Trade Show Marketing: Why Exhibiting is Good for Small Businesses (Especially During Challenging Economic Times)
In a still-fragile economy many small businesses find it a struggle to survive.
In today’s uncertain economy, small business owners must adapt and consider new ways to market their products and services. Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way of doing exactly that.
Studies indicate that trade shows and exhibitions are chiefly valued amongst marketers. “High-priority marketing objectives for companies are building or expanding brand awareness (83 percent), new product or service promotions or launches (63 percent), reinforcing brand awareness (63 percent), promotions targeting specific business sectors (58 percent) and existing product service promotions (45 percent),” according to the Center for Exhibition Research.
“For executives identifying these objectives as high-priority, most (73 percent or more) rate exhibitions as highly valuable in helping their companies achieve these goals.
”Furthermore, if your company is already exhibiting, think very carefully before canceling trade show schedules due to budget constraints … Here’s why:
Trade Shows Resilient During Challenging Economic Times
According to a Center for Exhibition Industry Research study, continuing to exhibit during a recession makes sound business sense, according to recent studies. After analyzing traffic density, buying plans, audience interest factor, first time attendees, buying influence, and the average hours spent visiting exhibits, the research highlighted the stable nature of these metrics and the continued value of trade shows for exhibitors.
The study also showed that although attendees and exhibition space decreased during challenging economic times, key buyers continued to attend trade shows. Exhibitions continued to attract a high quality audience before, during and after economic recession – and the percentage of trade show attendees planning to buy remained high even during the toughest financial years.
The Power of Exhibiting Your Small Business
There are a number of compelling reasons why exhibiting is such an effective marketing tool.
1. Exhibiting allows a business to reinforce brand presence, position and reputation. It can be a cost-effective strategy, whilst offering significant and measurable return on investment (ROI).
2. Trade shows allow potential customers to come to you, rather than your business having to chase new clients.
3. A trade show is a great venue for small businesses to generate qualified leads and sales. Large companies are usually known by their business prospects, but potential customers might never have heard of smaller businesses, such as your own, even if you offer a product or service in which they may be very interested in reviewing.
Buyers are at trade show specifically to look for solutions to problems – and small business owners have a great opportunity to provide them with those very solutions.
Developing a Trade Show Budget
Now that you are more familiar with the value of exhibiting — even during challenging economic times — it is important to consider the actual costs of getting in-front of qualified buyers.If you are worried that trade show costs may be prohibitively high, however, consider ways to make your trade show budget dollars work harder and:
1. Shop around for manufacturers offering high quality but competitively priced banner stands. The same equipment can be used more than once, and can be refurbished if necessary.
2. Keep sales personnel to a minimum. Only send your most effective sales team members. A streamlined sales force should be able to cope with demand due to slight decreases in trade show attendance.
3. Purchase less space. You may not be able to showcase as many of your products, but you’ll still have a presence.
4. Contact key buyers prior to attending the show. Identify buyers you would like to meet ahead of time and schedule time with them at the show when possible. Communicate with them consistently through the year to develop brand equity and your in-person “meet-and-greets” will be more effective and productive.
Such a lengthy process is costly, both in terms of time and money. However, by using trade show exhibiting as a consistent marketing tool you move directly to a key part of the process – one-on-one contact with genuinely interested (and potential) customers.
Entrepreneurs: Why You Need To Exhibit At Trade Shows During The Recession
There can be little doubt that we are living through tumultuous economic times, in which many entrepreneurs are struggling to survive. Such difficult financial circumstances require entrepreneurs to adapt, and identify new ways in which they can market their products and services.
Trade shows offer a fantastic opportunity to do just that – even when marketing budgets are tight. And if your business is already exhibiting, you should think hard before canceling trade show appearances because of financial pressures.
Research Suggests Exhibiting is Recession Proof
The US-based Center for Exhibition Industry Research released a report in 2009 entitled The Effect of Economic Recessions on Exhibitions – the study compiled data taken between 1968 and 2007, and the results were surprising. By analyzing a range of key metrics including traffic density, buying plans, audience interest factor, first time attendees, buying influence, and the average hours spent visiting exhibits; CEIR discovered that economic recession had little effect on the value of trade shows for exhibitors.
The metrics remained stable – and whilst attendees and exhibition space did indeed decrease during economic downturns, trade shows continued to attract key buyers, whilst the percentage of attendees who planned to buy remained high, even during the toughest financial years. Exhibitions attracted a high quality audience before, during, and after recessionary periods.
Why Exhibiting is Such a Powerful Tool
There are various reasons why exhibiting at trade shows is such a powerful marketing tool. Exhibiting is a highly cost effective way of reinforcing a business’s brand presence, reputation and position – and it offers a substantial and measurable return on investment.
Whilst your business typically has to chase potential new clients to gain new custom, at trade shows potential customers come directly to you. Moving directly to a key stage of the sales process – personal contact with genuinely interested buyers – you are significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to secure a deal. Experts have estimated that it requires at least eight “touch points” (a touch point is a phone call, an email, or a meeting) before a sale is closed – a lengthy and costly process bypassed during trade show exhibitions.
Trade shows are a particularly useful place for small and medium-sized businesses to develop leads and generate sales. Attendees are actively looking for solutions to problems – and you have a great opportunity to reach out and offer those solutions, to people who may never have heard of you or your company.
A Limited Budget Shouldn’t Stop Your Exhibiting
If your business is, like many, facing financial difficulties during the recession, you may think exhibiting an expensive extravagance that you can really do without. It’s possible however to economize and reduce exhibiting costs, and ensure you still have a presence at trade shows.
Online you can source high quality but competitively priced exhibiting equipment such as banner stands – this equipment will last years, and can be refurbished if it becomes damaged or shabby.
Paying sales staff to work at your stand is one of the key costs of exhibiting. To reduce costs you can minimize the number of staff at the trade show by sending only your best salespeople. Using local sales personnel will cut down on travel costs.
It’s much better take less exhibiting space than to drop out of a trade show completely. If you hire less space you will not be able to display as many products, but by concentrating on marketing your best-selling product rather than your newest, you can still gain maximum benefit from exhibiting.
We wish all entrepreneurs the best of luck during these challenging economic times.