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Growing your business: Why you should attend at least one trade show this year

Small Business can get a lot out of a trade show, which is an opportunity to reach a very targeted audience of individuals who have demonstrated strong interest in their industry.

For business owners, trade shows can be a valuable opportunity for you to showcase your services or products to other companies and potential clients, and some trade shows also offer professional development seminars to boost knowledge in your specific industry.

"While at trade shows, attendees can learn more about their competitors, or perhaps evaluate a specific service, software or product they need for their own business," says Don Alix, district manager at Insperity.

For presenters, says Alix, trade shows are an opportunity to reach a very targeted audience of individuals who have demonstrated strong interest in their industry.

"What is more, trade shows offer the chance to interact and speak directly with potential customers, clients and decision makers," Alix tells FOX Business. "That type of access to a desired demographic is unique and can justify the costs of presenting."

For attendees, costs are typically lower but can still be significant, including the price of entry, travel and accommodations, he explains.

"Nonetheless, small businesses may find attending a trade show worth the cost if they are in search of a new supplier or service provider for critical business operations. A trade show can also give small businesses a chance to assess the competitive landscape and determine how they can stay competitive, especially against larger corporations," Alix says.

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Companies can also justify the cost as trade shows can serve as a platform for employee growth and learning, he says.

"Newer employees can gain exposure to industry trends and develop a deeper understanding of the industry landscape. This exposure can broaden their knowledge and enhance their professional development," adds Alix.

In addition, Alix points out that trade shows can also positively impact an employee’s confidence by connecting them to diverse audiences and allowing them to showcase their knowledge and expertise.

"Engaging in conversations with industry professionals and potential clients can help build confidence in their abilities and enhance their professional image," he emphasizes.

There are a plethora of trade shows that could be a fit for your business. Here’s what to consider to find the best match:

Determine a budget:

A trade show may check every box but exceed the budget for attendance, cautions Alix.

"Before making any decisions, businesses should decide how much of their budget they can put toward a trade show, which will shape the size and complexity of their exhibit, the number of employees they can send and the amount of free trials, samples, or subscriptions they can offer to trade show attendees," Alix says.

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Set goals behind attending or presenting:

He notes that a worthwhile trade show will help a business advance toward its goals. To pick the right trade show, businesses need to know what those goals are.

"For example, some businesses may want primarily to recruit new clients from the trade show," he says. "On the other hand, if the goal is understanding the competitive landscape within the industry, that could lead to a different set of priorities."

Make sure the trade show meets your objectives:

"Industry and geography play a role, but the primary objective is to make sure we are in the right places to support our industry partners and create meaningful opportunities to engage with current and prospective customers," says Kent Montgomery, PepsiCo senior vice president of industry relations and multicultural development. "That clarity of purpose allows us to have a more strategic mindset when considering shows and focus more on making sure we are using each event to deliver relevant messages to each audience."

For example, says Montgomery, PepsiCo’s sales directors may highlight their portfolio innovations while the company’s data teams lead panels on consumer insights, and the communications teams promote PepsiCo’s "Corporate Social Responsibility" initiatives. "Each person complements each other and adds value throughout the show," Montgomery tells FOX Business.

He has a unique perspective with regard to trade shows, as Montgomery is responsible for spearheading his team’s presence at the nation’s largest food, beverage and retail trade shows, including the National Restaurant Association Show this month and others like NACS, NRF, FMI Midwinter and many others throughout the year.

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Select trade shows where you can promote your corporate messaging and mission

"For PepsiCo, trade shows provide an incredible opportunity to connect with our customers, reinforce partnerships through innovation and networking, showcase technology and talk about our incredible sustainability initiatives and diversity efforts focused on inspiring positive change for people and the planet," Montgomery tells FOX Business. 

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