The real reasons why businesses exhibit at trade shows

Trade shows offer a unique opportunity for face-to-face marketing.  Nowhere else puts you in front of a captive audience of potential customers, all looking for products like yours. 

Some may question the effectiveness of trade shows, with the internet becoming the focus of most businesses’ marketing efforts.  But a good marketing strategy should cover both online and offline methods. 

Effective marketing is educational in nature, and a trade show offers the opportunity to educate people face-to-face.  Here we cover some of the reasons why businesses exhibit at trade shows.

Why exhibit at a trade show?

1. Brand awareness

A trade show offers you the opportunity to raise awareness of your brand amongst industry professionals and competitors.  If you are starting up, it is a great place to launch your business and products.  Many businesses use a trade show to launch a new product in front of a captive audience.  Even if you are established it allows you to demonstrate that you are a key player in the industry. 

Building brand awareness is something that takes time but having an eye-catching stand with your branding on it and placing yourself near industry leaders will tell visitors that you are a key player in the industry.  The perception of a brand that is not represented at an event falls by 5%, this is true even of global brands.  Not attending is more damaging to your reputation than you think.



2. Lead generation

Attendees are there to buy.  You have a fantastic opportunity at a trade show to gain highly targeted leads.  92% of trade show attendees say their reason for attending is to see new products on offer.  And 81% of them have buying authority.  Even if you don’t close a deal there and then, you can take prospects details and nurture them through the sales process. 

Cold calling and emailing may not have the same upfront costs as a trade show, but they do not necessarily give you qualified leads.  At a trade show, visitors are in buying mode and will be more responsive than when receiving a random call.  Research shows that it takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, and only 3.5 sales calls to close a lead from an exhibition.

Make sure you gather as much information as you can from prospective customers to make follow-up easier.  Write it all down, you think you will remember but you won’t.  Lead generation software makes the process more straight-forward.  Instead of simply gathering business cards you can take more details and have them uploaded onto your CRM system for future use.

3. Meet clients face-to-face

The best way to sell products is still in a face-to-face setting.  A trade show gives you the opportunity to build on existing relationships with customers and build new ones with prospects.

In a face-to-face setting you can explain and demonstrate your products to the client and use your sales skills to try to close the deal.  It also gives you the chance to get feedback from the client and sort out any issues they may have.

In the weeks leading up to the event you can contact your customers and prospects to let them know of your attendance.  Arrange to meet them, either on the stand, or afterwards at a restaurant.

4. Education

Trade shows offer a variety of educational opportunities.  The presentations, seminars and workshops will enable you to keep up to date with the latest developments in your industry.  The workshops may offer the chance to learn new skills which will help you in the running of your business.  Industry leaders will give presentations which will give you an insight into the latest trends.

See what your competitors are up to, you will be able to see what new products or developments they are offering.  You can witness what works for them and what doesn’t which will help you with your business.



5. Network

A trade show brings together all the key players from within an industry.  You will be able to make new contacts by getting out and talking to people.  You may find new partners or others who will benefit your business.  Use it as a chance to make new contacts, you never know when they will be useful to you.

6. Gain feedback

Email surveys have their uses, but generate little response.  Exhibiting at a trade show allows you to speak directly to your target market and find out exactly what they think of your products.  You could run a survey on your stand to get this feedback, maybe make it part of a competition to encourage respondents.  You will gain valuable insights which will benefit the future running of your business.

7. Hone sales techniques

Your salespeople will be exposed to a variety of different prospects in a short period of time.  This will enable them to see what sales techniques work and which don’t.  Test out different approaches to see which are the most successful.  If you have new staff, a trade show is a great place to train them in sales techniques




Businesses exhibit at trade shows, even in the era of online marketing, for the variety of benefits they bring.  Trade shows are a lot of work and represent a significant investment for a small business.  But the advantages gained in lead generation, brand awareness and face-to-face marketing outweigh the costs.

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