For many businesses across numerous industries, trade shows are important. Trade shows are coordinated and industry-specific networking events that help people buy and sell products, form industry connections and even find jobs. Businesses purchase floor space for a booth where they then promote company products, services and causes. Attendees purchase a ticket to the event, where they listen to speakers and walk the floor for interesting opportunities.
For example, a local farming community might host a trade show where equipment manufacturers can display their products to farmers. The manufacturers buy the booth spaces and the farmers purchase tickets for the event. For the manufacturers, the point of the trade show is to sell to the farmers, and for the farmers, the purpose is to find new opportunities for their business.
Trade shows are important for businesses in any industry, but they take careful planning and coordination to be successful.
Here are some common trade show mistakes that can cheapen the value of a trade show:
1. A lack of defined goals
A challenge with trade shows is that people are often passive when they attend. Many go to listen to the keynote speaker and say they want to either network or buy, but never do.
This is because few people define their trade show goals. If your goal is to network, set a daily goal for the number of people you want to meet. If you’re running a booth, set a daily sales goal. It’s okay if you don’t meet your defined goals; the important thing is that you have goals to guide you and to maximize the value of the event.
2. Freebies that aren’t valuable
A major trade show trend is that people who set up and run booths give away free items to the attendees. But when every booth is giving away pens, stress balls, keychains and other small trinkets, your freebies don’t have the impact you expect.
You’ll probably spend more money producing them than you will make with the business deals the giveaway will help you close. Instead, use your personality and your product to attract attendees to your booth. Be memorable so they think of you rather than the free pen they got at the adjacent booth.
Trade shows are fun, and they should be, but a lot of people forget that they are there for business and choose to socialize instead.
There is a fine line between networking and over-socializing, and you’ll have to walk it at a trade show. Make sure you don’t make the mistake of turning your business event into a social hour. Remember that the people who meet you at a trade show will judge you as if you were in a business setting.
4. Not speaking with competitors
It sounds taboo, but you should always talk with your competitors. Speaking to the competition helps you understand what’s working and what isn’t. You can verify price points, operational efficiencies, sales tactics and more.
Oftentimes, people who attend trade shows are quick to keep it in the family and only engage with people they trust. Instead, make a habit of engaging with your competitors at a trade show.
5. No pre-show marketing
The final mistake you should avoid is to attend a trade show without telling anyone you will be there. When you’re going to a trade show, make sure you launch some pre-show marketing to surround the event. Ping your email list, alert your social networks and tell your employees to spread the word.