Trade Show Success: It’s Not Just About Sales

November 14, 2014

We’re excited to feature our second guest-blogger here on Breaking up with Paper. Today we’re hearing from Katie Hunt, founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp. Launched in 2011, Tradeshow Bootcamp offers webinars and in-person workshops to help creative entrepreneurs prepare for the wholesale market and use trade shows as their launching point. I feel like a broken record sometimes during our Tradeshow Bootcamp workshops, because I’m constantly telling people that their trade show success should NOT be measured solely by the number of sales they have at the show. Yes, we all want to make money (we’re not playing business here!), but trade shows are a major investment of time and money, so you really need to look at the bigger, longer term picture when calculating whether the show was valuable for you. In addition to sales, below are four key benefits that exhibiting at trade shows can offer your company.  These benefits are hard to quantify and may not immediately add to your bottom line, but they should be factored in when you’re setting trade show goals and evaluating the value of exhibiting.

Elements of Trade Show Success:

1. Feedback:

Meeting face-to-face with your customers is hands-down the best part about exhibiting at trade shows. You’re able to ask questions, get direct feedback on your products and services, and have more in-depth conversations about what your client is looking for. Using this time to conduct market research will allow you to refine your line and increase future sales.

2. Marketing:

Trade shows are a great way to enhance brand recognition and position yourself as a key player in your industry. By exhibiting, you’re networking with buyers, members of the press, and industry colleagues who are seeing your work, learning about your brand and likely spreading the word about your business via social media, blogs and traditional media outlets. Ensure your booth and marketing materials mirror your company branding, have press kits available that are tailored for the media and use social media before, during and after the show to promote your products & company.

3. Collaborations:

People prefer to work with people they know, like, and trust, and these important relationships are much easier to form and nurture in person. By exhibiting at trade shows, I’ve met and collaborated with sales reps, licensing partners, and new vendors. In the end, the results included increased sales, diversified revenue streams, and lower production costs.

4. Contacts:

Trade shows are the best way to get in front of a larger audience and meet with current and potential clients in one fell swoop. It is possible that you’ll speak with hundreds of people in a single day (collect those business cards!). Expanding your network of contacts will enable you to follow-up and build relationships with prospective clients well after the show is over. Always be sure to follow-up. Lots of sales are made after the show!   When measuring your trade show ROI, remember that sales are just one benefit among many. Keeping the big picture in mind will not only help you accurately determine trade show results, but also maximize your time at each show. Not only will you concentrate on selling, you’ll also be able to focus on having meaningful conversations, getting your brand recognized, and building new connections. If you have your own trade show experiences to share or any questions about this post, let us know in the comments below.  

About the Author:

Katie Hunt, @tradeshowcamp


Katie Hunt is the founder of Tradeshow Bootcamp (TSBC) and owner of Kelp Designs, a stationery studio based in Southern California. Katie earned a dual MBA in marketing and finance from Loyola Marymount University and has spent 15 years coaching small businesses. TSBC has worked with more than 375 companies and regularly brings together a wide range of speakers including manufacturers, buyers, sales reps, press and business experts. For more information, please visit: