Exhibiting at trade shows can be an effective way to introduce your product to many potential customers. Trade shows are the marketplace for business-to-business, and a proven way to make qualified contacts at far less cost than field sales calls. A growing business should include exhibiting as part of its marketing programs.
As a home-based business, you will want to start small, perhaps exhibiting at a small show sponsored by your local Chamber of Commerce or your local home-based business association, especially if your product or service is targeted to businesses and consumers in your locality.
Whether you will be participating in a large or small trade show, here are some useful hints:
Do your homework.
Try to attend the shows at which you plan to exhibit before you reserve a space to get an idea of the booth set-ups, attendees, space, and competition for your business. Also use this opportunity to check out the crowd and evaluate the trade show — are these your target market; how big is the attendance; do your competitors have booths or presence in the show?
Keep your costs down
Plan ahead to see how you can keep your costs down. One way is to initially consider sharing space with other exhibitors or a material supplier. Nonetheless, look for an ideal location for a booth that would allow you to have the most people walk by.
Use a portable booth – they are affordable and easy to transport and set-up. If possible, set up a portable booth beforehand in your home or garage so you can evaluate its appearance.
Spread the word about your trade show participation.
Let people you want to see at the show know that you will be there by sending invitations to visit your booth. If you have an email newsletter, use it to inform your subscribers that you will be in the trade show. Invite your social media followers and fans, maybe even giving them some incentive to actually make the effort to go see you during the show.
Send news releases and photos to trade journals and other media. Most industry magazines publish special show editions. Make your advertising simple and explanatory.
Get all materials ready
Have plenty of promotional literature, business cards and samples for visitors to take. Make ordering quick and convenient, possibly offering show specials or free shipping.
Be sure that your business name and photos are visible to folks walking on the floor. Your trade show display should look “approachable:” don’t bombard people with too much color and information. Many companies struggle to effectively draw in visitors because it takes too long to ‘soak in’ their display. Remember, you have only four to six seconds to get the attention of your prospect. When designing graphics for your trade show display – less is more. A photo of your product, a listing of key features , and a striking headline are all you should need in your display. They just need to see your business name and what you are about.
Open your eyes.
Learn from other exhibitors, especially those who seem to attract the most people. If you have someone working with you, take some time to view the other booths, and also get some feedback from others.
Have a method of getting interested people’s names and addresses (e.g. a guest book inviting them to be on your mailing list). Follow-up leads right after the show – before the competition does.
Recommended Books on How to Get Most of a Trade Show:
- How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows
- Trade Show & Event Marketing: Plan, Promote & Profit
- Guerrilla Trade Show Selling: New Unconventional Weapons and Tactics to Meet More People, Get More Leads, and Close More Sales (Guerrilla Marketing Series)
- Powerful Exhibit Marketing: The Complete Guide to Successful Trade Shows, Conferences, and Consumer Shows
- Tricks of the Trade: From Best Intentions to Best in Show, Revised Edition