Manufacturer FAQ: Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Exhibiting at a Tradeshow

Five businesspeople at boardroom table smilingAs a distributor of eco-friendly children’s products, I’m constantly asked by brands I represent if they should exhibit at industry tradeshows.  I personally believe that tradeshows offer a great experience to network with people in your industry and get your products in front of your target audience, but they can also be costly and draining to a business.

While many companies exhibit at industry tradeshows to develop new business and nurture existing relationships, I encourage children’s product manufacturers to ask themselves these three important questions before they move forward with a tradeshow appearance.

1. How do I select the right tradeshow?

In certain industries, trade shows can be an important lead generation or brand awareness channel. While you may not see an immediate spike in sales, trade show presence can help build awareness for your brand and boost your business’s reputation.

New or smaller businesses should look for shows that are highly vertical or targeted to a specific industry. For example, a juvenile products manufacturer might want to consider the ABC Kids Expo, which is targeted to companies that make products for babies, children and families.  If the same juvenile products manufacturer has eco-friendly wares, it might also want to consider a show like the Natural Products Expo.  Ultimately, you have to decide where you think your product will find the most success – in a baby boutique or a natural grocer.

If you’re uncertain which tradeshow is right for you, talk to your manufacturer sales rep or another trade professional who is likely to be well-versed in the pros and cons of exhibiting at various tradeshows and can help steer you in the right direction.

2. What are my goals for this trade show?

Once you’ve selected the tradeshow that you’d like to attend, it’s time to do some goal-setting. Would you like to increase sales? Establish industry credibility? Hob nob with press?  If you’re looking to boost sales, you’ll want your sales team front and center at the show. If you want to meet with press, hiring a PR firm can help connect you with the media and bloggers who will attend. Want to create goodwill with your current retailers?  Set one-on-one booth meetings with your best retailers and make them feel special.

Once you have determined the big picture, set quantitative goals for your company. Set goals as to how many new leads/customers you want to attract, how many current customers you want to meet with, and how much press you expect to garner. Having goals will help you plan your pre-show activities (maybe you need to set appointments or pitch press?).  It will also allow you to track your performance and determine if the show was a success for you and is worth doing again the next year

3. How do I maximize my return on investment?

Companies often rely on tradeshows to find opportunities to grow their customer list, meet and network with press and media contacts, establish partnerships with like-minded brands, and establish themselves as a credible player in the industry. However, the downside to this opportunity is that tradeshows can be very costly, especially when travel is involved. Making a solid tradeshow appearance requires numerous company resources, from staffing to product launches, to out-of-pocket expenses for printing and designing your tradeshow booth and doing pre-promotions, etc.

This is why it’s important to go into a tradeshow with your eyes wide open. Don’t just show up and expect great things to happen – make them happen.  Plan ahead and thoughtfully. Set up meetings with retailers, press and prospects prior to the show. Really pound the pavement before the show to ensure a good turn out at your booth.  Consider advertising in Show Dailies – or even have your PR agency pitch a show daily (you might get some free editorial coverage at the show!)  Have great show specials already determined, and a process in place to not only capture information for all the people you meet but also a process in place to thoughtfully follow up with interesting connections post-show.

Remember, tradeshows can be an excellent way to network with those important in your industry, meet new clients, solidify your relationships with current clients, and get press. That said, tradeshows can also be a huge burden on your resources. Finding the right tradeshow, setting goals, and doing the right planning to maximize the return on your investment will ensure a positive and worthwhile tradeshow experience for you and your brand

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