Trade shows expose you to the successes of other tech startups and help you make connections in the industry. They are a chance to get your brand out in the bigger world and capture the attention of buyers. Having a booth at a trade show also gives you an opportunity to try out your sales techniques and see what your target audience responds to best.
Around 82 percent of trade show visitors are directly involved in purchase decisions. This means you’ll reach buyers and likely collect a few sales each time you make an appearance. However, trade shows take time and money, so you may or may not be ready to hit the circuit with your sales pitch.
Start by making a list of pros and cons for each trade show you’re considering. Crunch the numbers as far as how many attendees are expected and how much it will cost you to set up and run a booth. Include any training costs in your calculations. Here are six reasons why you should attend a trade show and two why you should not:
You Should: Network With Others
Running a business is hard work. Only about 50 percent of businesses survive to the five-year mark. Part of the reason may be due to lack of knowledge about how to run any type of company, but particularly a tech business, where competition is fierce and the marketplace changes rapidly.
Trade shows provide an opportunity to network with like-minded company owners. You’ll meet people who’ve been in business a year and people who’ve been operating for 30 years. You can learn something new from each one of them.
You Should: Test Digital Signage
Some tech businesses have a retail store or an office where they entertain clients. Digital signage pulls in foot traffic and highlights what you’re working on at any given time. However, it’s hard to know what resonates with your target audience. What wording should you use? How big should the sign be?
A trade show is the perfect place to test out your theories in real time and see what works and what doesn’t with your demographic. If you add wording to a digital sign and it isn’t drawing people into your booth, change it and see what happens. If the colors aren’t noticeable from a distance, make more adjustments.
You Should: Create a Branding Strategy
Before you attend your first trade show, you should have a strong brand strategy in place. Know who you are as a company and what your mission is. Train anyone representing you in your booth about your business philosophies and goals. What is your customer service model, and how does it reflect your brand? Remember how much people love stories and tell yours through your booth setup and displays.
You Should: Attract New Customers
If you still need to attract customers and get the word out about your brand, then a trade show is the perfect venue for a tech startup. Around 4.1 million marketers attend trade shows each year, opening the door to a wide array of exposure. No matter what you’re selling, you’ll meet at least one or two buyers who might be interested in your product.
It takes time, money and effort to market via trade shows, but the value is in more than just the customers you gain. You’ll make connections that lead to more business down the line.
You Should: Fit the Event to Your Budget
Tech startups often get going on a shoestring budget. That means you may not have a lot of money to attend the biggest conference out there or invest thousands of dollars into a booth display. However, you can certainly find something that works with your marketing budget, even if it’s just a local business event and you set up a folding table and professionally printed banner.
Going to large, national conventions takes time. You’ll need to send several people to run the booth and pay their travel expenses and per diem. You’ll also have the costs of leasing booth space and buying displays. On top of that, there will be work lost while those employees are away representing your brand. At first, it might be smarter to choose a local event or two and invest in those until you have a larger budget.
You Should: Discover New Talent
A big challenge of startups is finding the best people in that line of work. Attracting top-notch candidates and filling open positions can mean the difference between success and failure for your tech biz. When you attend trade shows, you’ll meet other people in the industry, some of whom might be looking for a new job. This is your chance to showcase what makes your business special. What is unique about your company culture that might attract top candidates over bigger firms?
You Should Not: Worry About Appearances
Don’t attend a trade show simply to keep up with your competition. Your competitors may have been in business longer than you or may not make the wise decisions you do. Also keep in mind that while they are attending the glitzy, big trade show, you could go to four smaller ones and make more and different connections.
You Should Not: Waste Your Time
If you aren’t prepared, don’t go to a trade show. Your staff must be fully trained, or they could leave a negative impression with buyers. If an attendee has a question, your team should be able to answer it immediately and drive the conversation forward. This requires hours of training and choosing the right people to represent your brand. Don’t waste your time attending a trade show if you aren’t truly ready to put your product out there.
Don’t Ignore Trade Shows
As a small startup, you can’t afford to ignore trade shows. You just have to be smart about the way you approach them. Once you’re fully prepared, test the waters at some smaller events before moving on to the bigger shows and larger audiences. With preparation and perseverance, you can use them to your advantage and boost your business to the next level.
Lexie is a freelance web designer and UX strategist. She loves all things design and spending time with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.