What is a Trade Show?
A trade show is an event that brings together businesses within a specific industry for the purposes of showcasing their products or services to members of the public and other businesses. They are held in venues up and down the country, the larger ones take place in big conference halls like the NEC, but others use smaller venues like hotels.
Businesses rent a space in the exhibition hall and erect a stand or branded signage advertising their company. They then look to engage with visitors to the trade show which usually runs for 2-3 days. There is generally a program of presentations, demonstrations and seminars given by experts in the field. There may also be awards presented or networking events held for attendees.
There is a trade show for almost every industry, from cars to crafts. To find one suited to you, take a look at a directory like Eventseye where you will find a list of all major events.
Trade shows provide a fantastic live marketing opportunity, attendees are there to source new products and services. Nowhere else will you find so many potential customers, all in buying mode, in one place. Research shows that 71% of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) won business using face-to-face networking.
What are the benefits of a trade show
A trade show brings exhibitors a range of benefits, including:
- Brand recognition – if you are just starting out, a trade show is the perfect place to launch your business onto the market. If you are already established it is a way to showcase what you can offer, and a good opportunity to reveal new products or services.
- Lead generation – 92% of trade show attendees say their main reason for attending trade shows is to see new products being featured. They are there ready to purchase which gives you the perfect opportunity to gather qualified leads.
- Direct sales – some visitors will be ready to buy there and then giving you the chance to make sales.
- Meet clients face-to-face – a trade show is an opportunity to meet up with customers and prospects in a face-to-face setting which will strengthen bonds and encourage sales. You can either show off your stand, or meet afterwards at a restaurant.
- Network – trade shows bring together all the major players within an industry so it is a great chance to make new contacts. You may source new suppliers or partners who can help grow your business.
- View the competition – all your competitors will no doubt be there so you can see what they are doing. Maybe they are launching new products or innovations, you will be able to assess how popular they are.
- Learn industry developments – the demonstrations and presentations will show you the direction the industry is taking and may give you some ideas for your own business.
- Hone your sales technique – trade shows offer an opportunity to train sales staff. They can try out different approaches to see what works.
- Get feedback – gain instant feedback about your offerings from visitors, find out where you can make improvements.
Process of attending a trade show
Ideally you should start planning for a trade show at least 6 months in advance to give yourself time to make all the arrangements. The first thing to do is to reserve your space. The best spaces book up quickly so request a floorplan from the organiser as soon as the show is announced. You want a space with a lot of footfall so locating near restaurants and toilets or near the entrance where people gather is a good idea.
Then it’s time to design your stand. You will need to allow 1-2 months to do this. Look for a contractor who handles everything in house and can show you examples of their work and client testimonials. An eye-catching stand is what will bring you attention so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Go for bold graphics and large images, it needs to be legible from across the hall. Don’t overdo the amount of text on it as no-one will read it and it will look too busy.
Select the staff you are going to take to man the stand, you need to have enough to allow for breaks. Ensure they are proficient in sales techniques and qualifying leads, they should also be able to talk about your products and business. Look for cost savings by booking travel and hotels early for staff, hotels near exhibition venues will also book up quickly.
Make sure you have sufficient business cards a marketing materials for the trade show, you don’t want to run out halfway through and miss opportunities. A good way to attract attention is by offering promotional items on your stand, everyone loves a freebie. Try to think of something useful that visitors will keep, like a memory stick or reusable coffee cup.
Ensure you market your attendance at the trade show to maximise the number of visitors you have. Email all your customers and prospects a few weeks before the event to let them know you will be there and try to arrange meetings. Use social media to broadcast your attendance, you can link up with the hashtags being used by the event organiser.
After the event follow up all the leads you gain within two weeks so that you remain fresh in their minds. Send an email thanking them for visiting your stand and ask if they would like any further information. Hot leads should be phoned within a few days of the show so that they don’t go cold.
A trade show is where businesses gather to showcase their products and services to other businesses and members of the public. Exhibitors book a space, fill it with a stand or signage and try to engage with visitors. They can bring businesses many benefits, from lead generation to brand recognition. Trade show veterans claim that no other marketing activity equates to the ROI that you can achieve from an event.