It’s Showtime! (or How to Make the Most of a Trade Show)

Getting face-to-face with multiple potential buyers can be a fantastic way to promote your business, products and services and increase your contacts with customers. A recent Tradeshow Week poll found that businesses spend up to 42 percent of their marketing budgets on trade shows. Before you participate in the next trade show, give some thought to how you can maximize the experience and get a return on your investment of time and money.

Follow these 10 easy steps to optimize your trade show experience:

  1. Plan ahead by setting specific goals and a game plan. Consider how many companies you want to reach. Decide if you want to purchase a booth or walk through the trade show.
  2. Develop a realistic budget for your expenses. Trade shows can be expensive, especially if they involve travel, hotel expenses and union labor fees to set up your exhibit.
  3. Select the trade shows that best fit your overall business marketing strategy to increase sales to new or existing customers.
  4. Market your business prior to the show. Post a message on your website prior to the show or use e-mail announcements to communicate that you will be participating at the show and invite them to stop by your booth.
  5. Create marketing materials that tell a compelling message about your business, client successes and testimonials to differentiate your business from your competitors. Carefully plan your booth layout, signage and display to promote your products and services.
  6. Take advantage of any relevant workshops, seminars, speakers that can enhance your business knowledge.
  7. Make sure your staff understands how to maximize your participation at the show. Prior to attending the show, train your staff and set clear expectations for the event.
  8. Network, Network, Network – Plan to make the most of your time at the trade show. Attend receptions, go through the show directory and make a list of the contacts you want to meet. Have a goal to make a specific number of contacts for future business opportunities.
  9. After the trade show, conduct a “post-show” de-briefing with your team. Determine what worked and what didn’t. Decide who is responsible for following up on all contacts and potential leads made at the show.
  10. Evaluate your results – were the results worth the effort?  If so, save the date for next year’s show.  If not, check out other shows in your industry that may be more advantageous to promote your business.

The Women’s Business Development Center is proud to announce our 24th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, the premier event for women business owners in the Midwest!  The conference will be held on September 22, 2010 at McCormick Place-West in Chicago.  For more information please visit our website – we hope to see you there!

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