I asked Tim Patterson, @tradeshowguy, VP of Sales and Marketing for Interpretive Exhibits, Inc., in Salem, Oregon for this guest post about the benefits of Trade Shows for promoting your business. Interpretive Exhibits, Inc. specializes in design and fabrication of trade show exhibits.
Many companies I talk to spend thousands of dollars a year to exhibit at several shows. But when pressed as to their results, they say “I don’t really know. We go because we’ve always gone.”
If you’re looking for some reasons to exhibit, let me give you a dozen. There are certainly a lot more, but let’s try these for starters.
1. Looking for Qualified Leads
A tradeshow is a great marketplace for finding a targeted audience, most of whom are PAYING for the privilege of being there. Many are buyers or people who can recommend your product to the right people in their company.
2. Show and Demonstrate Your Product
Do you have a product that really benefits from a hands-on approach? Or can you show thousands of people a video of the benefits of your product? Once people get their hands on your product, they’ll really understand it.
3. Brand Your Company
Sometimes this is a very strong reason to attend a tradeshow. A fairly well established company may not plan on gathering new distributors or making too many sales at a show, but they can always strengthen the position of their brand with a good presentation. It also reassures your clientele that you’re still strong in the game.
4. See Your Prospects up Close
Nothing beats a face to face meeting. With a tradeshow, potential buyers will stop by your booth and you’re able to engage them in conversation, learn their problems, offer possible solutions and lock down the next step in the sales process.
5. Media Coverage
If you plan it right, you can get a lot of industry media mileage out of your tradeshow appearance. If you’re going this route, the best way to attract the media’s attention is with something new, whether it’s a new product, a new way of approaching an old problem or a new twist on an old product. A good publicist can help you craft the right approach and make sure the right media folks know about it.
6. Train and Educate Dealers
If you have a strong dealer base, there’s nothing like a tradeshow to plan a training module for any new products, changes or shifts in priorities. This also reinforces your relationship with the dealers and gives them more incentive to help your company succeed on a higher level.
7. Spy on the Competition
I used to think that only certain industries really lent themselves to corporate espionage. Okay, perhaps ‘industry research’ is a better term. Where else can you see most, if not all, of your main competitors in one spot, with all of their latest and hottest products on display?
8. Test New Products
You can use the tradeshow setting as your own laboratory. At the recent Natural Products Expo West, Kettle Foods offered five new possible potato chip flavors to attendees and had them vote on their favorites. Eventually one (or more) of those flavors will end up on a grocery shelf.
9. Reach Your Customers in a Cost-Effective Way
Depending on the industry; this could be a very effective way to reach potential customers. In 2001, the average business-to-business sales call cost $329, according to Cahners Research. The Trade Show Bureau says the cost of an average tradeshow lead is $142. The numbers will vary from company to company, but it’s a sure bet that trade show leads cost you less than a sales call.
10. Market Research
Not only can you test products, you can uncover information from your prospects. Maybe a short informal survey is just the thing. By offering a token with a high perceived value, you could probably get hundreds of attendees to take five minutes and answer a short questionnaire geared to uncover important information.
11. Meet the Management of Your Targeted Companies
Tradeshows are successful for a lot of reasons. One reason is that management-types will attend high-profile industry tradeshows. Use this opportunity to target your prospects, invite them to your booth, and take the steps necessary to make sure they show up, by offering premium incentives available only to them.
12. Market Without Even Exhibiting
If the space in the exhibit hall is too spendy for you or you’re not able to book a booth space for whatever reason, you can always set up shop in a nearby hotel. Book a suite and set up your products or demos, and invite your targeted prospects. It’s a more relaxed situation where you can serve refreshments, talk more at length and start getting to know the people you’d like to do business with. And they’ll start getting to know you, too!
There are dozens of other reasons you can find to exhibit at tradeshows, one of the most cost-effective ways of continually marketing to your target. But these twelve reasons will at least get you started on the right track!
Tim Patterson is the @tradeshowguy on Twitter; author of ebooks and webinars, public speaker and trainer. Read his blog, listen to his podcast and grab some freebie tradeshow downloads at TradeshowguyBlog.com