Trade Shows: Make Them Count

Trade show season is quickly approaching, and the number of options seems to increase each year. Balancing potential benefits with the need to control expenses can be a challenge.  How do you sift through the options and select those that will give you the most bang for your buck?

Consider some simple guidelines to help you choose wisely:

Plan: Start at the top.  Review your business strategy.  Where is your business headed, and how can a trade show help get you there? If the two aren’t totally aligned, keep looking.

As part of your planning, also consider how you will entice your target audience to your booth.  Take into account your signage, banners, table covers and marketing materials. Will you have a great giveaway?  How will you encourage your target audience to sign up for your mailing list?

Purpose: What do you hope to gain: business-to-business networking, new streams of revenue or an expanded customer base? Clearly define your purpose, and then narrow your list to include only those trade shows that would help you achieve your purpose. Don’t be drawn astray by the cosmetic appeal of the venue.

Value:  Once you have narrowed your list, compare dollar for dollar value. You might even write a list of pros and cons to help you weigh travel cost and days out of the office with business potential.

Objectives: Quantify your expectations.  Is your goal to obtain 20 new contacts, set 10 appointments or increase sales by 5% over the next 3 months? Quantify, and then objectively measure success.

Accountability: It’s easy to feel motivated when you leave a trade show, but what happens once you get back to the daily grind? Do those new contacts land in a to-do stack? Do you forget to confirm those appointments? Be accountable, and follow through until you meet your objective.

Reassess:  If, after a reasonable time, you are unable to identify a business benefit, re-evaluate. Perhaps you are using the wrong channels to reach the right crowd.  Be willing to move on.

Consider the sample scenario of a local tanning salon owner.
Plan:  Increase clientele by 20% in one calendar year.

Purpose:  Select a trade show that will increase contact with women in the local community.

Value: Would you select a city-wide women’s expo featuring new products for tanning, or the annual Celebration of Chocolate sponsored by your County Tourism Bureau?  If your business depends on a local clientele, search right in your own backyard.

Objective:  Build an email list of 25 potential clients; initiate an email coupon blitz, with the objective of gaining 4 new clients.

Accountability: Follow up with each contact within 5 days of expo, and offer a 25% coupon off of the first hair service. Follow up again within one month.

Reassess: If you gained 0 clients from a list of 25, reassess.  Was your initial target audience unsuited to your business offering? Were a high percentage of emails undeliverable?  Identify the cause, make adjustments and select a new direction.

About the author: Autumn Edmiston is the CEO and owner of the Edmiston Group.  The Edmiston Group is a multifaceted Pittsburgh based marketing consulting firm providing senior level marketing management services to businesses and non-profit organizations on a short or long term basis.  Core areas of service are business development, marketing, strategic planning and public relations. The Edmiston Group has consistently delivered and implemented real-world, proven business marketing ideas and strategies for business growth.

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