Trade Shows on a Shoestring

Too many businesses, small and large, forego the trade show and business expo because of the perception, and sometimes reality, that events like these are cost-prohibitive. But with some thoughtful planning, it’s easy to participate in a trade show on a shoestring. Here are four simple things to do to make your next run at a trade show cost-effective and productive. 

Targeting. In this first step of planning, you’ll target a specific kind of trade show. Limit your choice of expos to those which don’t require huge travel outlays. If it’s so far away that you’ll need airline tickets and expensive ground or air shipping, stay home. Better to spend just a tiny bit more on your portable and reusable display than on airfare. Get out the maps and determine how far you are willing to send your exhibit and stay within that distance. Secondly, attend only those shows (within your travel radius) that offer worthwhile returns. If it’s a local event but usually only draws a few dozen people, it’s likely not worth your time. Limit your efforts to shows with reputations for getting the contacts and and securing sales.

Advance marketing. No-brainer, right? In a day when print media is a secondary and even sub-par form of marketing, your best bet at advance marketing is social media. With a local trade show on the docket, let your friends know of your participation, invite them to attend, and perhaps even offer a gift or discount if they show up to support your business. A booth with a steady flow of traffic is always more appealing to a potential customer than one that looks empty and uninteresting. This is about as inexpensive as it gets in terms of driving people to your booth.

KISS. You’ve seen the booths that overwhelm the entire environment of the expo. They will attract a certain kind of attendee, but the understated, classy, and well-presented booth is going to attract the loyal kind of expo participant. Your booth design should be simple and clear. Your product or service should be the focus of attention, not loud music, cheap giveaways, or clowns bearing balloons. Try some low-cost lighting to highlight your display or sample area. Attractive, portable, and lightweight flooring can lend an air of comfort, warmth, and elegance to a booth and even attract customers subconsciously on its own (who wouldn’t love a nice soft floor after walking around on a convocation floor all day?).

Giveaways. Giveaways are too often synonymous with throwaways. Cheap pens, plastic cups, and refrigerator magnets are all found in the dumpsters at the end of the expo. Rather than wasting money on giveaways, try selecting an item from your inventory that’s actually worth having, one of the pricier items, and invite passersby to register for a drawing to win the items. You’ll never have to worry that your giveaways are ending up in the garbage!

Trade shows are worth your time, if you target them and your clientele correctly, have an elegant display, and focus your budget and energy on making the connections with the people who matter. Keep the costs down, the smarts up, and you’ll have a great experience at your next show.