How to Get the Most From Attending a Trade Show

You made the effort and attended the show, now what do you do with all of the information that you gathered?

Exhibiting in an industry show is the best marketing vehicle for suppliers and service providers to physically obtain access to you and other potential and existing customers. It is an excellent opportunity to display their product or service and obtain exposure to the largest number of buyers at any single event.

If an exhibitor's pre-show marketing strategy was well-planned, their display was impressive, and their exhibit staff performed well, you not only visited them at the show, but you also walked away thoroughly informed and maybe even impressed with what they had to sell or offer. The challenge for you (and them) is that often, what one exhibitor has to sell or offer may not differ a great deal more than what many other exhibitors have to sell or offer.

Thus, if you are planning to make a purchase, which product offers the most quality at the best price? For example, who can provide value-added items such as an extended warranty or reliable parts and service support? In short, which is the best deal that will give you the biggest bang for your "hard-to-come-by" buck?

Perhaps you may have been one of many who walked out of the show convinced that a product or service is exceptional and can provide real value to your business, but you either lack the funds to purchase or are simply reluctant to make any investments during these tough and uncertain times. What risks would you be taking if you purchase when you are simply trying to stay afloat? What can you do to minimize that risk? What new business might you obtain if you could expand your abilities?

In addition to these issues and challenges, you also need to know what to do with the multitude of business cards and brochures of new products and services that you collected. How will you handle the many phone calls from sales professionals who, with all good intentions, want to follow-up immediately after the show to win your business? Their goal will be to convince you that their product or service can help you become more productive and more profitable during these difficult economic times. How can you justify the time and the expense involved in attending the show? How can you take the knowledge that you obtained at the show to make educated decisions that will help your company move forward?

Below are a few tips that can help you achieve the most from attending a trade show:

  • Immediately after the show, record any relevant information and ideas about the moldmaking business you learned that can impact your own business in a positive way.
  • Go through the literature and business cards that you gathered and select those with whom you may wish to consider doing business.
  • Combine your brainpower. Within a day or two after the show, while things are fresh in everyone's mind, gather your troops for a brief post-show meeting with others who have attended from your company. Inform them that they are to come prepared with ideas, information and suggestions that they obtained from attending the show. Be sure to share your "trade show" objectives prior to attending so they will take notes at the show and will be prepared to answer the questions below.
  • Ask questions such as:
    • What new products/services were most impressive?
    • What did they see that was new?
    • What information did they gather that would help your company?
    • What did they learn about your competitors?
    • What did they learn about the industry as a whole?
    • What ideas did they obtain that can help expand your business? < li>What, as a group, do they think would benefit your company and justify the expense if you are considering a purchase?
    • What did they learn about what others are doing about foreign outsourcing?
    • Who was offering the best deal and who made the best impression?
    • Where might there be opportunities to form strategic alliances or make contacts where you can work toward a mutually beneficial business relationship, diversify your business, or maybe even consider a merger to help your company move forward?
    • Did anyone chat with finance companies to learn about what they are doing with other companies?
    • How can you leverage vendor expertise?
    • What new technology is available that you may wish to consider?
    • What, if anything, can you do that others are not doing to differentiate your company from your competitors?
    • How can you get new business? What "idea of ideas" can help you move forward?
  • Listen, and record all input. Decide what you need to consider putting into action, and what products or services might help you expand your business where you have the best chance of obtaining a substantial ROI.
  • Prioritize what you want to learn more about, put into action, or purchase soon or down the road.
  • Agree to an appointment with the salesperson. If they are proficient at sales, they will have done their homework and will walk in knowing a great deal about your company, your needs and your application. Listen to what they have to say. Then do your homework. After the appointment, ask for referrals and testimonials from their existing customers whose expectations have been exceeded. Call their existing customers and ask how their experience has been.
  • No doubt you will receive a multitude of phone calls in the weeks after the show. Often, these can be over-whelming, but you might want to keep in mind that salespeople are simply doing their job. If you are too busy to return their calls, are only mildly interested, not interested or moving in a different direction, simply delegate the task of returning their call to someone and save yourself, your staff and the salesperson a lot of time. Do keep an open mind however, before you say, "I'm not interested."
  • Rethink your entire business strategy.

Attending an industry show is one of the best things you can do for your company. Not only is it an excellent opportunity to see and touch the latest technology in your industry, but many also offer educational seminars to enhance your knowledge of the industry. You may even be able to earn continuing education credits by attending the seminars. Yet another benefit of attending a show is that you will be able to network with industry peers who are as anxious to talk to you as you are to talk with them.

There will be winners and losers in this economy for sure, but only those mold shops that attend trade shows to stay informed, be visible in the industry, arm themselves with industry knowledge and then take definitive action will have the ability to carry their organization into a successful future. If you want to increase your ability to remain competitive and end up a winner down the long road ahead, attend industry trade shows and analyze what you need to do to move ahead. It is an ideal vehicle to obtain the knowledge that you need to help you strategize, improve operations and make smart decisions.

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