Posted by: Bill von Achen | December 4, 2009

Trade Shows Are Not A Waste!

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (the trade association for trade shows), industry spends more than $60 billion annually on trade show participation, more than the expenditures for magazines, radio and outdoor billboards combined!  And, trade shows are more cost-effective than direct selling when it comes to reaching new customers.

But, despite the abundance of opportunities that trade shows provide, many executives complain that their trade show expenditures offer little return for the investment of money and time.  Here are several reasons why companies fail to get the most from their trade show investment:

Lack Of Clear Goals And Objectives:  Perhaps the single biggest reason for trade show failure is the lack of clear goals and objectives supporting the decision to exhibit.  More often than not, the only justification that most executives can offer for their participation in a given show is “because our competition is there” or “people will wonder if we’ve gone out of business if we’re not there.”  Those are pretty flimsy reasons for investments that routinely top $10,000 per show.      

Exhibiting For The Wrong Reasons:  Likewise, companies often have inappropriate or unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve by exhibiting at a trade show.  Generally speaking, trade shows are not the most effective venues for orchestrating highly complex selling efforts, conducting formal market research or spending quality time with key accounts.  On the other hand, trade shows are a great place to identify prospective customers, introduce new products, conduct informal market research or scope out new market opportunities. 

Missing Unique Aspects Of Each Show:  If you’ve been to more than one trade show in your life, you know that each one has a unique “personality” that differentiates it from other shows.  That personality can be reflected in the type of people who attend the show, the kinds of companies that typically exhibit or the presence or absence of a technical program.  But, unless that unique characteristic matches with your primary reasons for exhibiting, you’ll be wasting your time.   

Seeing Trade Show Marketing As Simple:  Trade show marketing is more than just shipping the booth and showing up.  It requires a carefully orchestrated plan to make the most of the opportunity to get in front of prospective customers.  That can mean a direct mail or e-mail campaign in advance of the show, pre-scheduled appointments with important prospects or the careful development of your in-booth presentation.   

Failure To Adequately Train Trade Show Staff:  Nothing represents a company more poorly than booth staff that hasn’t got a clue about the business objectives behind the company’s decision to exhibit.  The execution of an effective trade show strategy lies entirely with the people who are manning your booth.  If you haven’t properly trained them before hand, you’re jeopardizing your entire trade show investment.      

No Follow-Up On Trade Show Leads:  Finally, after all of the investment made in planning and executing a trade show game plan, most companies fall down by failing to plan for immediate and consistent follow-up with customer leads generated at the show.  Unfortunately, your competitors who flawlessly execute their own trade show follow-up plan will get the business. 

So make your investment in trade shows really pay off by carefully planning your trade show participation.  That way, you’ll get the best return for your time and money, and maybe even have some fun in the process.


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