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Trade Shows: Are they still worth it?

A question we often hear from clients…

“Is it worth it for us to exhibit at XYZ Trade Show/Conference?”

Our answer? It depends…

Trade shows have gone through a transition in the last few decades and have seen a lot of ups and downs — from the mega extravaganzas of the early 2000s to their downsizing and almost demise during the recession.  Today, it appears they may be back and on the rise with many of the leading industry trade shows, seeing an increase in attendance year-over-year record during the past few years.

BUT, just because shows are getting bigger, this doesn’t mean you should necessarily spend your time or resources attending. So how do you know if a certain show is right for you?

  • Do your homework.

Many people assume because they are member of an association that the trade show associated with that will be of value to them. Not necessarily. Make some calls, put out some feelers and find out who actually walks the show floor — is it your customer base, or is just a group of your peers (or competitors)? Also…find out if anyone IS even walking the show. That’s important. As trade shows scaled back, many people started attending for the information sessions only and didn’t spend much time walking the show floor. Know what to expect in advance and try to determine an estimate of the number of qualified leads other like-minded businesses have seen from their efforts. 

  • Have a follow-up plan in place BEFORE you go.

Seems obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of businesses/organizations that spend thousands of dollars to staff a booth — spending multiple days interacting with people and collecting contact information only to return home and sit on those leads.  More than once, we have watched clients completely drop the ball on follow-up only to kick themselves later on. Be realistic about this. Sure, getting hundreds (even thousands!) of leads is great, but if you don’t have a plan (or the manpower) to continue to engage and follow up with these folks immediately after, it might not be worth your time.

  • Don’t forget about media opportunities.

Many clients only think of trade shows as an opportunity to generate immediate leads, and they forget there is a lot of value that comes from media opportunities generated at the shows.  For example, The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the International Builders Show (IBS) run simultaneously each year. As a result, a large and quality group of trade and national media attend and generate thousands (probably 100s of thousands!) of impressions for exhibitors.  Most shows will provide you with a registered media list in advance. Make sure to request that list and conduct pre-show outreach to the media attendees, setting up appointments to visit your booth and learn more about your product or service.

  • Staff your booth well.

There is nothing worse than spending precious marketing dollars to have a presence at a trade show, only to have disinterested booth staff sitting behind a table fiddling with their cell phones. You need to staff your booth with the RIGHT employees – employees who will be engaging and enthusiastic to potential customers/clients and the media. Spend time in advance talking about expectations for the show and engage in some booth training if necessary. You don’t necessarily need MORE people at your booth, but you need the right brand ambassadors.

  • Design your booth.

Your booth doesn’t have to be the biggest or the most innovative or elaborate (although that does help to initially draw some attention), but at least spend some time thinking about how your booth is laid out. Is it inviting? Are there areas to easily engage with customers? Does it showcase your product and services in the most compelling way? Sometimes a few tweaks is all it would take to take your existing booth structure from a dud to a stud!

So, have we got you thinking? Want to talk trade shows and see if we can help your planning this year?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note at [email protected]