Trade shows are expensive. Especially when you tack on the cost of travel, lodging, promotional materials, and transporting equipment. But with careful planning and research, you can maximize the benefits of the experience and ensure that your investment doesn’t go to waste.

Here are a few tips for identifying which trade shows offer the best value for your business.

Find your next show on our Trade Shows and Events page.

Establish trade show goals

Before starting your trade show search, take some time to consider what you want to gain from the experience. Setting a target for new leads and sales is a good start, but be sure to think about qualitative outcomes, too, like gathering feedback on new products or learning more about current industry challenges. 

As you develop your trade show goals, here are some questions to answer with your team:

  • Is your focus to find new leads and boost sales? Or meet with existing customers?
  • Are you searching for new partners and networking opportunities?
  • Are your products geared toward individual markets? Or are you reaching out to the food industry as a whole?
  • Do you have new products and services to showcase? Or are you promoting existing ones to a different audience?
  • Do you need help building brand recognition among your target audience?
  • Are you hoping to learn more about the industry or educate attendees on certain topics? 
  • Are you curious about what your competitors are up to?

Once you’ve detailed your objectives, look for shows that can help you accomplish them. The more specific your goals are, the better you’ll be able to evaluate what shows are the best fit for your business.

Research event history, feedback, and perks

To find out whether a trade show aligns with your goals, check for information on past events like the number of attendees and exhibitors, photos and videos, and testimonials. Use your own customers and industry partners as a resource — find out what shows they’ve attended and gather their impressions. 

If you’re still unsure of a show’s potential, consider going as an attendee first. This will give you an opportunity to see everything from the ground level, get a feel for the floor layout and program, and find out what makes exhibitors successful. 

Also, be sure to look into what’s included with an exhibitor’s pass. Other than a place on the show floor, are there any additional advantages to your participation, such as learning opportunities, networking events, or other activities? Does the show offer any promotional support like email campaigns, newsletters, website features, or equipment listings to help you publicize your attendance? All of these things will help you determine the true value of the experience.

Consider attendance, timing, and location

Your trade show success depends largely on who’s coming. Make sure you’ll be able to get in front of your target groups, whether you’re looking to meet representatives from specific industry sectors (meat and seafood, dairy, produce, beverages, etc.), or job roles (executives, maintenance, engineers, salesmen, etc.). Also keep in mind that larger shows may attract attendees from around the world, while smaller shows may have a more localized audience.

Check to see if any of your competitors have exhibited in the past or will be exhibiting at the next show. This can serve as confirmation that the event is relevant to your target audience. It’s also an opportunity to find out what others in your field are up to. 

A show’s time and place can make it more or less suitable for your company, too. If it coincides with your company’s campaigns or product releases, it could fit in well with your marketing strategy. On the other hand, it might be happening during a particularly busy time for your business when you can’t spare the staff and resources to attend. 

And the show’s location will determine whether or not you can participate from a logistical standpoint. For example, exhibiting at an overseas show might be challenging if you don’t have nearby facilities from which to ship equipment.

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