How Trade Shows Work

Why Do Trade Shows?

Exhibiting at a trade show offers you one of the best ways to get in front of a lot of customers and prospects in a relatively short amount of time. Trade shows give you the opportunity to not only show your product or describe your service, but also create that all important first impression. According to a Simmons Market Research Bureau study, 91% of respondents ranked trade shows as "extremely useful" as a source for product purchasing information. This was higher than any other source, including on-site visits from reps. Also, nearly half of the respondents had purchased products or services at the trade show.

These checklists are in Microsoft Word format, set up as protected forms with no password requirement. To alter the content, go to the Tools menu and select Unprotect Document. To use the file as an online form after you've made your changes, go back to Tools and select Protect Document.
At a typical national trade show, with 10,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors, you can realistically have 200 visitors per day. If you were making sales calls, you could not even approach that number. Granted, you don't always have the opportunity to go into as much detail in your presentation as you would like, but it opens the door for future communications -- a door that sometimes is very difficult to get your foot into.

So for most companies, trade shows are worth the effort. In fact, before you decide to nix a show your company has attended for years, think about what that might say to your current customers who expect to see you there. This is especially damaging if your company has been through recent staffing/management changes, mergers, acquisitions, or other changes your clients may have caught wind of. Your competition will use your absence to their advantage. This doesn't mean you can't ever stop attending a show, but just be sure you think about whom you see there and what your company's absence may lead them to believe. If necessary, send a post card to your primary clients that you know attend that particular show, and explain your decision to attend show B rather than show A.

Before you even start looking for shows, you need to set your goals. To help you do this, there are four questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Why are you exhibiting?
    Are you trying to extend your relationship with existing customers? Introducing a new product? Positioning your company within the market? Generating qualified leads for new sales? Countering a competitor's claim?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. What is the message you want to convey?
  4. What do you want to get out of the show?
    Do you want to bring home leads, sell your product/service, or create/improve/build upon your company image?

You need specific, measurable goals if you want your trade show activities to succeed.

Next, let's find out how to find the best shows.