Why Trade Shows Are Important For Your Small Business
In our hyperconnected digital world, trade shows can be seen as a bit of a relic, an outmoded business building tool that entrepreneurs shouldn’t waste their time on. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion.
Today’s competitive business environment demands that serious small-business owners build relationships with their prospects, partners and customers in a hybrid mix of strategies. The virtual world is so noisy and congested and I think people, more times than not, are looking for an authentic experience, want to do business with companies that have shared values, and are looking for more of a “human touch,” that comes with face to face marketing initiatives, like trade shows.
Trade shows put you and your team on the ground, face to face with your market in a way that few other events or marketing channels can. There is real power and leverage here for small-business owners looking to capitalize on these opportunities and have meaningful and direct experiences with their customer base.
Direct Face Time With Industry Colleagues & Clients
Trade shows give you plenty of face time with both the movers and shakers of your industry and also with interested, motivated, and eager-to-purchase potential prospects and clients, too. Not only that, but you aren’t going to have to worry about the waste and inefficiencies of “cold calling” potential business partners, clients and customers at trade shows the way you do with more traditional marketing. You know the people attending trade shows are at the very least interested in what you have to offer, and are more likely to listen to pitches, network with you and your team, or even purchase what you have on offer right there on the spot, if it fits their needs and their budget.
Trade shows remain one of the highest ROI marketing channels for face-to-face interactions, when done properly. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the cost for meeting a new prospect at a trade event is $142 per meeting, compared to over $250 to meet a prospect face to face at their office. So you get better leads and more valuable connections, and you spend less money along the way which are 3 key incentives for small business, where every dollar spent on marketing needs to make an impact.
Size Up The Competition
Small businesses should also take advantage of trade show events to check out their competition, learning from the most successful companies in an industry or niche to discover what they themselves can work into their products, services and marketing channels.
Trade shows demand months of preparation. Booths are designed and built weeks in advance. Sales pitches and presentations are refined to the highest degree and delivered by the best salespeople at the company making the entire trade show experience for these industry leaders like a playoff championship game.
Nowhere else will you have this many opportunities to learn from the more established, most successful companies in a market or industry. Nowhere else will all their “secrets” be on full display, and nowhere else are you going to be able to get the kind of inside information and insight from their sales and marketing teams—and potentially even high-level executives—with as much freedom and as much transparency as you will at a trade show.
Instant Authority And Influence
Lastly, it’s important to remember the authority, credibility and influence that small businesses gain when they are sharing the same physical space as the dominant companies in any industry. When you’re able to set up your booth at a trade show that features industry titans, you are inherently seen as “on the same level” as those superstars. Newer small businesses and startups can use these events to announce themselves to the market and the industry, but they can also use these events to dramatically increase the authority and the credibility they have in a market, as well.
Best of all, you can later use this shared platform as a major component of your marketing and your advertising. Being able to say that you were featured at the same events as your biggest competitors—especially if they are wildly successful in the industry and your small business is still new—allows a bit of their shine to rub off on your company and positions you well with potential prospects, partners and clients going forward.
Puts you at the table and in the conversation
There’s a lot of activity at a trade show. Conversations, presentations, networking and random discussions can give you some serious intel into where the industry is going and who is going to take it there. It can also put you in a situation to partner up with someone or create a partnership that not only strengthens both parties but that came about just because you both happened to be at the same place discussing challenges. It is the serendipitous opportunities that can’t be valued against the cost of a few hotel nights.
Deciding to participate in trade shows, however, requires a commitment to the process. When done right, the return can be unmatched to other marketing initiatives. If you are going to put yourself out there amongst all your competitors trying to get the attention of the same customers, you need to make sure your brand stands out. It’s hard to imagine a better opportunity for small businesses to expand their network, find new customers, learn more about their industry and their competition, and gain credibility and influence all at the same time. If you’re a small-business owner looking to succeed in today’s competitive business environment, it’s well worth looking into setting up a booth at your industry’s next big trade show.