Anyone who has exhibited, worked or attended trade shows will agree that they are exhausting. There is a flurry of planning, coordinating and spending prior to the show. There is the travel, the long days and many hours on your feet. So the question becomes, is it worth it? The answer is yes, but only if you fully embrace the vision of what you can do in a short period of time.
Advanced planning gets you ready for the experience of the show itself. And advanced planning means focusing on what your goals are for the show. Do you want to talk to existing customers? Do you want to gain new customers? Do you want to raise awareness for your brand? Do you want the industry’s perception of your company to change? Remember that different goals require different messages and different activities, so setting your goals is very important.
Trade shows are an ideal location for connecting with existing customers. Why? Chances are your customers are geographically scattered in a large area. The one place you can travel and see many of them at the same time is a trade show, so plan and schedule your time with them prior to the event, and then have some specific directions you want your interactions to take. Are you trying to finalize contracts? Are you making them aware of new products or services? Or are you entertaining them to help build a better relationship? Your customers will appreciate setting specific times to talk business or to just spend time together.
If you are exhibiting or even just attending a trade show, you can receive a complete list of exhibitors and often attendees for the event. While your existing customers are extremely important, good business always means being open to prospects and expanding your client base. You no doubt have some “A-list” prospects who will be attending the same shows you are. Connecting with them, understanding their needs and having objectives in mind when you talk with them at the show is important. If they are exhibiting and you haven’t scheduled something ahead of time, visiting their booths to make a first connection is worth walking the entire convention floor, no matter how large or how much your feet hurt.
A convention is an ideal place to begin the process of expanding brand awareness or changing your industry’s perception of your company. It’s a great marketing tool. With everything from advertising opportunities, social events, press conferences, sponsorships and industry involvement at your fingertips, thinking out of the box about how to gain attention is part of the trade show game.
Don’t let the opportunities slip through your fingers. Start now to plan on what you can do differently at the next show you will attend, and how you will make a new beginning. You’ll still come home exhausted, but it will be time and energy well spent toward evolving your business.