A few years ago my wife started a purse business. She would sell them on Etsy, but also on local bazaars. She did quite well in a few, so she got a little overconfident and signed up for a brand new bazaar that was held at a pretty obscure location. Based on her previous successes, she didn’t think twice before forking the signup fee. It was a good thing for the event organizers to ask for advance payment from the vendors, because most of them didn’t even make their money back.
The problem? She didn’t do her research. She thought that all bazaars were just as popular, so she ended up wasting money and time. So how can you make sure you don’t make the same mistake at your trade show? Here I list a few simple steps you can take to get you in the right direction.
Set Your Goals First
So what is the purpose in you attending a trade show? Are you trying to find a larger clientele? Do you want your brand to be better known? Are you looking for potential partners? Make a list of every possible outcome you want from the experience—leads, possible partners, media coverage—and narrow your search based on those criteria.
Show exhibitor’s manuals will usually have a “Who Should Attend” section, so do your homework and see if this trade show is really relevant for your business. Of course, manuals are helpful, but don’t base your decision on them alone.
Do a “Background Check” on the Trade Show
Shows are pricey, so be picky! First of all, don’t rush into one just because you’re anxious for the experience, and if you have experience, don’t make the same mistake my wife made: take your time to make sure your next exhibit is something worth your time and money.
As you attend shows, take notes on them. Is this a show you would like to be part of? Why? Does it cater to your needs and goals? What success rate do the exhibitors have?
If you are looking for networking opportunities, review the list of vendors show's website. If you are after leads or sales, talk to people who exhibited in there before and see how they did. Whatever it is you’re after, take your time researching.
Colleagues and friendly businesses are helpful in pinpointing where to exhibit, but also be aware of what your competitor is doing. Try to find out if they’ve been to this show before. If they have, chances are they did quite well the first time around.
Finally, make sure there are not going to be calendar conflicts with other projects you are working on, holidays, local events, etc. that might affect attendance to the show or your ability to perform well.
You Can Never Do Enough Homework
But if after doing all your research you’re still hesitant, make sure you ask tradeshow associations what they would recommend for your goals and price range, visit the trade show you’re interested in a couple of times before you commit, and find as much data on it as you can.