Trade Show Planning Part One: Know Your Goal

For many retailers and manufacturers, the holiday season is a busy time of year, but after the holidays pass, it might be a good time to start thinking about exhibiting at trade shows in the upcoming year.

Today I’m going to speak generally about planning for a trade show, and in future blog posts I hope to go into more detail and even get into my specific experiences coordinating for trade shows like Book Expo America and Natural Products Expo West. I hope these posts will be relevant both for small business owners who are considering their first trade show exhibit, and also for first-time coordinators working at larger companies.

The very first thing you should do, arguably before you even decide to register, is think about your goals for the show. Trade shows can put you in touch with new buyers or they can create media buzz. They can also introduce you to vendors, and even give you a sneak peak at what the competition is cooking up for the coming year. Once you are there, it can all be pretty overwhelming, so it helps to have all your goals in mind through the planning process.

If your goal is primarily to make new contacts that will lead to future sales, then you may wish to take a minimalist approach to your exhibit. Concentrate your budget on creating a professional look with quality sales materials, and allow for a comfortable meeting space within your booth. In this case, the aim is not to be flashy in order to draw in the wandering reporter, but rather, to give you a place to bring prospective clients. Once you’ve got them, you can send them home with just the right amount of follow up information.

On the other hand, you may have an innovative new product that you want to show off. If you are sure that you have something that everybody is going to want, something that people will be talking about after the show, then by all means focus on creating an artistic space that will wow the wandering writers and media types. The aim here is to capture the attention of passersby and lure them to your booth for a sample of your wares.

It doesn’t hurt to put your goals for a show down on paper. Something like, “At this show I want to make a dozen new sales contacts or clients” or “I want to create media buzz about my latest product.”

Once you have the goal in mind, you can start a preliminary budget. I’ll be talking about that in my next post.

Photo courtesy of New Hope Natural Media

Photo courtesy of New Hope Natural Media