For early-stage and growth-stage companies, attending your industry’s major trade show can be a smart move, but if you’re not careful, you can also blow a lot of time and money with little actual business to show for it.
These ten questions will help you figure out the right approach for your company.
Note: We’re using “trade show” to include all of the types of industry gatherings where you can exhibit, including conferences and annual meetings. This brief Includes photos from TechCrunch Disrupt (San Francisco), CTIA (Las Vegas), Web Summit (Dublin), Mobile World Congress (Barcelona), M2M Innovation World Congress (Marseille), Pioneers Festival (Vienna, above), and ITB (Berlin).
As the CEO, you may be told one or more of the following:
• “It’s the major industry trade show. All of our competitors and customers will be there.”
• “It’s a great place to launch our company or product.”
• “We will raise our profile. It will be great for our brand.”
• “We’ll get sales leads.”
All of the reasons above might be linked to revenue, the only metric that matters, ultimately, but ask your head of sales and business development and of marketing to walk through the steps linking exhibiting to revenue.
For example, participating in the show may be a way to generate leads. You can use historical conversion ratios to work through the number of leads needed to justify the expense of the show.
You can also make the math work by focusing on the expense side.
There are other ways to participate that don’t involve the time and expense of a booth. And for an early-stage company, keeping a lower profile can have its advantages. You can target specific potential customers and partners, arranging meetings in advance, as well as work the show floor.
There is one more goal that only you, the CEO can assess: Focusing your team on execution. If you are launching your company or a new product, there is great value to a committing to a date that is very public and can not change. The bigger the event, the greater the stakes.
Launching at a trade show also creates its own sense of celebration, which not only helps motivate employees, but also rewards them for their hard work. This can be especially effective for a small company that is able to take everyone to the show.
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