Startups at trade shows

I am a startup – should I participate in trade shows?

As a startup, your major challenge is to build credibility – other people might not yet have heard of you and it is difficult for them to trust you with their business and money.

Credibility build-up over time, but it might not come as fast as you wish.

Reaching out to prospects over the internet is fairly easy but, once again, it doesn’t really help building up trust and credibility. There is nothing like a great face-to-face discussion with a potential customer.

But where could you meet prospects that both have the time & interest to listen to your pitch? At trade shows!

Why startups should NOT participate in trade shows

B2B companies spend in average 39.2% of their annual marketing budget at trade shows. It is hard to compete with it!

But this isn’t the main reason why you should not join trade shows: you just don’t have time!

Trade show success doesn’t come from showing up on the event’s day. It is a long process of preparation, planning, budgeting, team building, etc. Even post-event there are many things to do! You will need to organize your leads, follow-up quickly and keep pushing to convert prospects into customers.

If you cannot invest a large amount of time, you should probably save your budget and use it for some other campaigns.

Why startups SHOULD participate in trade shows

As mentioned earlier, trade shows are exceptional as it gives you the opportunity to meet with potential customers, face to face, at a time they are looking for products such as yours. You will never find a better opportunity elsewhere.

But exhibitions are great on many other levels! Exhibiting at trade shows helps you build a brand and promote your products. It enables you to see what competitors are doing, what novelties will be launched and how other exhibitors deal with their visitors.

But most of all, for startups, exhibitions are a wonderful platform to gather feedback – you meet with your right customer target and give them product demo, ask them questions, evaluate their needs as well as obstacles that might block them from working with you.

For all these reasons, startups shouldn’t miss an opportunity to participate in a trade show!

Ultimately, should startups join trade shows?

The answer is YES, but. Before signing for a booth at some exhibition, go through this list of requirements:

  1. either exhibit at an event you have already visited yourself or contact past exhibitors / buyers to get their feedback – don’t invest in an event without knowing it’s real potential, especially if that is the only event you will attend this year.
  2. study the traffic – who will attend this event? Will you really find your buyer personas there? No reason to spend a lot of time & money at a single event if you have no chance of finding the right people there, even if the event is made for your industry.
  3. make a complete budget – booth rental usually represents no more the 20% of the total expenses for a trade show. Predict your expenses in terms of flooring, electricity, internet, decoration, marketing collateral, giveaway, hotels, plane tickets, shipping fees, meals, snacks, drinks, parking, etc. Once your budget completed, you will have a better picture of the risk VS potential for this event.
  4. allocate people and resources – trade shows are really complex to organize, there will be a million things to do before, during and after the event. Make sure you can spare these resources. If you can’t allocate sufficient manpower to prepare, give it up for this time, you will participate next time. A trade show booth is a window to your brand: don’t damage it because you “don’t have time” to do things correctly.

What’s next?

We have prepared a list of resources for startups to organize their trade show booth efficiently. Go through these links, there will be a lot of things you probably wouldn’t have thought about!

Before a trade show

During a trade show

After a trade show

Overall management

Good luck with your next trade show!

The Exhibitor.

I am a startup – should I participate in trade shows?
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