Trade show success basics

Attending trade shows can be a lot of work. Booth set up, publications, presentations and time away from your business can all add to the cost.

So, while marketing at trade shows is worth exploring, whether you should make the investment depends on the product or service you sell.

Industry research from Exhibit Surveys, Inc., shows that the average trade show attendee spends an average of 8.9 hours visiting all exhibits, and that 53 percent plan to buy one or more products exhibited as a result of the show. At trade-specific shows, estimates skyrocket to at least 66 percent. That is why the percentage of budgets spent on trade shows has increased while budgets for media have decreased in many organizations.

Trade shows are also time-efficient. Participating in some shows will get you face-to-face with more potential customers in a day than you could personally visit in a year.

Buyers come to trade shows wanting to speed up the decision process, find solutions to their needs, verify a product’s or a company’s capabilities, identify new options available and make new contacts.

Here are five things all exhibitors should do to increase their success rate at shows.

  1. Set goals for the show. How many sales do you want to achieve? How many contacts do you want to make? Research the historic demographics of the show and see if your goals are attainable with their numbers.
  2. Start marketing before the show. The exhibitor expenses rule of thumb is to spend 10 percent of the show budget for pre-show promotion, 30 percent for exhibit space, 50 percent for booth construction and handouts and 10 percent for after-show follow-up.
  3. Practice boothmanship. Develop an opening line that works well for you, and avoid making a presentation immediately. Build a relationship with the attendee first, and avoid offering a brochure too quickly. Perhaps the better strategy is to get the prospect’s business card and follow up with information after the show. This way, you haven’t burdened the attendee with handouts to carry around, and you have the contact information you need. A closing question can help clarify what the individual needs. If a prospect brings you a complaint or problem, handle it immediately and positively.
  4. Follow-up after the show. Make the calls within the next week or two after the show. The sooner you make the calls, the better your customer service looks to the client.
  5. Check out the competition at the show. This will allow you to gain information on your competitors and get a feel for the image they are projecting to potential customers.
  6. Remember to factor in hidden costs. Out-of-town trade shows mean expenses for travel and lodging. Large trade shows may need booth furniture rental and union set-up costs.

In summary, trade shows should be an important part of your marketing mix. Prepare to work before, during and after the show to make the investment pay off.