It's a safe bet that no matter what type of industry you're in there will be at least one tradeshow that will be applicable for your business. The question then becomes do you attend as a "visitor" or a "vendor"?
Obviously, being a visitor will be less costly and still give you the opportunity to network but it might not be a productive as being a vendor with a booth. Would that kind of investment be worth the effort? Here are some tips to help you focus on determining if your tradeshow sales efforts will provide a viable return on your investment.
The first step is to factor in all of your costs and expenses. These would include:
Floor space costs: What will you be charged by the organizers for booth space?
Exhibit costs: If this is your first time at a trade show you'll be building a booth from scratch. How much that will cost depends on the size and design elements.
Labour costs: When you bring your booth to the tradeshow there may be union workers standing by to assemble it or you may require your own staff for set up/take down.
Marketing: You need to advertise in trade magazines and the tradeshow catalog to let visitors know where your booth will be, as well as having marketing collateral at your booth.
Giveaways: What will you give away at your booth? Every visitor should leave with something that has your company logo, web address and contact info.
Booth hosts: Will you and your employees be manning the booth or will you have to hire local hosts? Or both?
Travel and entertaining: It's going to cost you something to get to the tradeshow, plus added costs for accommodations and food. You'll also want to include money for entertaining: drinks and meals for potential clients.
Contingency: On top of all those costs add another 15% to 25% to your budget as a contingency line item in case of extra expenses, which there will always be!
Set Your Goals
Now that you know what your hard costs are, what are your goals for the trade show? Do you need to land a certain amount of new clients? Are you setting up pre-orders for products? If this is a consumer show and you'll be selling your product directly out of your booth, then you should have targets for each day. Whatever those numbers are, you have to be realistic. It might be hard to gauge if this is a new type of trade show, but if you're setting up a booth at something like Comic Con in San Diego then you know you're going to have a lot of foot traffic!
Once you have those goals set, make sure your booth staff is aware of those and check in every hour to make sure they're hitting those goals. If not, you might need to ramp up the promotions and get your staff out on the floor.
There are no guarantees with a tradeshow. However, if you've attended as a visitor in the past then you know what works and what doesn't. Put those principles to the test in your own campaign.