Since it is summer, I’ve seen a wide variety of events and trade shows come across my radar. Some are happening this summer, but many more will be held this fall. Most notably, the ABC Kids Expo will be held October 9 – 11 in Las Vegas. This is one of the largest trade shows in the country for those marketing products for babies or children.
Large national expos like this provide multiple opportunities for networking or meeting distributors, manufacturers, or other business partners. However, smaller local events can prove beneficial as well. If you watch locally, you’ll most likely find a variety of craft shows, baby fairs, trade shows, wedding expos, women's events, or other conferences at which you can promote your business. You can purchase an exhibit booth, or many times there are opportunities to advertise in the event program or swag bag.
When deciding whether to spend your marketing dollars at a trade show, here are some aspects to consider:
1. Choose the right fair
First and foremost, you need to make sure you are reaching your target audience. It may seem like common sense, but if you sell animal products, don’t attend a trade show for beauty companies. A lot of effort and money can go into participating in an event, so make sure you do your research upfront and ensure it’s a wise place for you to be. Your ROI will be much higher if you are in the presence of the right people.
2. Follow the rules
All shows and fairs will have their own set of guidelines, restrictions, requirements, and policies. Make sure you read them and do what they ask. You don’t want to be booted at the last minute for failure to comply. This is simple and straightforward. No, it’s not okay to bend the rules just a bit. Most likely you’ll have to sign a contract to rent space at the event, and breach of said contract could create multiple issues you’d rather not have.
This is critical! You want everyone walking through the doors to know who you are and why you are there. Your entire presentation is crucial, but eye-catching and descriptive signage will go a long way in attracting people to your booth.
As always, be sure everything coordinates with your branding and company logo. Make sure you have freebies visitors can take with them. Whether it is a small sample, a promotional item, a business card, or a coupon, they need to walk away with something concrete. Or, sad to say, they probably will never remember to give you a second thought, even if they initially wanted to.
Trade shows and fairs are an excellent opportunity to showcase your products up close and in person. So, make sure you have plenty of them. Potential customers want to see, touch, and feel what you have to offer. This is the best way to show off your quality and craftsmanship.
Raffling off a product or gift certificate is always a sure way to generate excitement and interest at your booth. Since you’ve already done your research, you know that the audience is appropriate. Plus, this is a great tool to grow your email marketing list. If visitors to your booth are interested in winning your product, they most likely will be interested in receiving your updates, coupons, etc.
Once you’re committed and your shop is set up, how do you make the most of your trade show experience? Marketing at an event or trade show can increase your customer base and income if done correctly.
Here are a few trade show tips to guarantee your success:
You want to ensure that you make the most of your time while at the show. One way to do that is to promote your attendance ahead of time. Let all of your customers know exactly where you’ll be and when. It might be wise to advertise with the tradeshow organizers as well, this will give extra exposure to your company, rather than just the typical vendor list.
Network ahead of time. If there are people you want to speak with, set up those meetings ahead of time. Host a private mini-event during the larger event for your V.I.P. or other individuals. Do all you can in advance to drive traffic and increase exposure to your booth.
Once you’re there, capitalize on your opportunity by capturing your potential customers’ and partners’ information. There is no doubt you’ll have dozens of conversations; you’ll want to remember the details. Have a system in place to document everyone you talk to and some important details about them and why you might want to connect with them in the future. You can download an app on your tablet for this or go the old-fashioned pen and paper route.
Recording that information will help you follow-up after the event. Whether people want to be signed up for your newsletter, or you want to reach out and set up a one-on-one meeting, the information you collect during the event will be beneficial after the fact. Like you, the people you’ve spoken with have interacted with dozens, if not hundreds of other people. You’ll want to be able to jog their memory about what you discussed and your potential future business relationship. Don’t be shy; reach out!
4. Measure Your Results
With any good marketing plan, you have your goals and strategies, and in the end, you measure your results to see if this marketing method was worth your time and money. Consider things like new leads, sales, brand exposure, and networking and collaboration opportunities. Sometimes one new contact can be worth all the money you spent on the trade show and more.
As you can see, advertising your business through a trade show can be very effective, but, it also takes a good amount of planning and resources. Before you jump in, be sure to write down your goals, create a plan, and measure your results to figure out if promoting your business through trade shows should be a regular part of your marketing plan.
Have you ever advertised your business through a trade show? What were your results? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!
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Dawn Berryman is the founder of MarketMommy.com and Market Mommy: The Blog, online marketing resources for mom entrepreneurs. Market Mommy shows moms how and where to market their businesses. Dawn holds a B.A. from Indiana University and has worked in the marketing/communications field for more than 16 years. She resides in rural Ohio with her husband and three children. For more information, please see Market Mommy.