When you attend a tradeshow, you look for new products and ideas, meet current suppliers or customers, and renew old friendships. When you exhibit, you’re part of the show, and potential customers come to see you. If your business sells to other businesses, you usually need to go to them and make your presentation, but at a tradeshow, they will come to you.
Can a small business really afford to participate in these large events? How much does it cost, and will you actually increase profits from exhibiting? These are questions you will need to answer before you write that big deposit check for your space. Have you attended this show in previous years to see who’s exhibiting and who is walking the aisles? Do your regular customers normally attend the show? If you don’t know, ask them—they’ll surely tell you. Also, ask them what other tradeshows they attend regularly. If a majority of your customers go to most of the tradeshows in your industry, who are they talking to—your competitors? Is there a chance you might lose some business if you’re not a stop on the
Let’s face it; exhibiting at tradeshows is expensive. For a small business, it will likely take a big chunk of your marketing budget to be at one or two shows a year. You have to look at tradeshow exhibiting for a small business from more of a results angle. What realistically will you get out of being there?
When you know that answer, the next question is, can you afford it and do you have enough people to work the show? If you take most or all of your staff from your office, who will run your everyday business and process those regular customer orders? You can’t tell a customer who calls your company that someone will get back to him in three days. You must have an even balance between the show and the office for both to succeed during the show time schedule.
One possible idea is to participate in only local or regional tradeshows where you drive back and forth or travel shorter distances with no overnight stays. Booth and travel expenses should be much less at these shows, and you can rotate your staff more easily. If you’re new to exhibiting, there are usually several local business expos or tradeshows where you can test the waters and see whether tradeshows are really for you.
Regardless of whether you exhibit, you should attend most or all of the shows in your industry and related ones to review new products that you may want to purchase. Many tradeshows are also connected with conventions that have meetings, seminars, and awards dinners.
If the tradeshow is at a resort, you may be able to tie in a minivacation and bring your golf clubs and spouse. For these types of conventions/tradeshows, there should be a spouse/significantother program to keep your loved one busy and entertained while you attend meetings and browse the exhibit-show floor.
Prices for attending shows are reasonable when you figure in all the information you’ll get in one place. Most shows offer discounts for early registration or multiple attendees from one company. There are also discounts available at nearby hotels that partner with the tradeshow and hold blocks of rooms for attendees. You’ll probably have your choice of several types of rooms, from bargain basement to the lap of luxury. Your best choice is likely in the middle, because you’ll spend most of your time at seminars, on the exhibit floor, and in hospitality suites and less time in your hotel room.