Trade shows as a means of promoting one’s business and brand have been around for centuries in one form or another. Trade fairs precede industrial revolution and while they looked much different from the trade shows we have today, the basic idea was still the same – gathering of “businesses” which are in the same field and which are showcasing their products and/or services in front of general public that is interested in what they have to offer.
In the modern world, they are still a fantastic way to promote one’s brand and business, even though many people are intent on labeling them as the dinosaurs of brand promotion. To them, you can simply show the numbers and educate them.
For someone who has just started their business, trade shows may be a bit too expensive to take part in as exhibitor. However, this does not mean that startup owners and owners of fresh small businesses have nothing to do at local (and not so local) trade shows.
Checking up on the Competition
The first thing that a startup owner can use a trade show in their industry for is checking up on the competition. If you attend the right trade show, you will see all of your competitors and your future competitors (read: the biggest players). They will all be exhibiting at the trade show and they will all pull out their big guns.
You will be able to see what they have to offer, what kinds of deals they have and what they are planning for the future (most trade show exhibitors show off plans for future endeavors). If you are smart, you will also be attentive of what the visitors to their booths have to say. Keep your ears open and learn as much as you can.
Finding Out what Customers/Clients Want
Another great thing about trade shows is that they are mostly attended by possible clients and customers in your industry, meaning your potential clients or customers. Do not be shy to engage people, ask them which booths they like, which exhibitors have caught their eyes and whether they are planning to buy from someone just because they saw their exhibition. You can also ask them what they like about trade shows and what they expect from their experience there. Remember, you are getting the info that will help you become the best possible exhibitor down the line.
Learning from the Big Names
As a part of every trade show, there will be seminars and talks given by the biggest players in the field and you need to attend these. You will find the schedule beforehand and you should do your best to attend everything that could be of use to you down the line. Sometimes these will be a waste of time, but more often than not, there will be a lot that you will learn and that might open your eyes to new practices and strategies. If you are good at networking, you can always meet the big players afterwards; let them know that you exist and that you might be coming for them in a few years.
Learning About Trade Shows
Finally, when attending trade shows, you will learn invaluable lessons that you will be able to apply later, when you become an exhibitor yourself. You can learn about setting up the most attractive expo stand you can; and you can learn about how to attract visitors to your particular booth and about how to engage them. You will also get the feel for the whole thing; what can be done and what should be avoided. It is a comprehensive learning experience and you need to be open to it all.
If you play your cards right and if you are not just a passive trade show visitor, you will have adopted a lot from just attending a trade show in your industry. You will learn the skills and the facts that will later help you promote your brand when you start exhibiting. And even if you don’t you will have done some invaluable reconnaissance that can only help you run your business better.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank has been active in the world of marketing for more than 10 years, mostly in the trade show industry. He is currently blogging about his experiences and insights. You can visit his blog – BizzMark Blog for more news and insights on business.