Exhibiting at industry trade shows is a way to get the word out about your company, showcase your products, and bolster your potential client list. What’s more they are good venues to garner ideas for your business and scope out the competition. Industry trade shows are almost always a good return on your investment.
“I think trade shows are the fastest way to get a real sense of an industry,” says Kim Baker, owner of New York–based Gouda Inc., “even with all the resources you can find online.” Gouda designs and manufactures high-end promotional and corporate gifts and sells private-label products direct to retailers. Baker says the company typically exhibits at trade shows when introducing new products.
As valuable as trade shows can be, they can also be a logistical nightmare if not managed correctly. Here are some things to avoid when planning for your next trade show:
- Overspending on booth space and materials: For novice trade show exhibitors, it is easy to spend too much money. Planning is key. When creating a budget, understand that the fee for the actual booth space is only the beginning. It’s the add-ons where the trade show producers make their money. Tables, chairs, signage, Internet connections, and electricity all cost more. If you’ve shipped boxes to the site, you will often be charged to get them from receiving to your booth. If your company plans to exhibit regularly, design and purchase a portable booth that reflects the nature of your business. “Our booth differentiates us and communicates our brand,” Baker says.
- Getting lost in the crowd: Obviously booth location is important. Prime booth space, which gets the most traffic, often gets snatched up by the Fortune 1000 companies that can afford the higher price. However, associations or magazines sometimes purchase clusters of booths, often called “pavilions,” that aggregate members or advertisers under one roof. It may cost more for you to buy in, but it will provide the added benefit of being in a well-trafficked section. It’s worth finding out before you buy in to a group pavilion how much marketing the sponsor plans to do, both onsite and prior to the event.
- Shipping too much product or marketing materials to the site: Be judicious when shipping products and marketing materials. If the show is out of town, it’s costly to ship things there and it’s costly to ship what you do not use back home.
- Bringing too few or too many people to the show: If you’re traveling to the show, making wise decisions about who and how many people to send is imperative. Don’t plan on just bringing yourself, even if you are a one-person show. You will need a break and you cannot leave a booth unmanned. Not only that, you want to have at least one other person to walk the show, talk to the competition, and connect with potential allies. But don’t bring too many people. Remember that hotel rooms, transportation, and meals must be covered. If you think you’re going to need extra help onsite, hire temps.