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The importance of exhibiting at trade shows
Jill Odom | April 4, 2018
Ariel interior Photo from the may 2018 Chicago trade show

Photo: Wikipedia

Home and garden shows are a dime a dozen with most being based on a city, state or region. They can fall in almost any month and provide unique opportunities to landscaping companies.

If you’ve never attended a trade show as an exhibitor, there are many benefits to reap from having a presence at one of these. Below are the pros, cons and how to make the most out of one if you decide to become an exhibitor.

Pros  

The advantages of attending the right trade show are numerous and can overlap some, but here are a handful of reasons you should consider participating as an exhibitor.

Interacting with customers face-to-face should not be considered overrated. Sometimes chatting with potential customers in person can be far more effective than any cold call or email blast.

You can also quickly tell which individuals are ready to pull the trigger on a project and are in the market for a landscaping company. Typically, the consumers who are attending a home and garden show are ready to buy. Those who are still shopping around can help serve as leads for you to reach out to later on.

Dorene Schuster, co-owner of based in Greenleaf, Wisconsin, often participates in leading seminars at home and garden shows.

“People will take your card at the show, they’ll call and say, ‘I saw your presentation, I was inspired,’” she said. “Even at the show they’ll say, ‘I love what you are showing us, can you come to my house?’ So, a lot of work comes from the seminar.”

She says they tend to get 15 to 25 leads per seminar.

Being present at trade shows can help with your company’s brand awareness and help you get your name out in front of your target audience. Giving away items with your logo on them is both a method to draw people into your booth and to help them remember your name after the show.

Other perks of exhibiting at trade shows include the chance to gain insights on the industry by seeing who else is there and what trends appear to be on the rise. While some of the other exhibitors may be your competitors, others might be possible future business partners, so don’t miss the opportunity to network yourself when there is a lull or during booth set up or break down.

Cons

Like any form of marketing, exhibiting at a trade show is going to come with its own set of costs.

Trade shows can be cost-effective compared to other advertising methods if the proper research and planning is conducted. There is a steep upfront price tag you have to be comfortable with, including renting the space, paying for travel, lodging and meals while at the event.

How elaborate you get with the size of your booth space and what you plan to decorate with can also raise the price tag of exhibiting. The size of the booth depends on your budget, desired objectives and personnel capabilities. If your main goal is to generate new leads, you need to make sure your booth is open and inviting, not congested and cluttered.

For some companies, having a strategy for a home and garden show takes place a year in advance. While you may not need this much time, you do need to take the time to train your selected employees on proper booth manning tactics, pull together sufficient literature for this targeted audience and possibly order your customized tchotchkes.

If you are currently struggling to find time for just the day-to-day aspects of the business, you might not be ready to dive into the trade show pool until you have gotten your ongoing workload under control.

How to be successful

Simply being present at a trade show is not enough to get the most out of your exhibitor experience, so it will require planning in order to get the maximum reward for your investment of time and money.

Set objectives

Man outside looking at custom exterior water feature

Booths can be as plain or as elaborate as your budget and/or imagination allow.
Photo: Matt McGee/

The hardest task of planning a trade show exhibition is what your goal is. Yet this is the most important one because without it, you will not be able to measure if your participation was a success or not. The offers the acronym to set SMART goals. SMART goals are sensible, measurable, attainable, realistic and truthful.

By evaluating your expectations against the limitations of the show, you can set realistic goals. Knowing what you’re wanting to achieve will also help in training your staff who will be attending.

Engage the audience

People generally pay to attend trade shows, so take advantage of this and train your team on how to be charismatic and appealing. Employees who look like they don’t want to be there will not encourage anyone to linger at your space.

Once you have attracted visitors due to your display or interesting contest, your salespeople need to ask questions first before launching into a generic pitch of your services. Being listened to from the very beginning will help customers remember you later on. As they talk with the attendees, your team should be able to determine which people are the truly promising prospects.

Trade show studies have found that 80 percent of show attendees remember more about the salespeople manning the booth than the booth itself. Your success at a trade show rides largely on the talent and knowledge of your staff. Because of this and the level of investment in trade shows, it is advised not to send rookie sales members to man a booth.

The main objective for your sales team is to come off as open, confident and positive. You want attendees to see your employees as someone worth knowing.

Follow-up

It is highly unlikely you will be able to sell a job in the middle of the trade show, so it is actually after the show comes to an end that you will be able to begin to convert those leads into sales.

Having a game plan as to what to do with these collected leads before the trade show ever starts is important, otherwise your time and money could end up being wasted.

Attendees respond favorably when there is prompt follow-up, so strive to your leads within two weeks of the show ending with at least a thank you email, letter or phone call.

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