Small Business Marketing

Optimize Trade Show Impact

Written by Andrew Goldman for Gaebler Ventures

Trade shows are a necessary part of business. They require major capital expenditure and should be managed properly. Below are some tips for getting the most out of trade shows.

Many businesses, both large and small attend trade shows throughout the country.

Optimize Trade Show Impact

The purpose of trade shows is to market our products, network with potential suppliers and customers and establish potential future business relationships. Trade shows can be a hectic time. There is a lot going on at these shows, and it's easy to get swept up in the madness and noise. In addition, these trade shows can be extremely costly.

There are costs associated with missing work, traveling and creating your company's booth. Since trade shows are a large financial investment and an opportunity for revenue and cost-savings, the whole ordeal should be managed properly and thoroughly.

Before embarking on a trade show adventure, it's important to determine the necessity of the show. There are a myriad of shows each year, and it's important to determine which shows are most appropriate for your company. You can base this decision on other companies that have attended in the past or the size of the overall show.

In general, it's not a good idea to attend every show available, but you don't want to miss out on a show that fit your billing. This can be tricky, but a good way to manage this problem is to ask others who have attended the particular show to get a feel for who will be there and what you expect to gain from the experience.

Once you've determined the trade show that you would like to attend, it's important to establish the overall cost of the venture. This cost should include everything from materials, to travel expenses to the cost of samples and brochures. You should have trade shows in your annual budget. This number should be realistic. It's often clumped in with marketing and advertising expenses, but you should be thorough and have this as a separate line item.

Now that you know which show you will attend and the expected cost, it's time to create a detailed plan of attack.

The plan should be created prior to traveling to the trade show and should be reviewed by those attending and their managers. The plan should include target goals for new customer leads and distributor contacts.

It should also include target goals for new supplier contacts. When sourcing new suppliers, your purchasing person should be at the show or at the planning meeting. The purchasing manager can provide input on which materials could use additional suppliers.

Once you are at the trade show with your plan in hand, it's important to stay focused and not get swept up in the carnival atmosphere of these shows. These shows can be distracting as there are many great samples and gimmicks to entice customers to visit booths. Remember, you are there for business and you have a plan that needs attention.

This does not mean you cannot have fun at trade shows and enjoy some of the samples and gimmicks, but you should work first and play later.

After the trade show, the plan should be reviewed versus the actual results. Follow-ups should be made promptly with contacts made at the trade show. Successes should be shared with the company and the potential new revenues and cost-savings should be compared versus the cost of attending the trade show.

You should be able to calculate whether or not the trade show was a profitable venture.

Andrew Goldman is an Isenberg School of Management MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has extensive experience working with small businesses on a consulting basis.

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