Why Trade Shows are important for your small business.

How can you promote your small business to hundreds of potential new customers? Where can you forge new contacts and service providers for your developing company? One of the best strategies for a growing company to market products and services to a large specified group of potential customers is by exhibiting at a trade show. Each year, thousands of trade shows across the country offer opportunities for buyers and sellers to meet face-to-face. The beauty of a trade show is that you can share your product or service with a pre-selected audience while investigating the competition and building relationships with new customers.

Exhibiting at a Trade Show Isn't Cheap.

Many small business owners have found that participating at trade shows can be an expensive marketing tool. Before this investment is made, an estimated cost of the trade show should be calculated, including the booth or table fee, display materials, marketing literature, promotional items or door prizes, and staffing. If the cost is within your specified marketing budget, the following ten steps can help make your trade show experience a success:

1. Decide your goals.

What are the goals you'd like to accomplish at a trade show? Is it to meet people, to close some sales, or to simply get names and e-mail addresses on your mailing list? What product or service are you planning to promote? Determining what your goals are will help you decide what trade show will give you the most return for your investment.

2. Does the trade show meet your specific goals?

Research the trade show to make sure it will be attracting your target audience. Talk with the people who are putting on the trade show and find out if it meets your goals. How many trade shows have they done in the past and how successful were they? If possible, contact people who have participated in the trade show in the past to find out how the show worked, or didn't work, for them.

3. Promote the show to your customers.

Although it is important to make sure the trade show is going to be well publicized, you will get more mileage from the event if you invite your own customers and prospects to attend. A simple mailer to your clients is a great way to get people in the door. Many times the trade show will supply you with mailers or postcards, which helps keep your budget in check. You could also develop an interesting angle to motivate customers to attend, such as a demo or special event at your booth, or the promise of receiving a free gift.

4. Seek media exposure.

Tradeshows usually attract numerous media outlets. Work in advance to organize interviews with key industry editors in order to, not only get your name in print, but also develop an ongoing relationship with important media representatives. You can even make it easy for reporters by delivering your story in advance, along with press releases, media kits, customer testimonials, etc. Have those materials on-hand the day of the event and have a staff member prepped for interviews.

5. Visit other trade shows.

Observing other trade show participants can give you ideas for your upcoming event. Observe the displays, how the people work their booths and attract people to come visit, the giveaways, etc.

6. Prepare your booth display and materials.

Your booth or display table should reflect the quality and professionalism of your products and services. There are many companies that develop trade show booths, so shop around before committing to a price. The booth should be eye-catching - something attendees can see from 15 to 20 feet away. Samples of your work, photographs, testimonial letters, press clippings, etc. can help give your booth credibility. The booth will probably be your biggest expense, but it is also the most important.

Make sure to also have the appropriate sales materials available to distribute to potential customers. In that many trade show attendees make a habit of taking something from each booth, regardless of whether they are actually interested, have a relatively inexpensive piece available for the taking, and a more costly brochure behind the table for serious prospects.

7. Prepare your staff.

Prepare in advance what your staff will say when people come by your booth. Your staff should be prepared to give a quick description of what you do, what services you offer, and information on the product or program you're promoting.Begin with one good qualifying question your staff can ask to see if the person they are speaking with is a prospect. Then, write out a script so that your staff is prepared to answer questions.

8. Have some way to capture names, addresses and e-mails.

The easiest way to capture contact information of attendees is by enticing them with a drawing. Set up a give-a-way and allow attendees to drop their business card in a fish bowl, or fill out a sign-up sheet for a free gift.

9. Network your company to other exhibitors.

Go out of your way to initiate relationships with other exhibitors. They may need your products and services or be in a position to refer you to others. Also, you might find a new source of customer leads or potential business partners for your company.

10. Follow-up with all of your leads.

Remember that making a trade show experience a success doesn't end when the trade show is finished; a trade show is a source of leads, not clients. Follow up on all of your leads with phone calls, and put the names on your newsletter, direct mail and/or e-mail list.

Tradeshow Week Magazine On-line allows you to search the globe for upcoming trade shows specific to your industry. Visit tsw.cahners1.com for more information.