By Rieva Lesonsky
Worried about spending too much of your working capital to attend your industry trade show? Sure, you could just attend a trade show online or schedule a videoconference with a potential client, but there are many reasons attending a trade show in person is good for business. According to a white paper by Professor Richard D. Arvey, Ph.D., face-to-face communication can give you much more information, such as insights into the culture and the integrity of a company. To make the most of your investment, here are three ways to make trade shows work for you:
1. Find the right trade shows. Displaying your product at a trade show is a great way to get your company’s name out there in the industry. Trade shows can be costly to attend, though, so make sure you choose the right ones. Before signing up for an event, contact the promoters to find out the expected number of attendees and their demographics. Are they the kinds of people you need to reach? Ask for specific information. If an event is supposed to attract businesspeople, how many are business owners as opposed to employees? If employees, how many are executives? Use your contacts and network to find colleagues who have attended the trade show in the past. Ask them what they got out of the show and if they think it’s worth attending. These days, it is easier than ever to find this type of information online using social networking tools.
2. Maximize trade-show marketing. Once you’ve chosen a trade show to exhibit at, focus on getting results. Start by pinpointing specific, measurable goals for the show. Do you want to come home with X number of sales leads? Do you want to be interviewed by X number of journalists attending the show? How many actual orders do you want? Then think about how best to convey your marketing message. Trade show attendeees are swamped with overwhelming amounts of info, so even if you’re demonstrating your product live in your booth or showing a video on screen, make sure you also bring plenty of “take-away” material (brochures, fliers, business cards) that attendees can take home with them to look at later. Bring twice as many handouts and business cards as you think you’ll need, and make sure you have a way to capture information from the people you meet (it can be as simple as jotting notes on their business cards). Freebies attract attendees, so try holding a drawing where people put their business cards in a fishbowl and win a prize, or collect email addresses for a drawing to be held later.
3. Work your business card. Even in these days of digital communications, business cards are still a crucial marketing tool. Make sure your card is memorable and useful. Include the information that will help people contact you—company name, logo, address, phone number and website URL, cell phone and all your social media sites. If your card starts to look too crowded, consider putting some information on the back of the card. Like your other marketing materials, your cards should convey your business’s image—whether that’s responsible and trustworthy for a CPA, natural and earthy for a vegetarian restaurant, or trendy and stylish for a beauty salon. Use color, texture and design to create your marketing message.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.