Seven ways you can use trade shows to grow your small business

Most businesses today are rightfully focusing their marketing efforts on digital media. But there’s still an important place for face-to-face marketing.

While they may seem a significant investment compared to email marketing and social media, it’s worth investigating the benefits of exhibiting at a trade show.

If you do your research carefully, choose the right show and plan your strategy wisely, a trade show will give you both instant sales and new contacts, and long term relationships and greater brand awareness.

To help inspire you, trade show experts Expocart explain seven ways uou can use trade shows to grow your small business.

1) You can connect with potential customers face-to-face

We spend so much of our time today connecting to customers via social media, email or our website – or even chatbots – that it’s easy to forget how powerful advertising can be when you do it in person.

Nothing is more powerful than meeting your customers and showing them the human face behind your brand. It’s builds a stronger emotional connection, and increases the know, like, trust factor.

You can convey the real story and passion behind your business, and make more lasting, meaningful connections than you’ll ever do with a tweet or newsletter.

2) You can check out the competition

Do you know who your competitors are? Have you ever connected with any of them? Seen their products or spoken to them about their services?

Attending a trade show is the perfect opportunity for you to see what the competition is doing differently. And even to meet them and make contact. (Who says competitors need to be enemies?)

Walking around an exhibition of similar businesses, and checking out what they do can help you to gain a bigger picture of the marketplace, and nail down exactly why what you offer is different.

3) You can find partners

Among your fellow exhibitors, you may find partners too; other companies and brands you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with.

Whatever sector you represent, you’ll find outsourced services and related vendors there. You can also find companies that would be perfect for a brand partnership.

4) You can expand your customer base

One of the main reasons why companies exhibit at trade shows is to find new customers.

Pick your exhibition carefully, and you’re guaranteed a hall full of people who have an interest in, if not a need for, what you do. With the right incentive, you can add hundreds of people to your mailing list in just one day. And you can have face-to-face conversations with, and even make direct sales and bookings, with dozens.

Where else do you get such an opportunity to meet and get your brand in front of so many people in such a short space of time? And with the right post-show follow up, you can hope to convert at least some of them into loyal customers.

5) You get instant feedback

It’s not always easy, or quick, to get feedback from your customers. But a trade show gives you the opportunity to gauge an instant response.

It can be especially useful if you’re launching a new product – you can test the reception out at the show and make any tweaks needed as a result.

One of the most famous examples of a company using public feedback is the Innocent drinks story, where they sold their drinks at a music festival. They asked people if they should give up their jobs to make smoothies, and to place their empty cup in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin as an answer.

By the end of the day the ‘yes’ bin was full so they quit their jobs and the rest is history!

You may not want to entrust visitors to your trade show stand with such a big decision, but it’s certainly a perfect opportunity to gain real life feedback from people on what you are doing, planning or selling.

6) You can earn money

While you should certainly take a long term view when investing in a trade show, there’s nothing wrong with also seeing it as a stand alone sales opportunity, if relevant to what you do.

Whether you’re selling products or services directly on your stand, or take orders and negotiate, it’s important to consider how you can maximise the opportunity to bring money into your business.

A trade show is also the perfect place to offload old inventory at a discount, as well as launch a new product or range to an audience eager for both innovations and bargains.

7) You’ll build brand awareness

A trade show is the prefect opportunity to do some important brand building. From your logo in the directory or trade show website, to branded giveways on your stall, you’ll get your brand in front of new customers, and build your recall with those who have already heard of you.

If you do decide to offer branded giveaways, try to stand out from the crowd. Attendees are likely to return home with bags of leaflets and flimsy branded pens. What can you give away that will stand out, and is genuinely useful to your customers? Bonus points if it’s directly connected to what you do.

Photo by eddie howell