How to Make the Most of your Trade Show Experience

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Trade shows can be a powerful marketing and sales tool for your business. From large industry-specific events, like the NWFA Expo taking place in New Orleans this month to the many local and regional home shows in your area, each is unique in its audience, purpose, and benefits.

Events like these are filled with the latest design trends and solutions for your business. Many companies plan product launches to coincide with the larger trade shows, so you see design trends come to life in real time. Whether you check out a new line of wood flooring at a booth or learn about a new finishing technique in an education session, you surely will walk away with some inspiration.

So, how can you make the most of your trade show experience? Whether you’re an exhibitor or an attendee, the value you get is directly related to the effort you put in. Take into consideration these tips when mapping out your trade show strategy.

For Vendors/Exhibitors

Commit Early – Don’t let exhibitor opportunities sneak up on you or, worse yet, pass you by. Most shows occur annually, so you already should be aware of this year’s dates. Plus, committing early can sometimes save you money on registration. You will have ample time to plan your marketing and sales strategy to get the most out of the investment.

Bring Your A-Game – Just showing up isn’t enough to ensure success. Create a plan for your booth setup, what materials and branded items you want on hand, and who you will send to represent your business to other vendors and attendees.

Set Clear Goals – Without tangible (and realistic) goals, how will you know if your trade show experience was successful? Before the doors open on day one, be clear about what you hope to accomplish and have a plan that will put you in the best position to reach those goals.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive – Trade shows are designed to drive members of your target audience directly to you. But to capture their attention and spark conversation, you need to have a proactive outreach strategy. What can you have at your booth to draw people in? Games, prizes, and giveaways can help make you stand out. Be sure to also “step out from behind your booth” to partake in other aspects of the trade show. Take advantage of any vendor networking receptions, and make the rounds to visit other vendors, too.

Treat It Like a Treasure Hunt – Embrace the lifelong learner mentality and push yourself to find new ideas, tools, and products to help serve your customers and improve your business. This is an especially great opportunity to hunt for new products and design trends in wood flooring.

For Attendees

Know Your Purpose – Lose the mindset of being “just an attendee.” You are a critical part of the event. And it’s an investment for your business and your own time to attend a trade show. Be clear on what you hope to gain from this experience, then plan your actions accordingly. Know the schedule, show up early, and stay late as needed so that you get to experience it all.

Show Up Ready to Learn – Think about it this way: your customers are relying on you to get as much value out of this trade show as possible. Because this is the value you can, in turn, deliver back to them. They need you to identify new design trends, test new products, and connect with other businesses.

You Are Your Brand – Assume you will be making lots of first impressions and having meaningful conversations. This means picking out attire that will represent your brand in a positive light. Wearing branded apparel isn’t just for exhibitors. As an attendee, consider a polo shirt or jacket with your company’s name.

Take Following-Up Seriously – As you connect with other businesses and vendors at a trade show, you must live up to your word about following up after the event. At a minimum, a thoughtful email thank you note will reinforce your connection. If you talked about scheduling a meeting, do it. Or, if you have a follow-up question, ask it.

Consider this advice as you map out your trade show strategy for 2024. Whether you’re exhibiting or attending, a ton of value can be gained by attending these events with the right approach and mindset. Most importantly, have fun and be authentic.

Brittany Stout is the builder specialist and designer at Touch of Color Flooring, a family-built and operated business with locations in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia. Touch of Color has six core divisions: Builder, Multifamily, Senior Living, Commercial, Retail, and Design, and it services seven states throughout the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic. Learn more at touchofcolorflooring.com.

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