Every budding business can leverage tradeshows as an attendee. Exhibitors are there to make sales, and you will experience sales pitches. You can also gain incredible insights from leading companies in your field. Things that can then be used in your business for strategic growth.
The ROI for businesses investing in exhibiting at trade shows is higher than most B2B marketing channels. Given the potential for higher returns, businesses put a lot of planning into the preparation, usually months in advance of the event.
For the SMB trying to get a foothold in any niche market or industry, tradeshows can give you a lot of insight, both local events and national.
Top 3 Benefits Leveraged from Attending Trade Shows
When you start a business, you enter a lonely path. The majority of your connections around you, collectively known as your emotional support group, i.e., your friends and family, are likely to be on different wavelengths. Conversations about the tech and emerging products in your industry will seem obscure to your direct support circle.
To keep an ear on the ground and have meaningful and insightful discussions, it is industry connections that are needed. People who are actively involved in your industry. These are the people that should make up the bulk of your professional network connections. Not your Facebook friends list, but your LinkedIn connections list.
Now, at tradeshows, the exhibitors are unlikely to be the decision-makers of a business. Those are often the sales reps of companies rather than the management team.
For B2B sales, networking with sales managers can give you plenty of insights, but they are also gatekeepers. You can use those connections as introductions to weave your way into the senior management circle of a business.
By networking with the sales team, continuing to build rapport either through LinkedIn, Twitter, or move the conversations to email. All you need is a business name, and from there, you can connect professionally on LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other social platform the company is active on. The tradeshow can be the opener to building your own database of professional industry contacts.
Examine the B2B process in action
Tradeshows bring together industry titans. If your business has a problem, the titans will have solutions. B2B buyers’ decisions follow a process.
- Identifying the problem
- Laying out product specs needed to solve that problem
- Identify potential products
- Narrow down a list of vendors
- Then compare their offers
Steps three, four and five are handed to you on a platter at tradeshows.
The industry leaders on the show floor are there to showcase their products and services… The solutions to problems in the industry that they have already identified. The companies offering technical solutions may even be running workshops to educate their prospects about how their products work.
If you are doing a mystery shop style tour to explore what your competition is doing, be sure to follow the tradeshow etiquette which is generally not to interfere with the exhibitor’s ability to do business. In other words, don’t be interviewing them when they have prospects. Gather your data from a distance. Not in the booth.
Make More Meaningful Connections
The biggest advantage of tradeshows or trade fairs is the face-to-face nature of the events. People don’t like doing business with faceless brands. They much prefer to put a face to a name. Trade shows do that. It’s also a reason they make you wear a badge. Those are not just for security.
To make the most of the events, do your research beforehand. Many events have pre-event meetups such as breakfasts or lunches, and post-show drinks either in a conference centre facility if they have a bar suite, or somewhere local nearby.
These meetups are open to everyone (exhibitionists included) but the conversations will be more casual than those that would be held in the conference centre.
When attending post-show events for drinks, there is one golden rule. Don’t gulp! As much as you want to leave a lasting impression, do not let that be “the one who had too many tequila shots”.
Sip. Don’t gulp.
And don’t limit yourself to networking with either companies or individuals. Strike up conversations with as many people as you can. These are networking events. Just be sure that you don’t straddle too far into marketing instead of networking. Only those paying for a stall are permitted to pitch their services for direct sales.