Things to know before you trade show

Trade shows: are they a worthwhile company investment or a just a place to hand out branded knick-knacks and can koozies? Well, if you plan right, exhibiting at a trade show can absolutely be worth your time and money.

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 77 percent of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended. The decision makers are there, and you can hook ’em.

In its article “Tricks of the Trade (Show),” the latest issue of Costco Connection offered a few excellent pointers:

Figure out why before you go

Discuss why you want to exhibit in the first place. The conversation will help you build and design a useful booth, but you may also discover your purpose isn’t clear and that a different marketing channel may actually be the way to go. Bonus: if you’re clear on your purpose, you’ll be able to clearly define your success afterward.

Bring on the subject experts

Costco Connection suggests bringing along subject experts rather than just the sales team to the expo. “People want to converse and immerse, not be sold to,” the article states. “Use the trade show to give them something they can’t get online: a dynamic conversation — and sensory experience.”

Inc.com also offers useful tips to make the most of your trade show experience. For starters, focus on quality over quantity. They suggest starting by getting the right kind of traffic to your booth with pre-show activity such as email blasts and marketing campaigns.

“People have this idea that a successful trade show is one where you have 10,000 people walking past your booth,” says Malcom Gilvar, vice president of sales for the Trade Group, a trade show design and consulting service. “But that can be a barrier to your success. Define who you want to come to your exhibit and target them specifically.”

Another tip from Inc.com is to throw away the stress balls, literally. Giveaways and tchotchkes are a point of contention for veteran trade show attendees, the article says. You want to give your attendees something to walk away with, but make sure your freebie serves a purpose.

“If you do use a giveaway, think critically about how that item represents your product or your company,” they suggest.

What trade show tricks have worked for you in the past? Either as an exhibitor or attendee? Tell us in the comments!

About Krista Ledbetter

Krista Ledbetter comes from a newspaper reporting background. Several years, tweets, and a career shift later, she keeps busy as a brand journalist for TDS Telecom. You're most likely to find her running or on the couch--hers or otherwise. She enjoys both in equal measure.

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