Late summer in the United States is widely known in the commerce space as the second trade show season for the year. Exhibiting at trade shows can be expensive, labour-intensive and if poorly planned, turn into a black-hole from which your business gets nothing in return.

However, when strategically planned and executed a trade show can per a great way to do on-the-ground research on new product lines, get feedback on branding, invigorate existing businesses partnerships while expanding your network and of course, increasing revenue through leads and sales.

Here are five tips to help your businesses not just survive but thrive, this trade show season!

1. Not all trade shows are equal

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There are hundreds of conventions to choose from every year. Surveys have shown that 45% of attendees only visit one trade show per year, so it’s worth taking a couple of months before trade show season to research which trade shows will be most effective for your products. 

Create a profile of your ideal customer. What are their unique identifying qualities? Are they more prominently located in a particular geographical area? Then take a look at the trade shows in those areas and determine which would be the most appealing to your ideal customer. 

Additionally, find out how long the conventions you are interested in have been running for and what the reviews from exhibitors from previous years are. Established trade shows and conventions usually provide a detailed breakdown of the number and type of visitors from previous years. This will help you narrow down your options. 

2. Location, location, location

Once you’ve chosen the right trade show for your business, the next important decision is where on the trade show floor you should set up your booth. Some shows like MAGIC Vegas, can span over 1.9 million square feet, so where your stand is positioned could be the make or break for a successful exhibition.

There are a few ways to optimize your booth location for traffic. Trade shows are not just about the exhibits, almost all trade shows also offer an array of seminars, workshops and talks for attendees to participate in. Positioning your booth close to one of these event areas could increase the number of attendees that stop by your booth. You could also position your booth near a food and beverage area to tap on attendees that are taking a break for a meal or snack, or you could position yourself next to a booth run by a large, well known brand in your industry- the spill-over crowd from their booth is likely to flow into yours. 

Trade shows release their venues and floor plans well in advance of show dates. Study the floor plans in detail and perhaps even consider taking a trip to the venue to better visualize the space. Find that stand sweet spot and watch as attendees flood through!

3. Are you not entertained?!

Content is King, but engagement is Queen and as they say, the lady rules the house! The same is true at trade shows. It is not only about what you are marketing but how you are marketing it, how visually appealing and eye catching your booth is, how uniquely your products are displayed, that could be the factor that pulls in the crowds. 

The average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing trade show exhibits at an exhibition. That’s a lot of exhibits. So your exhibit needs to stand out to make an impression.There are exhibit design houses that can help you set up to make use of every inch of your booth space in a creative and original way. Consider where you are spending your booth budget carefully. Whether its on lightboxes, bold graphics or audiovisual props, discuss with your design team on the best materials to attract attention to your brand. 

4. Always be closing

Many companies go to trade shows to build brand awareness and increase their network. Trade shows can also be a great place to not just build leads but also close deals. 

For lead generation, the return on investment from exhibiting in a trade show is undeniable. According to a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR)  , “the cost of an initial face-to-face meeting with a prospect is $96 for an exhibition lead; whereas, without an exhibition lead, that figure is $1,039 (including $443 to identify the prospect prior to the initial sales call and $596 for the field-sales call).” Therefore, engaging with a lead at a trade show versus hunting and discovering leads in the field saves your business $943 per lead.  

Trade shows can also be a place to close deals and sell products on the spot. Always bring representatives from your sales team with you to shows. A good sales rep can sniff-out buying signals from attendees and help you close deals faster, maybe even on the show floor itself. Another way to increase sales at shows is to invite your existing customer base to visit your booth and incentivise them to buy by offering one-time-only discounts at your booth. 

If you are expecting a high volume of traffic at the show, keeping track of orders as they are being placed can be a bit of a nightmare. To make life easier and to make sure you are keeping on top of orders, consider investing in a simple mobile inventory and relationship management app that you can access from your mobile phone, both on and offline.

5. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Widening your network is a key benefit of attending trade shows. As we mentioned before, exhibitions are a great way to source qualified leads. 51% of trade show attendees requested that a sales representative visit their company after the show. This means that people are finding valuable solutions at trade shows. So be sure to hand out take business cards or contact details of potential customers. 

Also, in the days after the event, remember that the show may be over but the job isn't! Following up with every single lead with a phone call or email can help close deals in the future. 

With these tips, your business can 10x the impact a trade show has on your marketing efforts and potentially even your bottom line. One last thing to remember is to evaluate the impact the trade show has had on your growth before deciding whether its worth participating the following year.

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