Making the Most of Trade Shows: By NOT Exhibiting!

Trade shows can be a great way to network with others in your industry and make some new connections with potential customers, suppliers and business partners — not to mention the ability to set up a booth and show the attendees what you’ve got. And analysts predict the trade show industry is set to see even more growth over the next few years.

For seasoned trade show attendees, making the most of your time at these events is a bit of an art. Business-to-business marketing firm Handshake has put out multiple articles on making the most of trade shows, including “22 Guerrilla Marketing Ideas for Trade Shows” and “7 Best Practices for Your Trade Show Marketing Strategy.”

 But here we’re suggesting a different twist on the traditional strategies. For some organizations or individuals — particularly those with a small staff and limited funds — we think it is possible to get more bang for your buck by NOT exhibiting; instead, simply attend the show and interact/network with people in the exhibit hall during lunches, breaks and between sessions.

Here’s why.

Most exhibit attendees know that those at the exhibits are there to sell. Many avoid approaching the exhibitors for that very reason. Exhibitors often end up talking to those they’ve already connected with — those who simply want to grab a free item and run — or each other. They’re trapped behind the booth and not able to walk around freely to engage in casual — and often productive — conversations with others in less obvious, but lower-pressure sales environments.

Again, this is primarily true of those with a small staff that can’t have people at the booth, out on the exhibit floor and in sessions. Some industry pros put the cost of setting up an exhibit into the tens of thousands of dollars. This might not be a major hurdle for some established businesses, and we’re certainly not suggesting that the investment doesn’t pay off. However, for a small company with a limited budget, you can have great marketing potential without having to shell out money that your small business may desperately need elsewhere.

Have you foregone a trade show exhibit opportunity in favor of just attending and working the crowd? Share your best practices here.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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