As a first time exhibitor, entrepreneur Max Boehlke learned a lot. As he found out, attending trade shows can be pricey, but the benefits are countless. For example, says Boehlke, they provide "incredibly valuable marketing testing." You can not only have contact with thousands of potential buyers, but also with lots of "business consultants, product developers, and national representatives [who] come to the show looking for new products or lines to promote."
It is, nonetheless, important to know what to expect at a trade show when it comes to numbers, both in costs and in potential leads and revenue.
Looking at the Calendar...
The best time to start planning a trade show is about 6 months before. That way you can do all the research needed, get your budget planned out, figure out your trade show booth needs, etc.
Two months before the show, begin advertising. Social media is free, so use it, but don't abuse it. You don't want to be known as the exhibitor that spams. Instead, give advice on whatever your company's focus is, that way people will see you as a helpful brand. Keep in mind that the ideal ratio of being helpful to pitching your product is 80/20.
… And the Clock
A delicate way to promote your booth is to give a helpful and informative answer to somebody's question on social media and then invite them to visit you at your booth instead of aggressively asking them to buy your product. Don't forget to add your booth's number and location on your posts.
Once you're at the show, calculate that each visitor will take approximately 10 minutes of your time. Having several staff in attendance can maximize the number of visitors you can have, but keep in mind that for each staff/visitor you will need 50 square feet of space. Don't overcrowd your space. It’s not only uncomfortable, but it doesn't reflect well on your company.
So How Much Is It Going to Cost?
Although you can figure out the cost of the trade show by looking at the exhibitor's manual, adding the booth design, materials, and assembling (unless, of course, you’d rather go the more cost-effective route and rent), we mentioned previously how there are unavoidable costs that you may or may not be aware of, but that add up. Relying on an expert in the business can save you time, money, and stress, especially if you’re a trade show rookie.
The biggest portion of your budget will go towards your exhibit space, which will be anywhere between 28 and 35%. Travel, entertainment, and shipping costs will be around 30% of your budget, while show services will constitute approximately 19%. While the look of your booth—exhibit design—is the most visible part of your trade show experience and what will draw the most people, it will only total 12% of your expenses.
But, Is It Worth the Cost?
Absolutely. You will now have access to thousands of possible clients — on average, 10% of every person at the show will be your potential audience. If the show attracts 20,000 people, 2,000 of them could become leads for your business! You will also be able to network with other businesses and save money on each lead that you close. For example, closing a field lead costs on average $3,102, while a trade show leads is $2,188, a 29% saving!