Trade show conferences are excellent opportunities for small companies to increase brand awareness and meet potential business partners. Unlike most other forms of small business marketing, trade shows offer the invaluable advantage of face-to-face interaction. This means that small exhibitors will be able to personally engage with attendees and promote their brands by word of mouth.
According to Industry Market Trends, data from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that 87 percent of attendees share information they learned at a trade show, and 64 percent will spread their knowledge to at least six people. These figures demonstrate that small exhibitors could convert attendees to brand evangelists through effective trade show strategies.
Additionally, trade shows are ideal for smaller companies in that they offer highly cost-effective lead generation opportunities. CEIR's research revealed that it costs 22 percent less to reach out to a potential customer at a trade show than through standard calling campaigns.
Find the right conference
Large events might have greater attendance numbers, but small exhibitors could find it difficult to make themselves known at these conferences. As such, they could benefit by getting started at smaller trade shows where attendees will be more likely to notice their exhibits.
Speaking to IMT, Michelle Bruno, principal of content marketing firm Bruno Group Signature Events, recommended that smaller exhibitors "look for shows where you aren't just a small fish in a very large pond - smaller shows that might be more vertical or targeted to a very specific industry."
Exhibitors should also be sure to carefully review the details of a trade show, such as the characteristics of expected attendees, before signing up to participate in it. The best business opportunities are found at conferences that attract an exhibitor's target audience.
Focus on originality and staff training
Small exhibitors' trade show budgets will likely pale in comparison to their larger counterparts, so the former group will need to pursue event solutions that are both original and affordable. If small exhibitors focus on creating a unique, engaging trade show experience, they may be able to generate just as much trade show traffic as larger exhibitors.
A small exhibitor's success is largely dependent on booth staffers' personalities and skills. Attendees are attracted to exhibits staffed with friendly, enthusiastic individuals. In addition to staffing their booths with the right people, exhibitors should train staff members well before the event date. Booth staffers should learn how to draw attendees' attention and engage them in meaningful conversations.
"Be original. It's not so much that you need to have the 20-by-40-foot booth. What you need is enough people skills to connect with people and have conversations," Linda Bishop, founder of consulting firm Thought Transformation, told IMT.
Trade shows can benefit businesses of all sizes, but small companies in particular could gain from the face-to-face marketing opportunities that conferences provide. To maximize the positive outcomes of a trade show appearance, small exhibitors should plan early, find the right event and focus on offering attendees an original, engaging booth experience.