The fall is not only a busy time for production, but it’s also when some of the most important trade shows of the season occur for the routing, woodworking, sign, and fabrication industries. Either as an attendee or an exhibitor, trade shows are valuable arenas for networking, learning, and purchasing. When done right, attending or exhibiting at a trade show can offer the greatest return on investment with your marketing dollars and time.

#1 Networking with Peers– Either as prospects, current customers, or competitors, industry trade shows bring together people with common interests. These interests result in shared knowledge and experiences and networking with attendees and exhibitors can help you stay abreast of the latest market forces affecting your business. Not only does networking allow you to learn from others, it allows you to provide knowledge and insight as well, thus increasing your personal or corporate brand as a valuable partner.

#2 Face time with potential customers– In the digital age the majority of research is done online prior to a purchasing decision. However there is still nothing as valuable as face-to-face interactions with potential customers to really get a feel for what they are looking for in a product. With the right line of questioning and thoughtful attention to what a prospect is saying, a skilled sales person will be able to zero in on the needs of that prospect, and the chances of a sale are increased.

#3 Check out the competition– Of course a major reason for attending an industry trade show is to check out the latest innovations of any competing companies. What new products are they releasing? Are they shifting their target markets? Have they formed any strategic partnerships that might impact your business? Perhaps there are new players emerging that you had yet to consider. Oftentimes we can become bogged down in the day-to-day running of a business and we lose the pulse on the competition. Trade shows allow one an opportunity to get a feel for where their business stands, in relation to their competitors.

#4 Product demonstrations– For any manufacturing or shop trade show, product demonstrations are a key draw for attending and exhibiting. Usually a company looking to make a major machine purchase would need to travel to a distributor or manufacturer to witness a machine in action. Arranging these demos can be difficult and time-consuming. Exhibiting at a trade show allows a company to demonstrate their products to a greater audience, in a shorter time span. Conversely, it allows an attendee to see demonstrations of competing products and to make comparisons between them, without the additional travel or appointment time.

#5 Create or strengthen relationships with suppliers– Trade shows offer the perfect place to look for new suppliers or to strengthen relationships with current contacts. How many suppliers, vendors, or customers do you have contact with whom you’ve never met in person? It’s always nice to put a face to a name or a voice, and trade shows allow you to do that. These interactions can help build trust in a relationship and facilitate collaborative problem solving to increase productivity for all parties in the relationship.

#6 It’s fun!– Trade shows allow attendees and exhibitors alike to interact not only on the show floor, but also in the numerous social events usually offering by the trade show organizers. Networking in a more relaxed setting can turn business contacts into friends, furthering strengthening the relationship. Not to mention the prizes and giveaways often present at a trade show; going home with a little swag never hurts!

So if you’re unsure whether exhibiting in an industry trade show is worth the money, or if attending a show is worth your time, consider that there truly isn’t an opportunity to interact with so many people in such a short amount of time as a trade show. It truly offers the greatest ROI, paying dividends in industry insight, contacts, and ultimately, sales!


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