6 Benefits for Startups Participating in Trade Shows

With a couple of large trade shows coming up in Hong Kong this month – Startup Launchpad and HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair – Julien Rio of myfairtool has submitted this piece on the benefits of participating in trade shows.

Startups all have something in common – they need visibility but have neither time nor money to make it happen.

Trade shows are famous for being both extremely time and money consuming, exactly what startups can’t really spare! Yet, exhibitions are also the perfect place to grow a business if you know how to do. Quick review of the 7 reasons why startups should be joining trade shows.

1. You are surrounded by prospects

If you are like most businesses, you need to hunt for prospects, find them, get in touch, push and push until they accept to listen to you and eventually buy from you.
Trade shows are the only place where visitors both have time and interest in what you have to say – you don’t look for them, they come to you!

Exclusive tips:
Your time is both limited and precious – you can’t talk with everyone. It is important that you develop a “qualifying process”: a series of questions you and your team will ask visitors to identify their potential and decide on the following actions. For example, asking a visitor whether he already uses/sells a similar product would indicate how high he is in your sales funnel. Asking whether he is a decision maker would help you define how much time you can dedicate to that person, and so on.

2. You enjoy a live market experience

When you make market study, try to understand customer behavior and expectations, the traditional way to go is to go with surveys. We all know the pain points of surveys: it is very difficult convincing people to fill them and you have no idea about the reliability of the answers you get.

Yet, at trade shows, you enjoy a real live market experience: you observe and interact directly with potential buyers, ask questions and understand better their needs and expectations. Equip yourself with a simple questionnaire but don’t ask people to fill it: simply ask questions to your visitors directly and start understanding your market better. Get your development team to talk with prospects: what better opportunity for them to understand your customers’ problems?

Exclusive tips:
Record everything. Find the right method (digital lead capture, photos, notes, questionnaires, etc.) that fits your specific needs and capture data. You should keep detailed visitor profiles (name, company, email, type of prospect, potential, etc.) to manage quick and efficient follow-ups. You should also record all the product feedback you receive (suggestions, problems, ideas, etc.). Don’t just “listen”: you will forget 80% of your conversations. Take detailed notes to exploit once back to the office.

3. You get additional visibility

We talked about it already – getting visibility is difficult yet important.
Trade shows are a great place to be seen because the bring together all the actors of your industry. If you have innovative products and great stories to tell, that’s the place to be! All your industry’s media would be there, looking for something interesting to tell. It is your job to catch their attention and make your story go viral.

Exclusive tips:
Prepare a media kit. This folder could be on the cloud, on a DVD, a USB thumb… choose the most convenient method for your business but have a collection of documents that would make potential media more keen to talk about you: logos, photos, company presentation, etc. Have it available to pick up in the event’s media room as well as from your booth.

4. You study your competition

There is just so much you can learn by visiting your competitors’ websites.
Trade shows are a great opportunity for you to spy on your competitors, get live demo and actual pricing, see what their future plan is and understand better their SWOT.

Exclusive tips:
Come prepared. Find out in advance who are the competitors that will participate in the event and what you wish to find out from them. Study their methods for talking to visitors, presenting their products, qualifying prospects, etc. There is always something useful you can learn from competitors, if you are sufficiently prepared.

5. You find new partners

One of the most cost-effective marketing strategy for startups is partnerships: you benefit from each-other’s network and grow together. But finding partners is like finding customers: you need to spend time searching for them, explaining who you are, proving the benefit of collaboration… it can easily turn into a disaster.
Trade shows are great because you immediately identify your potential partners and they are accessible and willing to chat. Exhibitions are like an enormous speed-dating for business – come with your best smile and start the real talk.

Exclusive tips:
You don’t necessarily have time to spend with potential partners and the beautiful promises you often hear at such events are not necessarily worth anything. Have an elevator pitch ready (a 30 seconds presentation of what you do and who you are), explain briefly what you are looking for and what you have to offer and arrange a follow-up call a few days later. Time to move on with your next potential customer!

6. You get out and network

Working in your office, with your team, staying behind a computer screen… all this is great and necessary. Yet, it doesn’t help much developing new ideas and seeing the big picture.
Trade shows get you out of your habits and force you to meet new people, network, hear from industry experts and build new connections. It is easy to drown yourself in your own ideas and occult the outside world: exhibitions will help you see new perspective and enlarge your horizon of possibilities.

Exclusive tips:
Trade shows are not just for sales people. Get everyone in your team, from the CEO to the accountant to come by your booth, even if it is for 15 minutes only. Use it as an opportunity for everyone in your team to experience your product in a different environment and better understand the difficulties customers may be facing.

You now have 6 great reasons to join a trade show and you should definitely do so! But be careful: planning for a booth is extremely time and money consuming, which means you have to pick the right show and manage it properly. It is better to go to ONE event and do it well than participate in 5 of them and do it half-way.

Don’t spread your resources too thin: find out what makes the most sense for your business and focus on it!


by Julien Rio, the founder of myfairtool, “The only trade show solution
to assist exhibitors through every step of their journey”