Should I Market My Business in a Trade Show or Expo?

The first question to answer when considering participating in a trade mxl tv or expo is what do you hope to achieve? Why are you considering doing this show in the first place? Do you want to sell product? Do you want to book parties? Do you want to recruit others into your business? The answers to these questions are important as they will help you determine return on investment and risk potential.

Don’t let these terms scare you. All I’m talking about is you determining whether or not this show would be a good investment for your business. Is it worth the risk? Every show I’ve ever considered costs money. It also costs time. Make sure the show potential is worth risking both these commodities.

For instance, say your goal for the show is to book parties. You make approximately $200 at your average party. The expo will cost $500 for a booth. You also need to add up costs for literature (brochures, business cards, flyers), decorations, samples, give away items, and anything else you might use in your booth. Also consider other expenses like gas and child care. Say everything totals about $1,000 to do this expo. To break even, you will need to book at least five parties.

How do you know if you can achieve your goals? As is the nature of direct sales in general, there is no guarantee. But you can do your research and figure out what is realistic. Look around at the shows in your area. If you are not sure where to start, try the website of the nearest convention center. Take a look at their calendar of events. You can also look at your community calendar. Depending on your product or service, you might also consider a search for local craft fairs, state fairs, or chamber of commerce events. If you have already found a show and are looking for more, you can ask the producers of the show if they do any others or could refer you to others.

Once you find your show, get all the pertinent details besides just the cost to participate. If it is not already in the show literature, ask someone involved what the estimated attendance is. Knowing how many people are attending can give you an idea of whether you will be able to reach your goal during the show. Will you be able to talk to enough people to book that many parties? Can you physically sell enough products in the allotted time to break even?

Breaking even is the starting point. The show should at a minimum pay for itself. The beauty of direct sales is that every contact today can also be a customer tomorrow. Going back to our example, say you are pretty confident you can book at least five parties. But you are not sure of more than that. And you are also wondering if it would be worth the effort to only break even. Those four parties will pay for your show, but you will have the opportunity to book more parties from them. Those additional parties are your profit. Look at the show as your starting point, not just a one day event. This is your opportunity to add to your client list.

If you are not sure you can accomplish your goals and offset the investment, you can look for ways to cut your costs. An easy way to do this is to find partners. Share your booth with other people in your line of business. This can be especially helpful if the show is several days long. Although you will be dividing the leads you get from the show, you are also dividing the risk. Another way to cut costs is to negotiate the price of your booth. This will not be possible if the show is very popular with vendors and sold out. But if you come across a smaller show or, perhaps, a new show, you might be able to get yourself a deal. This is very effective in the week before the show. A show producer would rather have those last few booths filled at any cost rather than empty with no revenue at all. Just make sure you are prepared to loose out if you wait too long, and the show is full.

If you have not personally attended the show previously, you may consider attending it as a guest first. This allows you the opportunity to get a feel for the show. Does your product or business fit in? How have other vendors set up their booths? What seems to work well for traffic flow and what does not? If the show has an entrance fee, ask to see the show director. Introduce yourself, and tell the director you are interested in being a vendor at her next show. Often this not only gets you in free, but results in a guided tour of the show where you are shown the benefits of being a vendor. This is also a chance to ask her personally any questions you might have. For instance, how and where do they advertise the show? You can also (subtly, of course) ask some of the vendors what they paid for their booths. If you get different answers, you know there may be room for negotiation.

Are you ready to get out there and participate in a trade show? This is an exciting opportunity to market your business. The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you are to make the show a success. Once you have decided to participate and have chosen your venue, the next step is to plan your campaign. On to Part II.

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