Small companies have the most to gain from exhibiting at trade shows. How much emphasis do organizers place on selling to small businesses as compared to the effort in recruiting their larger brethren?
I know from first-hand experience that trade show participation can be the most important aspect in a small company’s marketing arsenal. Back in the early 70’s, Bartizan introduced its first product, the device used to record a credit card transaction at point-of-sale known as a credit card imprinter. We were competing against four much larger companies, two of which were Fortune 500 companies. Our “factory” was my studio apartment. To make matters worse, our product was not really all that good, certainly not as good as those of our competitors. To say that we had two strikes against us was an understatement.
What we did have was a lot of elbow grease, an awful lot of good luck and the perspicacity to put nearly all of our meager marketing budget into trade shows. And did those trade shows ever produce results! We came face-to-face with buyers. We met “older” people who get a kick out of helping young people out, we became friends with other exhibitors who referred us to prospects, and we got to scope out the competition and decided, “Hey, we can do that!” Those Fortune 500 companies weren’t so intimidating when you saw them up close. Trade shows played a huge part in boosting our sales from zero in 1972 when we shipped our first product to $14 million in 1991 (adjusted for inflation).
According to Brand Strategist Bill Nissam:
“Nothing compares to face-to-face interaction and is the one medium (in your marketing mix) that’s measureable (ROI). Whether you are a small or large firm, attracting the RIGHT audience to your booth is critical. This means designing messages and images that create the “light-bulb” moment when someone walks by your booth. The attendee needs to clearly understand your value proposition in seconds and compell them towards your booth.If you are not attaining the right ROI in trade exhibitions, its possible you are at the wrong show or your booth presentation is sending the wrong message.” (For more, visit Bill’s blog at http://www.ibranz.com/blog/)
My advice to show organizers – not that anybody asked – is to make a real push to sign up small exhibitors. Your show can have an out-sized influence on their fortunes. And if it does, you will likely have a customer for life.