1. Network, Network, Network
Everyone knows that networking is a necessity when it comes to growing your career or business. And while LinkedIn has changed the way we network, nothing beats an in-person connection. Getting in front of potential customers in a face-to-face meeting gives them a chance to connect with your brand and ask questions in real time. As product and service offerings for consumers and B2B companies continue to grow at a furious clip, having that personal connection is more important than ever.
Trade shows also offer the opportunity to see what your competition is up to. By talking to other retailers when you attend a trade show, you might just be able to find someone who has the inside scoop on what’s going on in the industry. It’s also a great chance to see what innovations are coming down the pike—as well as what gaps in service or product might exist where your brand can fill a need.
2. Plan for the Future
No budget for a booth? No problem! Speeches, seminars, conversations and “walking the floor” are all opportunities to plan for your company’s future. Doing so gives you a chance to see who’s there, what they’re doing, how potential buyers are reacting to them and how many people actually attended the show in general. You can use this as an opportunity to start planning for next year so you’ll know if it’s actually worth spending money on exhibiting or sponsorships.
You can also see if there’s an opportunity for you to speak at the show. If you can dazzle the crowd with your ideas and insights, you’re subtly promoting your brand and boosting your credibility as an expert in the industry. Bonus points (and increased attendance) if your course gives continuing education (CEU) credits. It’s also a chance for you to educate yourself on your industry by learning from and interacting with other thought leaders.
3. Generate More Targeted Leads
In addition to all the networking and educational opportunities, trade shows are a hotbed for generating new leads. Virtually anybody who attends one is looking to learn more about companies like yours and the services and products you offer. So whether you’re simply exchanging business cards or using a digital device to sign people up to your mailing list, a trade show can deliver targeted leads for your sales and marketing teams.
In addition to generating leads, your trade show can bolster other important brand metrics, too. With the right efforts, you can increase traffic to your website, grow your social media presence and build your email database. These “softer” leads will certainly take time to groom and turn into customers, but they have the added value of both a more personal connection and the knowledge that they came from a niche, targeted source.
4. Debut a New Product
For many companies, a trade show is the ideal place to showcase a brand-new product or initiative. Particularly for brands in the B2B world, there are few opportunities quite like a trade show to generate hype and excitement around a new launch. Many companies in this space don’t have the benefit of being able to sell directly online or in physical stores where their customers can interact with products in person. A trade show gives you that space to really make a big impact—but you need a well-designed, captivating booth to do that (that’s a blog post for another day).
Even if you’ve got a forthcoming product that’s not quite ready for the limelight, you can use a trade show to quietly field test what you’ve got. From having real customers interact with the product to receiving valuable insights from the folks who will use it, a trade show can be a fertile testing ground for your R&D team.
Although there are many good reasons to exhibit at a trade show, they are not all created equal. It’s important that you do your homework before committing to any trade show. Compare the conferences and trade shows in your industry and ask yourself some important questions:
- How much attendance does this trade show typically attract?
- What’s the breakdown by job title and function?
- What kinds of exhibit or speaking opportunities are available?
- How much time do attendees actually spend in the exhibition hall versus in conference sessions?
If you can, try to attend a trade show without exhibiting before you make plans to build out a full booth. If it doesn’t seem like you’re going to get a good bang for your buck, make another plan. And of course, you can always ask us to be your second opinion.