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Trade Shows: The Impact That Had or Didn't Have On Your Business

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tiagosoares17.22

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So, the title of this thread says it all.

What results did you get out of trade shows? What are your thoughts on getting a booth on trade shows related to your business?

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I am starting out, and after a lot of research and talking with qualified and successful entrepreneurs, I realized one of my best chances to start "fast" is by getting into a trade show.

I also was thinking to go into markets that are not fully crowded, but after some research, another "basic" thing hit me: "Go where the money is!".

And that is the reason why I'll be choosing to sell my product in the biggest economies.

To get a booth at a trade show, and to travel to that country, it will be a substantial investment for me.

With all that said, what pieces of advice, lessons, and experiences have you to share with us from trade shows you have attended?
 

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Note: This was years ago and in an industry that is now on life support...

I found our trade shows pretty worthless and far too expensive for any benefit.

I did our major trade show twice and instead of finding new customers, our existing customers stopped by and said "hello!"

When I clarified that our growth was predicated on user traffic (not companies to feed that traffic upon) I stopped going.

Sure saying "hello" to your clients is nice, but not at a cost of $30K for 3 days. When the show is in Vegas or some other heavily unionized place, be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.

Need a crate hauled in from the shipping port? $100.
Need electricity? Pay an electrician $500 for a 30 second hook-up.

It's a f*n racket.

Obviously things might be different per the respective industry, especially if you're launching something new and innovative, but that was my experience.

If you meet ONE person at a trade show (say a big distributor) it could really get the ball moving.

It's a big decision that needs a really hard analysis of cost-benefit.
 

Walter Hay

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I have exhibited at trade shows in several countries, and agree that not only the extras, but even the basic essentials are a racket.

After experience at several shows I decided to spend the money where I could target the spend rather than relying on the effectiveness of the show promoter's advertising.

Walter
 

MJ DeMarco

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After experience at several shows I decided to spend the money where I could target the spend rather than relying on the effectiveness of the show promoter's advertising.

@Vigilante has a story...
 

Crisdamien

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Note: This was years ago and in an industry that is now on life support...

I found our trade shows pretty worthless and far too expensive for any benefit.

I did our major trade show twice and instead of finding new customers, our existing customers stopped by and said "hello!"

When I clarified that our growth was predicated on user traffic (not companies to feed that traffic upon) I stopped going.

Sure saying "hello" to your clients is nice, but not at a cost of $30K for 3 days. When the show is in Vegas or some other heavily unionized place, be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.

Need a crate hauled in from the shipping port? $100.
Need electricity? Pay an electrician $500 for a 30 second hook-up.

It's a f*n racket.

Obviously things might be different per the respective industry, especially if you're launching something new and innovative, but that was my experience.

If you meet ONE person at a trade show (say a big distributor) it could really get the ball moving.

It's a big decision that needs a really hard analysis of cost-benefit.


The tradeshow business should be the racket then. Lol. My slow lane job had me going to those quite a bit and it is quite honestly corporate speed dating. =/
 

SparksCW

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We sell products (retail B2B mostly) and have attended a few of the bigger retail exhibitions, the first two we did were a waste of time and money but mostly because our stand was poor.

The third one we went all out on the stand and sold a fair amount over the 3 days and easily covered costs.

Fourth not so good, fifth we changed stand and the show was terrible - but so was the stand.

This year we've for some reason gone bigger, bigger stand, bigger costs. But the stand quality is much better and we've put more thought into what we are displaying and how we are displaying it.

I'm in quite deep on the next two shows so hoping they pay off. If they don't then I think I'll look at other ways to spend the £10-15k these two shows are costing us.
 

tiagosoares17.22

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There are two lines of thought:
1) Start Small and Do The Unscalable - like getting in front of customers, attending local events, etc, etc.;
2) Start Big and Go Play with the Sharks - attend trade shows, go where the money is, travel abroad, etc;

I'm in the wine sector. The local market is full of producers. This is a very crowded space in Portugal.

I have been to many restaurants talking about my wine and all that, but they are just not so interested because they are served and/or because they only buy from X distributor and some other acquaintances.

After many attempts and very little success, I asked a few people what would be the best thing to do (when I have very limited resources). Believe it or not, the answer was to get into a trade show or two.

I also listened to dozens and dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs who launched a product in a crowded space (some of them from the great podcast How I Built This.) Most of the answers came down to: "our business took off after attending X trade show and closing a deal with Y."

I was thinking to sell mostly directly to customers, because it might end up being more lucrative (but it is more time consuming), and people advised me to not waste much time with that if my goal is to play BIG.

I'm in no rush, but at the same time, I would like to not "waste" more time and money on things that bring little to no ROI.
 

Arun Siva

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Trade shows are not meant for all industries. Unfortunately in the manufacturing and heavy machineries industry (old school face to face big Egos) trade shows are literally the only way to foster your credibility and the only way to Gain clientele due to the nature of the business. Other then these intrikate industries which require a presence (more like dog and pony show) I agree with the latter that trade shows may seem AS an opportunity cost but END up a a sunk cost
 

JohnD Realestate

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Note: This was years ago and in an industry that is now on life support...

I found our trade shows pretty worthless and far too expensive for any benefit.

I did our major trade show twice and instead of finding new customers, our existing customers stopped by and said "hello!"

When I clarified that our growth was predicated on user traffic (not companies to feed that traffic upon) I stopped going.

