Tech business owners must stay on top of the latest changes in the industry. Trade shows present a helpful way for staying current on what products are coming out and the latest technology developments. However, these events are also a good way to get the word out about your own tech business.
The average number of trade shows businesses attended last year was 12.7 national events within the United States. Even though trade shows occur all year long, summer is a popular season for attendance due to fairer weather conditions and ease of travel.
The U.S. conference and trade show industry is a $16 billion market. You can throw a lot of money toward trade shows without seeing results. Here are 10 definite things your tech business should consider before attending a trade show event this summer or having a presence at one.
1. Know Your Target Demographic
Before creating a presence at a trade show, renting booth space and spending money to send representatives to the site, make sure those attending the conference are who you want to reach. If you sell tech services to other business owners, then an event targeting the businesses most likely to use your services is a smart move. Start by surveying your current customers and digging into internal data to figure out who you serve. Then, research each trade show and their audience members before deciding which ones are worth attending.
2. Set Goals
Spend time setting some S.M.A.R.T. goals to ensure you know what you want to get from either attending or presenting at any conference. A S.M.A.R.T. goal has a few key features, including setting a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goal. Once you understand your goals for an event, it’s easier to decide if an event is worth the investment or not. If your goal is learning and the trade show offers courses on the topics you want to know more about, it may be a good choice. Read the literature carefully and ask past attendees what they got out of the event.
3. Develop a Strategy
Once you have a goal in mind, it’s time to lay out a strategy to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to learn about a new technology and an expert will speak at one event, but you also want to learn about a new software platform for your business that’s covered at another event, learn to delegate responsibility for attending the workshops. Leaders should attend the topics most vital to growth in your tech company, but other employees may be happy to go and learn more about other topics and report back with notes.
4. Understand Conference Demographics
Know how conferences and trade shows add up their attendance. If a family attends the event, they count everyone, including children who aren’t really interested in what you have to offer. They may count the number as four, while in reality you only reach one family. Think about the typical attendee to that event. Is it mainly businesspeople, or is it families and groups of people? Also, think about the different sectors which attend. If the conference is open to both businesses and individuals, but you run a business to business (B2B) model, then only a portion of attendees will have an interest in what you offer.
5. Set Your Own Schedule
If you attend a trade show, you’ll find they give you a schedule of events. Keep in mind that these are the available offerings. If you try to attend every event on the agenda, you’ll burn out fast. You may need more networking time than they allow, too. Keep in mind that you can skip anything you don’t feel is necessary for your growth. Instead, set up a chat over drinks with a top buyer or to pick the brain of someone you’d love to have as a mentor.
6. Price Everything Out
The cost of your booth is only a portion of the overall cost of attending a tradeshow. You must also factor in travel for those running the booth and perhaps an exhibitor fee for each person, depending upon the rules of the show. You’ll need signage that people see both up close and from a distance. Use your signage to stand out from the other booths rather than blend into the background. Digital signage is one way of reaching people with your message and grabbing attention.
7. Use Technology to Your Advantage
As a technology business, people will expect you to use tech to your advantage. For example, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are both growing in popularity and can be used to grab the attention of attendees. Imagine a potential customer stopping by your booth and interacting with your signage by pointing their smartphone at an image and transporting to a new world. Or, you could create a game based around what your product does and allow those who stop by your booth to don VR headsets and take part.
8. Take Freebies
If you set up a booth, or just attend but want to connect with other attendees, take plenty of giveaways to hand out during the conference. Your promotional products should tie into what you do in some way. If you create smartphone apps, pass out a small stand for smartphones with your company name imprinted on the back. If you work in cybersecurity, offer a small promotional cover piece for laptop cameras. Think about how you can tie what you do into your freebie.
9. Train Before Manning the Booth
Those who represent your brand at your booth should know your business inside and out. If a potential customer has a question, you want the person manning the booth to answer the question knowledgeably. Personality matters when it comes to who represents your company with potential clients. A big smile and a warm greeting go a long way. Would you want to do business with a company where the representative ignored you for their cell phone or didn’t know much about the product? It isn’t cheap to send employees to a trade show, so make sure you send the ones passionate about your brand.
10. Gather Information
Whether you have a booth at the event, or you simply attend, set up a system for collecting information from those you connect with. For a booth, offer a contest so users can either scan a QR code and enter an email or create a drawing and gather names, emails and phone numbers. The prize should relate to what you do so that the contacts you gather are interested in what you have to offer. If you offer a prize that’s too general, you’ll gather people who aren’t really interested in what you have to offer.
Once you return home, inform those who won the prize as well as those who didn’t. Invite everyone to sign up for your newsletter and offer a discount for anyone who chooses to utilize your services.
Getting the Most Out of an Event
Event attendance is expensive, so getting the most you possibly can out of attendance, or a booth presence is important if you want a good return on investment. Each time you attend an event, you’ll learn a little more about what works best for your customer base and how to get the word out about what you have to offer. The best conferences are ones where you both learn something new and reach potential customers. Look for opportunities to do both and your investment will be far more valuable than if you only focus on one aspect or the other.