask your top customers what the top trade shows they attend are. You may find that some of the shows that are so successful remain a bit of an industry secret!
For many smaller and medium-sized businesses a trade show can be a real gamble, with a high cost and many resources involved. This means you may not want to sacrifice a large part of your marketing budget on a show which may not yield a high ROI.
It is a good idea to check the statistics provided by the organiser for the demographic and buying power of attendees in previous years. Compare these results to your target audience and you will get a good idea if your show is an ideal fit.
However, you need to be very wary about what the organiser’s promise and the reality of the show. Many unscrupulous event organisers may promise 1000s of visitors but will invite bus-loads of students, who will probably not be interested in your services, in order to increase their official visitor numbers.
Whilst researching shows is a good starting point, the best way to get a feel for a trade show is to visit the show the year before you plan to exhibit. Try and visit on the last day of the exhibition and have a chat with some of the exhibitors and see what their impression of the show has been – they will soon let you know if they think it has been a waste of money!
Warning: A brand new show can be far riskier than a well-established one. Shows need to gain trust within an industry to attract more attendees, so new shows often need a few years to get established.
Check out the competition
A good event organiser will always ensure there isn’t an abundance of certain businesses at their show to avoid over-competition. For example, at a show for the automotive industry, an event organiser should only get one-or-possibly-two tyre suppliers. However, not all event organisers do this, meaning there is unfair competition on certain products or services.
By looking at the list of exhibitors signed up for the show you can gauge how much competition there is for your product or service. If you sign up early, try and get assurances from the show organiser that they won’t over-subscribe your product or service offering.
Make a big splash
A key part of any show is the publicity that you can generate from exhibiting there.
A prestigious show that attracts the top influencers within your industry can help give your brand fantastic exposure.
Check with the event organiser if there is an award for new products that you may be in with a chance of winning – or even if it is possible to give a talk on your field, which may lead to you being considered one of the thought leaders on your topic.
You may also want to ask about the show marketing the event organiser provides for the attendees. Will they let you feature your company on the event’s site and include you in the event literature?
Take a look at the previous news coverage of the event and see if the event organiser has any plans to attract news coverage for the show when you plan to exhibit.
Don't break the bank!
The cost of a trade show consists of much more than just the price you pay for the stand space. You also need to consider the cost of the electrics and other stand extras, accommodation, subsistence and entertainment for your staff as well as any loss of earnings from being away from the office.
The location of the show is a big part of how the costs can add up. Ideally, a local show without the need for huge accommodation and travel expenses will substantially reduce your costs.
In fact, budgeting for a trade show is one of the trickier parts of planning your show, which is why we’ve created a whole guide about it! See, ‘How to Budget for your trade show’ for a more comprehensive guide.