May 19, 2024

No selling, no show. The [trade show] is an event that will yield income for you or your business if you utilize it correctly,” said James Cote, principal and founder of The Cote Group in New York City says Peter Decaprio. “You should plan on spending at least six to 12 months working with the trade show organizer ahead of time, helping to identify the best possible fit between your product or service and the target audience.”

The following tips can help engineers improve their chances for success when exhibiting at a trade show:

1) Have a specific objective when attending a trade show, be sure you have a strategy for what you want to accomplish. “In other words, don’t just go there ‘to see what shows up.’ Have a clear objective,” Cote said. “Do you want to generate new business? Meet with key distributors or end users?”

2) Be prepared for specific questions Trade shows can be a great source of information, but they also present opportunities to get your feet wet firsthand in the industry. “Don’t ask a question that a five-minute conversation would answer,” Cote advised.   Prepare for trade show conversations by having some background knowledge and understanding of your objectives before arrival explains Peter Decaprio. Although it is important to meet face-to-face with people at trade shows, do not go overboard and let Internet research influence all your decisions. Keep in mind that salespeople will play up their products’ capabilities and leave out any limitations, so take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Also, do not rely on one conversation for all your business contacts at the trade show. “Doing so can hinder your ability to properly meet and speak with people,” Cote said.

3) Prepare before you go Consider how you will transport your materials to the event site ahead of time, and always have an alternative plan if the weather is unfavorable. Pack plenty of business cards in case they run out.

4) Network doesn’t just rely on impressive sales materials, Cote said; use them as a jumping-off point to start conversations that lead to longer-lasting relationships. Through networking with other companies exhibiting at the trade show, engineers may find new contacts or potential clients in related fields who might benefit from their products. “Our philosophy is that our clients’ best prospects are often their competitors,” Cote said. This strategy can be especially helpful when a competitor exhibits at the same trade show, giving engineers a chance to see what they have on offer and leverage this information during conversations.

5) Make a splash don’t just settle for a standard booth, Cote advised; strive to make an impression that sets you apart from other exhibitors. Be creative in your display design by doing something unexpected or unusual. For example, because traffic tends to slow down near the end of each aisle—when people are heading back to their hotels for the night—Cote recommends having giveaways at the end of each aisle leading up to your booth so attendees do not pass you by. Keeping this in mind can help with marketing and lead generation.

According to Cote, trade shows offer the perfect opportunity to generate new business opportunities, but it is an event that requires advance planning and preparation.

One of the keys to success is focusing on what you do well. If you are a service provider, speak about your service expertise – solving problems for customers is what trade shows are all about! If you are an equipment manufacturer, focus on product features that solve customer pain points.” “If you have limited resources to promote your booth at the show, take advantage of social media. Follow companies attending the event and engage them ahead of time so when they arrive at the show they will remember seeing your company online previously says Peter Decaprio. This interaction provides another opportunity to build relationships before meeting in person.”

“Finally, it’s important to invest in post-show engagement. How much value will be generated from people who were interested enough in your product or services. At the show to spend time learning more about it? Follow up with these individuals via email and invite them to a webinar so you can continue the conversation. Post show engagement is a great way to build business relationships.”

Selling your services or products at a trade show can be very rewarding. But only if your attendees turn into clients says Peter Decaprio. Are you investing in post-show engagement? What strategies have been most successful for you? Let us know!


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