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Tradeshows for small business

7 reasons why tradeshows are still relevant for small business

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Tradeshows for small businesses: are they worth the investment? From time to time, this age-old discussion crops up. With an increasingly connected online world, are tradeshows really relevant anymore?

Here’s the thing: I think they are! In fact, I think there are 7 reasons why you shouldn’t discount them.

Keeping up-to-date with industry information

Tradeshows, or exhibitions, are a great place to find out what’s happening in your industry or sector. As small business owners, we don’t always have the time to keep on top of new legislation or other information that may impact our businesses. Going to a relevant event is a great way of doing this. You’ll find out what the new trends are and how they might affect your business. You could also discover new ways of working that make your business more efficient and delight your customers.

Tip: tradeshows are busy with a lot going on. If you’re attending to get the lowdown on your industry, have a plan. Most organisers will have a website or send a visitor handbook. Plan your visit using the resources they provide.

Networking is on offer!

That’s right – tradeshows are great places to network. In fact, some of them even provide specific networking opportunities. Quite often, there will be a ‘networking village’ if it’s a big tradeshow. Alternatively, there may be allotted times during the day where more structured networking is provided by some of the big networking organisations. Even if there isn’t dedicated networking provided, you can make your own opportunities.

Tip: if this is your main objective for attending, make sure you know what you want to get out of it BEFORE you attend. Just as importantly, know what your follow-up will be and put time in your diary to do this as soon as you get back.

Networking tips

Arrange customer meetings

I always say that looking after existing customers is important. They are your route to new ones. So, why not use this opportunity to set up meetings? Think about the amount of time it might take you normally to have one customer meeting. Imagine having your best customers in one place and being able to see them in one day! If you’re exhibiting, invite customers to your stand for some VIP treatment. You could even introduce them to one another, especially if they have complementary businesses. It’s also a great opportunity for you to talk about your new products or services. If they’ve bought from you once, why not again?

Tip: understand what you want to get out of these meetings before you start to contact customers. Be prepared to do some diary juggling if you’re arranging one-to-one meetings. One way to make this a little less painless is to give them access to an online diary where they can pick a time to suit them.

Find new customers

This is relevant to exhibitors and attendees alike. You’re in a place where lots of visitors are passing through. There is no reason why any one of them should not want to work with you! If you decide this is what your focus is, then the first thing to do is work out how many leads you need. A lead is a person who agrees to a meeting with you to explore working together. Once you know the number, work out how many people you will have to speak to in order to secure that number of meetings.

Tip: arm yourself with a way to record conversations you have. If people are interested in meetings afterwards, try to get a commitment for a date and time. People get busy and often forget why they agreed to meet with you, so get it in the diary on the day.

Tradeshow cheat sheet tips

Be found, be known

There’s no two ways about it. Exhibitions help to raise brand awareness. For small businesses, this also means getting to know the people behind the business. It’s a great way for you to be discovered by your target audience and for them to learn more about your business and why they should be your customer. Remember, your brand includes the colours you use, the typeface on your brochures all the way through to how you behave.

Tip: make sure you have a cohesive brand by looking at everything you will have with you at the tradeshow with a critical eye. Does it represent your business and your values? If you’re not sure, work with a brand expert to help you figure it out.

Go shopping!

If you’re in the market for new products or services, there’s no better place to road test candidates. Tradeshows are full of stands with the product or service you’re looking for. What’s more, they’re all in one place, so less toing and froing for you. Yes, of course you can shop online, but what you can’t do is have a member of staff show you exactly how a product works or discuss your particular service need in depth. So, before you discount tradeshows for sourcing new products or services, think again.

Tip: get your hands on the exhibitor list nice and early. Do your research ahead of time so you attend the tradeshow with a short list of suppliers and the questions you want to ask them. Remember to go armed with pen and paper to make your own notes.

Go to school

More and more nowadays, tradeshows come with an educational programme. There are seminars, workshops and keynotes a plenty. Imagine all that knowledge in one place for you to take your pick from. If you don’t have lots of time to dedicate to learning, then this is one aspect of a tradeshow you should definitely take advantage of. Most organisers offer free entry into seminars and workshops. Even if you have to pay, work out what individual sessions would normally cost. I’ll bet it’s less than the price of the ticket.

Tip: the educational programmes at tradeshows are popular, so book the sessions you want to attend early. If you’re attending to gain knowledge and network, work out how the two will fit together.

These are just my seven reasons why tradeshows are still relevant. Whether you decide to use them as part of your marketing or as an attendee, I think you’ll agree there’s a lot you can get out of them for your business. Just remember to follow my tips and they will absolutely be a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

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