It’s not just suppliers that must prepare for a trade show. Buyers must also take steps to ensure they get the most out of the experience and come away with valuable information and/or contacts that will help their business.
Here are some ways buyers can do this:
Identify the goal: Why do you want to attend this particular trade show? Are there certain suppliers you are hoping to meet? Do you want to find new products for your company? Are you just starting a company and want to see what the business climate is like?
Identify your target suppliers: Are you looking for product suppliers? Investors? Intermediaries like shipping or escrow companies? Narrow down whom you wish to speak with, so you can spend your time at the show efficiently.
Create an introduction: The suppliers will see hundreds of people during the show. Distinguish yourself by having a couple of lines prepared that says who you are and what you want. After the introduction, hand over your business card. An example: “Good morning. My name is John Smith, and I’m from BusyCorp. I’m looking for a widget supplier that can handle bulk orders and ship internationally.”
Bring business cards and flyers: Don’t burden yourself with too much merchandise – you are not a supplier that booked a table. However, make sure you have enough business cards, and/or a simple flyer with you so suppliers can follow up after the show. A flyer reinforces who you are and what you are looking for, and the card should have all your contact information, including your social media sites.
Calculate the cost to attend against expected ROI: Travelling to attend a show can be expensive. Calculate your costs, and measure that against the objective. In this case, the ROI is not measured in dollars, but in achieving the goal set earlier.
Social media: State your intention to attend on social media and use the event’s hashtag. This will attract suppliers you may not have heard of; the supplier can reach out to you directly and ask for a meeting at the event.
Phone calls: Call the suppliers you are most interested in and set up times to meet at the show.
Arrive early: Trade shows get busy and crowded quickly. Arrive early to spend quality time with potential suppliers.
Represent your brand: Wear your company’s branded shirt or jacket. If you do not have branded clothing, dress in a way that best represents your company, and shows suppliers that you are a serious professional looking to do business.
Get a map: Some trade show floors are huge. Get a map of the vendors and locate the ones you most wish to speak with. Make a plan of action so you can find and visit them efficiently.
Have a collection system for data: Every vendor will have something for you, be it a business card or sample. Bring a bag with you so you don’t wind up being uncomfortable, awkwardly carrying handfuls of samples and flyers around the floor.
Social media: Post that you attended and tag the suppliers you met. Use the event’s hashtag.
Follow up: Be proactive about contacting suppliers that interested you. Follow up to do business, get more information, or network.
Calculate the costs vs. the ROI: How much did it cost in travel, meals, accommodations, and printing business cards and flyers? Did you achieve the stated goal by attending? Was it worth the cost? If so, use a similar model for future trade shows. If not, figure out what went wrong and make adjustments. Perhaps you must cap a meal allowance for staff, or encourage shared accommodations while traveling.
Trade shows can be a lot of fun and are a nice break from daily life in the office or on the manufacturing floor. However, buyers must take steps before, during, and after the event to get the full benefit of the show and to ensure it helps your company move forward. With a few simple steps, you can get the desired result you want from your next trade show.