Trade Show Guru

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Trade Show Planning – Choosing the Right Trade Show

October 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Trade Show Marketing

I love the Boy Scout’s motto: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The first step to successful trade show marketing is PLANNING. Before you sign up for a trade show booth, or start counting all the sales that you’ll get by exhibiting at a trade show, you need to develop an action plan – and the first step in your action plan should be to figure out if trade show marketing is even a good idea for your business.
As I wrote in Marketing Basics, you’ve got to know everything there is to know about your product or service, and about your customer. What makes your product so special, who should by it, and why? Where do you find these people, and how do you convince them that your product is better than your competitors’ products.

If you’ve got a good idea of why marketing at a trade show would work for you, you need to find a trade show that will work to market your product. There are literally thousands of trade shows a year across the United States and throughout the world. You can more than likely find one in your niche. But then it important to find out how may people will be attending that show and what percentage of the attendees are potential prospects. Let’s say that you sell handheld carving knives specifically designed for carving cedar. You find a trade show in Denver about woodworking. So far, so good. They estimate 10,000 people will attend. That sound good too. But the show is about ALL aspects of woodworking, and from the information, you estimate only 10% of the people attending will be interested in carving wood by hand, and only 20% of those people are interested in carving cedar. That means only 2% (or 200) of the attendees would be potential prospects – or put another way, for every 100 people that walk by your booth, ninety eight of people will just be getting in the way of the two people who you are looking for. You should also realize that not all 10,000 attendees will walk around all of the exhibits – more than likely only a third of them will go by your booth, meaning 66 prospects instead of 200. But don’t let these numbers get you down – it just means you shouldn’t automatically pick the trade show with the most attendees – instead you want the show with the most prospects and if possible the highest percentage of prospects to attendees so that the non-prospects aren’t getting in your way.

Unfortunately, the number crunching doesn’t stop after you’ve picked the “right” show. After you pick the show, you need to develop a budget for exhibiting at the show, and then determine if you can afford it and if it is cost effective. To budget for exhibiting at the show, you’ve got to include travel to and from, staying at a hotel, the cost of the booth space, the cost of booth accessories (carpeting, power, cleaning, etc), the cost of your trade show display and graphics, the cost of brochures and other handouts, the cost of trade show giveaways (if you want to use them), and so forth. Once you come up with a rough total, you’ve got to determine if you can afford it. If you can, then you should estimate the business and/or sales you’ll generate from the show, and determine if you will make money. If you won’t, it’s time to look for another show or start wondering if trade show exhibiting is a good idea for your business…

[boyscout image above: “On My Honor” by Norman Rockwell, from 1945 issue of Boys Life]


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