This article is the first of a series geared towards expo newbies. Links will be included to each article, referring back-and-forth depending on where you are in the process.

I can assume, since you’re here, you’re looking to get into the trade show game. Well, I wish you luck in your exciting new endeavor! There’s A LOT to wrap your head around if you’re not already set up for this type of marketing. But, don’t let that hold you back.

The trade show experience has potential to be so much fun, once you get organized. Not to mention the ROI of a well-organized trade show booth. The only limitation is your imagination!

Here’s 4 factors to consider in your first task: choosing a trade show. Try to prioritize your goals without getting too overwhelmed by the budget at first. You can always do a pro-con list later.

  1.     Pick a Location: Closer to Home or Closer to Your Industry’s Mecca?

Do you already have an idea of where you’d like to do a trade show? They tend to cluster in bigger cities, but depending on your business model and goals, you might want to stay as close to headquarters as possible.

However, maybe you’re willing to head to a major city. Have you thought about Las Vegas? We are the “Trade Show Capital,” after all! Or, what about a city that is already a hub for your product –  in tech, fashion, health. There’s Seattle, New York, Los Angeles – if the larger scale exposure, and higher saturated competition suits you.

Wherever you go, you’ll get the chance to network your butt off with specially formulated encounters. How great is it to have a specific clientele funneled to you directly? Your attendance at a show could have HUGE benefits for your business.

  1.     Pick a Type of Show: “Trade-Only” or “Consumer” Shows

“Trade-Only” shows will be narrowed down to people in your specific industry, so be ready to bring it. Maybe you feel like you’re the best in the biz and you want to make sure more people know it. Who will you be bringing to this show with you? Make sure your team for this show is also the strongest sales team of your company. They should already have a winning personality for this B2B interaction.

“Consumer” shows are all about getting face time with everyday customers. These expos can be a more relaxed, entertaining environment, more like a convention. There are more direct, quick-and-dirty sales, as shoppers peruse. It’s a great way to build brand recognition and make a few connections with other vendors in the industry, especially if you become a regular. Consumer shows are also a great way to do some marketing research – get some great feedback on what works about your company/product!

  1. Do Your Research: It’s WORTH it.

Dig into the details of what show will work the best for you. If money’s tight, perhaps look at their entrance fee first and foremost. Then, set aside time to do some online research: look into history of the shows you like best: How long have they been running? What did attendants have to say? Did anybody post a detailed breakdown of their ROI from this show? Follow the show’s Facebook page.

Start letting those ideas flow as you get more familiar with it. The more exposure you have to the show’s vibe and details you gather, the more secure you’ll feel in your decision. Look at this as a fun, creative endeavor. Let your inner-marketing-guru come through.

  1. Give Yourself Enough Time

This shouldn’t be a hasty decision. Think of it like planning a wedding – a year out is a good time to start. Let this be an organic process so it doesn’t take away from “business as usual.”

If you haven’t attended many trade shows I HIGHLY recommend getting out there. Even if you have, it’s still in your best interest to attend a specific show you’re interested in and imagine you already have a booth there. This should be the first big step on your to-do list once you’ve made a pretty clear decision, prior to putting down any money.

My next article will be all about the experience as an attendee and some tips for what you should be looking for. It’s good to attend a show with your goals in mind – you’ll see things more clearly and be more aware of details to make your trade show experience everything you’ve dreamed of.

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