Do we really need a booth? What alternatives have we considered?

Usually you’ll be presented with a recommendation to exhibit in a booth. However, there are many alternatives, and depending on the your company and your goals, one of these alternatives might be a better choice now:

  • Attend and walk the show floor—The founder of a cloud-based data management platform for pharma and biotech told us how valuable he found it to simply attend specific trade shows and conferences as a way to keep up with the claims that competitors were making. By not exhibiting, he was free to allocate his time as he thought best, rather than being chained to a company booth.
  • Attend and arrange side meetings—One of the advantages of a major trade show is that most of the important industry players are there. You may find that you have more success getting meetings with some of your target customers and partners by agreeing to meet with them at the show—provided you get to them before they’ve filled up their calendar. Consider reserving a suite for meetings and demos (especially for physical products) or a private dining room for evening meetings. (Note that private meeting rooms on the show floor are only available for rent by exhibitors.)
  • Have a presence in a partner’s booth or special exhibit area—In some industries, especially those being affected by new technology being introduced by small companies, to create areas on the show floor where these new companies can exhibit. Usually stands or pods are provided. It’s also fairly common in some industries for large companies that depend on partners to add value to their product to provide demo stands or pods in their booth for these partners. A third avenue may be trade promotion authorities at a regional or national level that sometimes sponsor a booth and invite younger companies to exhibit. All of these can be a cost-effective way to generate leads. They also have three additional benefits: (1) They enable a young company to say that they are going to exhibit at a major trade show, which may enhance your standing in the eyes of target customers or partners; (2) they can help you build stronger relationships with the sales and business development staffs of the company in whose booth you’re appearing; and, (3) they help start a conversation with another partner company that is also participating in the booth.
  • Participate in a side event—For the Consumer Electronics Show and others, some independent companies create dedicated press events. They put out a lavish spread and invite journalists, and charge companies for a table and the chance to catch the attention of journalists.
  • Create a side event or do some other ambush marketing—“Ambush” marketing is a high stakes bet that you’ll attract enough attention from the media and on social media that it offsets the risk of being blackballed by organizers if you decide to exhibit in a later year.

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