Make your next trade show the business opportunity it truly is.
By Richard G. Ensman Jr.
It’s that time of year: Your mailbox is filling up with those colorful mailings about your upcoming trade show, and you’re not sure whether to go or not.
After all, it is expensive. First, there’s the cost of travel, seemingly increasing every day, at least in terms of air travel. Add lodging, meals, some incidental entertainment and registration fees, and a typical trade show can easily set you back several thousand dollars.
Attendance might seem something of a luxury … until you take a closer look and realize that the trip is not only worthwhile, but actually offers you some of the best profit-building opportunities around.
Need more evidence? Here’s a checklist of the potential benefits of your upcoming trade show, from A to V (vacation). No vague promises here—we’re talking about bottom line, dollars-and-cents results. Take a few moments to think through each item on this checklist and mentally calculate the economic benefits your trade show can bring you. And then bring the checklist with you when you go.
Economic benefits checklist for trade shows
A > Advertising. How much profit can you generate through just one terrific advertising idea you pick up through your trade show’s literature exchange, from one of the exhibit booths, or from a targeted conversation with a peer?
B > Barter. A popular practice these days! How much in fees can you save by exchanging products or services with colleagues you meet during your trade show? Working partnerships can save time, money and labor, especially in uncertain economic times.
C > Consultation. Consultants can cost $500 a day and up. So what’s the economic value of picking the brains of the top people in your industry—people you’re bound to meet in the hallways and forums of your trade show?
D > Data processing. Technology can be intimidating. But how many dollars and how much aggravation can you save with the help of computer experts, service representatives and seminar leaders you meet during the trade show? What’s the economic value of learning about the incredible array of electronic resources open to you, from people who’ve already done it?
E > Employees. If you’re searching for new employees, how much in recruiting costs can you save by scouting around your trade show hall? How many pre-employment costs can you cut by learning about good recruiting practices from your peers, and where the valuable personnel resources are?
F > Files. Spend well-planned time at your trade show, and you can walk away with well-organized files on everything from business fundamentals to the most recent advances in your industry. What’s a well-stocked library of personally researched reference information worth?
G > Group rates. Check them out. How many opportunities for group rates—on everything from travel to periodical subscriptions to training packages to day-to-day business perks like shipping and distribution—can you find? How much could they save you over the next year?
H > Health. Costs are skyrocketing every year. What can you learn about health care insurance trends in your industry at the trade show? Can you pick up information on new insurance packages for employees?
I > Ideas. Ideas abound at trade shows, from peers, from competitors, from vendors, from top-ranked industry speakers. What’s the economic value of just one top-notch productivity-boosting idea for you?
J > Jobs. Trade shows are also full of leads on contract and sales opportunities, and new profit centers and partnerships. And since you’re face-to-face, things can move very quickly.
K > Knowledge. Seminars and workshops can easily cost several hundred dollars a day. At your show, top-flight seminars cost no more than the trade show registration fee. How much can you save by getting a year’s worth of education in a few days? And perhaps more important, what’s the value of one new insight if it leads you to new products, new markets or new technologies?
L > Legal. How much can you save in potential legal fees by participating in risk management and legal forums at your trade show?
M > Marketing opportunities. How many marketing leads, sales or direct response programs or promotional opportunities can you uncover at your trade show? Are there industry programs already in place just awaiting your participation?
N > News. If you read 50 or 60 of the nation’s top business periodicals regularly, you may be able to stay abreast of news important to you … or you can hear a synthesis of the latest trends and activities from a group of people who are in the same business that you are.
O > Organization. Learn about the latest tips and techniques in goal setting, time management and personal productivity—for a more organized desktop, streamlined work habits, and more available productive time each day.
P > Products. How many cutting-edge new products or services can you identify during your time at the trade show? How much profit could you earn by introducing just one new trend-setting item to your product line?
Q > Quality standards. Use your show to understand the latest regulations and standards recently introduced to your industry. Staying on top of these trends can eliminate major hassles and delays in the middle of a project.
R > Recognition. Issue a news release to your local media, letting your customers and your community know that you’re participating in a vital educational experience, and how you’ll be better able to serve them. Make the most of your attendance by actively participating in seminars and workshops—or offer to make a presentation or participate in a panel discussion. If your trade show has an awards program, make sure you publicize your winning entries to your customers, just as the trade show organizers will publicize them to your peers at the show.
S > Supply. Visit the vendors in the exhibit hall, and find new sources of supply. You may find the supplies you need at a cheaper cost, or with a faster delivery, or in greater variety. You may find the fabrics, equipment or accessories you need to start a whole new product line, or make the products you already produce that much more efficiently. You may also find a new business partner.
T > Tax tips. What’s the potential value of just one outstanding tax tip uncovered during a business workshop? Can you claim more deductions for your investments in new equipment? Find a tax-deductible (and charitable) use for your unused or obsolete inventory?
U > Underwriting opportunities. Many of your peers are underwriting public events or sponsoring charitable activities, becoming visibly active in their communities. After learning about their undertakings, ask yourself: How much customer or client traffic can you build by taking on one quality underwriting activity that’s already worked for someone else? How much will your employees appreciate your involvement in the community they live and work in?
V > Vacation. Last but assuredly not least, a trade show is time away—a chance for you to break your usual routine and refresh yourself. Visiting area attractions and social explorations have their own benefits, but attending your industry’s trade show is also an excellent way to step back from daily operations and paperwork and take a more objective look at what you do, and how (and why) you’re doing it.
If you attend your show with a list of specific objectives in mind, you can come away with ideas and concrete plans that you can start implementing as soon as you get back to the office. Instead of asking yourself if it’s worth it, you probably should be asking yourself if you can afford to miss it.