Trade shows are a valuable marketing strategy for businesses in a variety of industries. While some may question their true value, 99 percent of attendees say they see value that they don’t get from other marketing strategies.
What is a Trade Show?
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.
While trade shows are valuable, they require careful planning and coordination to be successful. Here are some common trade show mistakes that can hinder your company from seeing their value:
1. No 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. Some go because their job requires them to attend, but they don’t have the actually buying power that exhibitors need to close the deal.
Many companies fail to define 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 and how you spend your time.
2. Being focused on 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.
3. Having a poor booth setup
A trade show booth should be welcoming to attendees. Avoid using barriers that prevent customers from interacting with you. As you design the booth, think about how you want traffic to flow, how many representatives will be present, and how you can give attendees a hands-on view of your offerings.
Avoid potential barriers, like long tables, that limit foot traffic or create confusion. Instead, set up several spots where attendees are free to walk up, interact with products, and ask questions. Integrate ways to make your booth fun, engaging, and where attendees want to spend their time.
4. No pre-show marketing
Another 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. Some shows allow exhibitors access to the attendee list beforehand which is extremely valuable. Use this list to schedule one-on-one appointments with potential and existing customers. Having meetings schedule prior to event increases the chances of signing new customers during the event, because they are prepared to see you.
5. Not following up with leads
Finally, attending an event, talking to attendees, and then disappearing afterward will only result in no return on your investment. Attendees often return from conferences overwhelmed with information and opportunities. Connect with those that visited the booth afterward via email and telephone. Schedule calls or a follow-up webinar for those interested in learning more about products and services to attend and ask questions.