It’s no secret that trade shows are the perfect opportunity to network and grow your business. But as a startup, it can be difficult to discern when and where to attend. Larger companies have a big budget to invest in trade show services and custom booths, while startups have to make strategic decisions about how they spend their coveted dollars.
Although there are dedicated startup trade shows, if you’re trying to make headway in an industry, you’ll have to attend one of the larger ones eventually. The keys to making the most of your budget is knowing which ones to attend, when, and most importantly, how to make the most of your experience.
Below, we’ve outlined four tips for entrepreneurs and startup employees to consider before signing the dotted line for a trade show.
1. Perfect Your Pitch
If you want to turn your idea, product, or service into a full-fledged successful company, start with refining how you explain it – your elevator pitch. There’s an age-old saying that if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough. This is especially true for startups. No one knows what you do better than you, so putting yourself in an outsider’s shoes ensures you use easy-to-understand language.
Learning how to clearly communicate without technical or industry jargon starts with knowing your audience. You should answer questions like:
- Who is our target demographic (person, company, title)?
- What keeps them up at night when it comes to their business?
- Can we solve this issue for them?
- How can we communicate our company on a human, easy-to-understand level?
Once you’ve answered these questions, your next step is determining the product life cycle. You need to know how the product will be created, dispersed, and received by customers.
Knowing this information inside and out will guarantee you can answer your prospects’ toughest questions at the event. Confidently answering attendees’ questions builds trust, which leads to relationships and ultimately, sales.
2. Bring the Right People
While the “big boys” can stock their exhibit with a slew of sales reps and marketing professionals, the same can’t be said for startup companies. Especially if the show is far from home, your company has to spend its already limited budget on flights, transportation, accommodations, meals, and of course, labor and overtime.
Plus, it’s likely that you will have a smaller exhibit than the industry leaders, meaning space is limited on the floor. A crowded, over-staffed booth can come off as desperate and unprofessional.
That being said, be selective in who you bring to the show. Your most experienced and successful salesperson should make the list, since it’s likely he or she knows how to strike up conversations and classify someone as a lead. Use your best judgment, and let your employees know that who works the show is strictly a financial decision.
3. Focus on Sales
A common mistake startup companies make at tradeshows is focusing on finding a team of investors rather than building sales. Although investors are important, having a history of sales and success is what will attract the top shareholders down the road. You must have sales in the pipeline at the very least or a successful record at best.
Your best customers will likely turn in to advisors, mentors, and advocates, but taking your relationship to that level starts with a sale. That’s where tradeshows come in; they’re the best opportunity to form connections and prove your value. Keep a steady eye on sales and relationships at the show, rather than scouting out your next big shareholder.
4. Get Out of the Booth
Startup companies exist because of someone’s dedication to hard work and passion for problem-solving. These inventors are the ones that get in to the weeds of every detail of the company, from product packaging to hiring the right people.
While these characteristics are what leads to success, having a “heads down” approach is detrimental at a tradeshow. These events are where entrepreneurs need to be the most outgoing version of themselves. If that’s not in their DNA, they should bring the company’s most extroverted sales rep to be the face of the brand.
Take time to step out of the booth, meet with other exhibitors, and attend keynote and educational sessions. By branching out and roaming the halls, you’ll be enlightened to learn about the industry around you. While you’ve been steeped into building your company, the field around you continues to change. These sessions and conversations just might lead to an improvement for your own company that you wouldn’t otherwise have known.
Attending tradeshows isn’t a decision startup companies should make on a whim. Careful planning and strategy should be a part of the process, and that starts with your booth. At Exhibitus, we can help you build the perfect trade show booth that fits right in your budget. We also have extensive rental inventory that might be the more cost-effective option for startups. Contact us today to learn which exhibit path is right for you!