Are Trade Shows Beneficial for Startups and Small Businesses?

Trade shows have served an immensely important marketing purpose for many organizations over the years. According to industry research, companies typically hope that these events will allow them to increase sales and lead generation, improve brand awareness, and enhance product knowledge. Simply put, experiential marketing can offer opportunities that can’t easily be replicated through other forms of promotion.

So while a lot of businesses in the digital age have abandoned more traditional forms of marketing in favor of more tech-savvy methods, there are some techniques that are thought to be classic for a reason: they work. But do they work as well for startups and small businesses as they do for more established companies and larger corporations?

Spotlight on small businesses and startups

According to the 2018 Small Business Profile compiled by the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the United States is home to 30.2 million small businesses. These organizations actually represent 99.9 percent of all US businesses and they employ around 47.5 percent of America’s workers. If you’ve been feeling like your small business status puts you in the minority, keep in mind that there are countless Americans who are facing the same challenges you are. It may seem like you’re going head-to-head with those corporate giants, but small business owners and employees are actually far more prevalent.

The number of small businesses formed in the US is on the rise, as well. New research revealed that 7.4 percent of all American job seekers chose to start their own companies in the first quarter of 2016. And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of self-employed individuals in the US has increased by nearly 150,000 since 2014. While there are many reasons for this, the mere fact that it’s happening shows that there are a lot more organizations that likely need help marketing themselves.

Of course, there are numerous ways to go about promoting your organization in the digital age. SEO, social media, and pay-per-click advertisements may already play an important role in getting the word out about your business. But just because you’ve learned to stand out online doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got it all figured out. In many cases, embracing the old along with the new may end up being the most effective marketing strategy.

Why trade shows still matter

Although the commitment to present at an expo can be time-consuming and require a bit of a financial investment, there are still a lot of good reasons why opting for a trade show booth is a great idea for new and small businesses.

The opportunity to network with other small and local businesses is huge. You might not otherwise have an chance to forge meaningful partnerships or make connections with potential clients if you rely only on digital means of promotion. It’s often a more effective way to gather leads, as well, which is key for businesses that are eager to grow but struggling to make it happen. Lead generation is still a stumbling block for more established businesses; other techniques tend to be more time consuming and come with far less of a payoff. Identifying pre-qualified leads at trade shows is usually more efficient than cold calling and even inbound marketing strategies.

Another reason small businesses and startups would be wise to attend trade shows is the chance to build their brand awareness. It’s an easy way to get your name and products out there, as they’ll both be literally right in front of people’s faces. Although the internet provides us with a lot, it’s also an incredibly saturated sphere. By making impressions in real life, you may actually be able to stretch your dollar further than you would by focusing on web ads or search engine optimization. That face-to-face interaction is often far more meaningful to attendees than a comment on social media. Social media, of course, can be very helpful, but its value doesn’t negate the value of more traditional forms of marketing like trade shows.

A distinct advantage of trade shows for startups and small businesses, in particular, is that you can obtain instant feedback. Instead of having to make educated guesses about whether your SEO strategy is really working, you can actually get to communicate with potential customers and take in their response. If they’re passing right by your booth, seem confused by your marketing, or offer helpful suggestions, you can immediately get some answers that can help your business grow. You’ll be able to identify the areas that need improvement and assess which efforts seem to be working. That can allow you to take your business to the next level much more quickly. Plus, you can give yourself some feedback after checking out the competition and conducting some constructive comparisons.

Startups and small businesses might be inclined to dismiss the traditional trade show as an outdated marketing tool. But the truth is that these events are still massively valuable to businesses of all sizes. If you decide they aren’t an essential part of your promotional strategy, you might end up really missing out.

Staff Account