Creative Trade Show Strategies
Strengthen your trade show experience with planning and strategizing.
Attending trade shows is de rigueur for laboratory owners because of the many valuable benefits they afford. Attendees can accrue the CE credits they need in a consolidated location; network with friends, colleagues, vendors, and customers; learn about new products and technology; and shop for the best deals on new materials and equipment.
But there are strategy nuances that will help you take the best advantage of the condensed tradeshow timeframe and re-think how you can maximize your show time and money.
Manage CE Spending
Plan your CE in advance. Check the course listings and fees ahead of time. Investigate whether any of these same topics are available to you through other means. Are some of these course topics being presented at a local meeting, in industry publications, or available as an online course? If so, that will increase the convenience of obtaining CE credits as well as avoid time and travel expenditures. It may even allow you to spend part or most of the day in the lab making money (or making decisions about making money). When selecting courses at a trade show, prioritize those that will teach you something to improve your bottom line in addition to your skills. And lastly, prioritize those that seem unique and unlikely to be available elsewhere or repeated.
Branch Out and Explore
Add to your knowledge base by visiting ancillary industry trade shows and meetings. The Chicago MidWinter Meeting, for example, has spawned opportunities from organizations using proximity and synergy to increase attendance. Research the meetings that run concurrently with your favorite. Find meetings that will broaden your clinical knowledge and offer networking opportunities with dentists, manufacturers, and dealers.
Not all the great business concepts, products, or resources (from marketing to business management software to technology) will come to you from the dental industry. That is why it is important to attend trade shows that address similar needs to yours but serve different industries. Two larger shows to consider are the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), held every two years in Chicago, or any of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Shows throughout the year. Keep in mind that your business is a business like any other. You have concerns for safety, manufacturing productivity, employee retention, product quality, marketing, cost containment, and dozens of other things.
Shorten Long-Distance Relationships
Phone and e-mail have made us more efficient, but less connected. A trade show allows you to strengthen connections with owners of laboratories that you may have a partnership with as well as to have face-to-face meetings with vendors, manufacturer representatives, and even clients. Without the distraction of daily operations, it is much easier to meet with your management team or long-distance partners to solve problems, discuss new business strategies, and plan for the future. Meeting with vendors and vendor representatives as well as clients also provides the opportunity to remind all parties of the partnership you have formed with them and create an even stronger interpersonal relationship.
Many of us trudge through trade shows aisle by aisle as if they were a bank teller’s line. By the time the last booth is reached, great new products tend to take a back seat to a double espresso. Do not hinder yourself. Instead, strategize and plan, much the same as you would a grocery-shopping trip. Assess your needs and the trade show’s exhibitor list and prioritize which booths you want to visit. Note the new exhibitors and identify the manufacturers who make an item you need. Call some of the companies to ask, for example, if there will be a “live” machine or demonstration at the booth, or what show specials will be available and when they will expire.
These four strategies will help you make the most of your day (or days), and give you ideas to implement now, and in the future, on behalf of your business and your career.
About the Author
Mona Zemsky is the principal of M.Source, a hands-on and practical marketing consultancy specializing in business-to-business and business-to-industrial marketing planning and execution.