I'm going to write a multi-part Tradeshow Planning series based on my experiences. I plan all of the tradeshows for my group at work and that means tradeshows in States in the Western US. Mostly we exhibit at tradeshows in California, Arizona, and Washington. Last year we had one in Portland Oregon which was a blast! This year we have added shows to our list since we have a larger budget, and I got to choose which shows we attend out of a large group of potential shows. As you will see, budget is key in planning. But first, you must choose a show to attend!
You have probably already done this part, but if not, you must Identify your Target Market. Who are you selling to? Are you selling a product or a service? Do you want to sell to prospects who are in the area in which you live or are you willing to travel a distance? If you are willing to travel, your options for tradeshows widen. If you don't have much of a budget, I would suggest choosing a show that is nearby to cut down on travel expenses.
Budgeting will come in later, but you should still be keeping that in mind when picking a show to attend. Some shows cost a lot to exhibit at, and some very little. You must be concious of how much you are willing to spend and if you are willing to use it all for one show that could bring in a lot of prospects and leads, but they may not be the quality leads you are looking for, or if you would rather spread out the funds and attend several, smaller, shows that may not bring in as many leads, but those leads might be better quality, resulting in more sales.
An example is from a show that I've attended called Blizzcon (very fun). The exhibitors all are related to computers and gaming, and anything to do with Blizzard games. The exhibitors know that there are upwards of 20,000 people who attend this event, some people come with zero intention to purchase products, and others who are taking advantage of the sales. Even though the cost to exhibit is very very high, they know that they are going to recoup that cost with the sales that are made at the show, and the sales that are made after the show as a result of brand recognition and a trust that is formed during the show. We'll get into that later as well.
Once you have idenfied your target market you can research tradeshows that are geared towards that market, but are for your service or product. Look for trade organizations that represent the services and products you are selling to see if they have annual tradeshows. Contact your customers and find out if they attend any tradeshows and which ones they like the best. Customer opinions are a great way to go, they feel like they are extra special that you are asking for their opinion and if they see you at the show they recommend, you can almost guarantee a sale!
You want to pick a show that has a high volume of relevant prospects and one that has a good reputation. Those two usually go hand in hand! Most tradeshow organizers will have information on past shows like how many attendees per day were there, how many exhibitors, who the exhibitors were, etc. And depending on the show, you can find reviews of them online from both attendees and exhibitors. Definitely try to get that kind of information to determine if any direct competition went, and to get an idea of the types of exhibitors that could show up again when you go.
Once you have compared the costs, attendance, competition, and time, your choice will no doubt be a great one! Next up, creating your budget!