Sure saying "hello" to your clients is nice, but not at a cost of $30K for 3 days. When the show is in Vegas or some other heavily unionized place, be prepared to pay an arm and a leg.

Need a crate hauled in from the shipping port? $100.
Need electricity? Pay an electrician $500 for a 30 second hook-up.

It's a f*n racket.

Obviously things might be different per the respective industry, especially if you're launching something new and innovative, but that was my experience.

If you meet ONE person at a trade show (say a big distributor) it could really get the ball moving.

It's a big decision that needs a really hard analysis of cost-benefit.
Digging up this old thread. All very true.
Reading that post reminds me of looking for an industry that has a problem.


My wife biz revolves around trade shows and I’ve helped out over the years in vegas, NYC, Atlanta, Dallas. Can’t tellyou how many times I heard people say “this show sucked” I have to stop doing these, I didn’t even break even etc.

Years ago she started her own mini show for a year or two and banded together with a bunch of cool small brands.

She shut it down when the big companies asked her too...she’s a favorite of the shows always up front and in a good spot.
So a few months ago she started that up and we did the same thing again this week. Last night she told me she wants to continue it. So this week we did westchester Long Island and philly all one day shows
My wife the serial entrepreneur.

Unions are going to be tough of course. I was a partner in a large NYC event space that had trade shows and the unions made our lives miserable bc we were non union. Thinking we will stay out of the big cities. Hope for the best.

But the customers...buyers and sellers are egging us on begging us not to shut it down when the big guys open up.

gave me an idea that big trade shows are an easy target and maybe some others out there should give a try to what we did.
We got 9 sales agencies that rep about 50 manufactures and charged them just the bare minimum. B449F60A-4AEE-4FB1-A969-E2E2EB3CD2B2.jpeg
 

WestCoast

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I've made and cemented some incredible relationships at trade shows all over the world. Big fan.
I've also exhibited at more than I can count... which is always a bit numbing.

Yes, a lot of them feel the same.
Yes, they can be expensive.
Yes, they have an opportunity cost (sometimes a significant one).

But, I always found them motivating. To talk to other people hustling.
To see other people developing new products.
To see new marketing methods.

I am not a very social person, but even dinners after were always great.
Building relationships with suppliers.
Meeting new vendors.
Even talking to competitors.

It all can happen at a trade show, and is a great place to network with people who are hustling too.

Also, internally:
Flew a bunch of our team to various ones, and even the inter team bonding was great.
Sometimes just being on the road, with new eyes for a few days - generates new ideas.
It is a reward for some of the staff too, and I found that to have value.


I was in a specific industry, so I'm sure it's different for all of them.
But, I found them great (if tiring).

I will still attend one every year or two to keep up with friends and business contacts in our industry.
Can't wait for some of them in 2021.
 

JohnD Realestate

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I've made and cemented some incredible relationships at trade shows all over the world. Big fan.
I've also exhibited at more than I can count... which is always a bit numbing.

Yes, a lot of them feel the same.
Yes, they can be expensive.
Yes, they have an opportunity cost (sometimes a significant one).

But, I always found them motivating. To talk to other people hustling.
To see other people developing new products.
To see new marketing methods.

I am not a very social person, but even dinners after were always great.
Building relationships with suppliers.
Meeting new vendors.
Even talking to competitors.

It all can happen at a trade show, and is a great place to network with people who are hustling too.

Also, internally:
Flew a bunch of our team to various ones, and even the inter team bonding was great.
Sometimes just being on the road, with new eyes for a few days - generates new ideas.
It is a reward for some of the staff too, and I found that to have value.


I was in a specific industry, so I'm sure it's different for all of them.
But, I found them great (if tiring).

I will still attend one every year or two to keep up with friends and business contacts in our industry.
Can't wait for some of them in 2021.
Yes I too love the energy and connections to be made.
Good point.
 

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MJ DeMarco

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Yes, a lot of them feel the same.
Yes, they can be expensive.
Yes, they have an opportunity cost (sometimes a significant one).

But, I always found them motivating. To talk to other people hustling.
To see other people developing new products.
To see new marketing methods.

I am not a very social person, but even dinners after were always great.
Building relationships with suppliers.
Meeting new vendors.
Even talking to competitors.

Yes, I remember I stopped going as an exhibitor, and started attending.

You can still get some trade show benefits without paying the hefty price tag of exhibition.
 

JohnD Realestate

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Just realized today as my wife and I are planning the next event for 3/9/21...
She was leaning towards wrapping it up soon, most likely as the vaccinations grow pandemic will recede and the old established shows return. That’s what we were thinking at the beginning. But lately we’re getting a ton of feedback, mostly keep it going.

the event is very low cost to the companies invited. On paper we don’t profit from organizing it.
However it gives us a lot of control/leverage in the industry. Which means we can profit long term from that status...as long as we don’t go the way the other shows went.

So we’re going to put a bit more effort into making it more valuable to buyers/exhibitors.

I can’t help but think that some of the bigger shows out there like this one are so vulnerable to industry insiders. Most of the shows I know are run by people in a service sector. They hire folks with knowledge of the industry but usually those hires aren’t the top of the food chain. And a few years into the trade show biz they are def a bit out of touch.
That’s what sucks about the shows. There is good stuff at shows to be sure. How to capture that and keep out the riff raff.
 
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