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To Exhibit or Not Exhibit

Expectations, Goals, and Show Search Criteria

The overwhelming majority of businesses exhibiting at trade shows focus on obtaining sales leads. But that is not the only possible reason to exhibit. Other reasons include maintaining current business, increasing industry exposure, and making media contacts. You have to be clear about what you are trying to achieve with your exhibit. Answer these questions when establishing what you are trying to achieve:

  • Which initial goal(s) is most important to you: new business (leads), maintaining business relationships, creating industry exposure, or meeting media contacts?
  • What key industries should you exhibit in?
  • What show types should you exhibit in?
  • Who are the key prospects in each industry?

Depending on your market, you should also take into account what shows your competitors exhibit at. Sometimes having a competitor at the same show can be a big plus because it creates more awareness for your product type; this is often the case if you are offering something innovative. On the other hand, if you are competing with a market leader a bigger company that has roughly the same offerings that you do, going to a differnt show where you can be the only fish in your industry pond can be more important.

New Business (Leads)

If your business’s goal is supplying your sales force with qualified leads, find targeted exhibitions with large volumes of key prospects. The better defined your target, the easier this is going to be.

Most exhibitions claim they are the perfect place too get leads, A show that is serious about offering good lead-gathering opportunities, though, offers free or paid attendee-lists, exhibit hall receptions, and a variety of networking events.

Maintain Current Business

Exhibiting at trade shows to maintain current business is probably the easiest goal of all. Ask your important customers what shows they attend. Have their account manager call them directly and just ask. If you are in an industry with fewer personal sales contacts, you will have to resort to some time of survey. Send an e-mail or postal mailing. If you can, offer some time of incentive for every customerwho replies with his or her show attendance lists.

After you receive the show names, you have a ready -to-go list of shows to evaluate. If only a show name was provided, find a link to the show’s site by searching trade show in search engines and traditional search engines. Review the exhibition’s site, obtain exhibition data, and evaluate the individual exhibition opportunities. The primary component that thease shows must have is a large number of networking and socializing oppotunities.

Industry Exposure

If your primary goal is to further industry recognition by branding and building your image within the industry, look for exhibitions that offer a great deal advertising opportunities at reasonable costs. Sponsoring a networking event, contributing to event kits, or having your name printed on the event hotel’s key cards can be great ways of getting your name noticed.

Other examples are preshow e-mails and postal mailers, show floor and outdoor signage, show guide ads, show daily ads, prominent logo placement on the show’s website, and logo placement ob show lanyards.

Media Contacts

As an exhibitor, you should always have public relations (PR) initiatives for every exhibition. However, you should only define this as a primary goal when you are going to be making an important new or improved product announcement.

When you evaluate possible shows for this goal, remember that the highest concentration of media attendees tends to be at the larger, national shows. Other things to look for are spaces on the show’s website for exhibitor press releases, preshow networking portals, preshow availability of the press list with contact information to arrange meetings, an at-show press room to put press kits, and press conference facilities.

Exhibition Prospectus and Audit

After you have outlined your goals and are ready to start your show search, always obtain the exhibition prospectus. Exhibition information and attendee data provided in the prospectus will vary in detail and accuracy, but in most cases it will have facts and figures about attendee profiles, titles, purchasing roles, budgets, sales volume, and geographic location.

An exhibition prospectus may also include both package information and a list of marketing opportunities. Most of the time, you can easily download this information directly from the show’s website. When analyzing the data, keep in mind that the show prospectus is a sales and marketing tool of the show’s producer.

Exhibition Audit

Always ask if an exhibition audit of the previous year’s exhibition is available. The types of facts and figures provided are very similar to those in the exhibition prospectus, but exhibition audits are verified by a third party, confirming the attendee data accuracy by monitoring the show registration process and following up with attendees postshow.

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