Are Trade Shows Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Getting a Booth


Research shows that trade shows continue to be one of the most used business-to-business marketing strategies in the US. While face-to-face encounters are undoubtedly important when it comes to reaching out to prospective customers or potential vendors, how necessary is it to regularly attend trade shows? Especially when you’re an up-and-coming brand with a small marketing budget?

Read on for some of our users’ perspectives on which aspects of a trade show make it all worth it, what aspects aren’t and what just comes with the territory.

There’s no denying that attending and exhibiting at trade shows can be an invaluable resource when it comes to connecting with people you may have not come into contact with otherwise. Additionally, certain products require a more tactile approach, as they are harder to sell from behind a computer screen. Specialized products that require more customer education are also best sold face-to-face. “Being seen equals brand awareness,” says Sharon Stuart, CEO of BedVoyage. “If a buyer has never heard of our company, this gives us an opportunity to be in front of them and hopefully create a sale. Because bamboo linens are still a unique fabric to many that have not felt them, it’s critical to let potential buyers see, touch and be educated about the luxurious hand-feel and benefits of bamboo.

“Having the opportunity to meet dozens (or hundreds!) of buyers all in one venue can literally save you countless hours in searching out prospective clients, cold calling, emailing, sleuthing out WHO the buyers are, of which we all know is the hardest part in trying to get into a specific retailer […] Get your product out there and get noticed! It’s a fairly inexpensive way to market, and it’s very targeted, a win-win.”

However, like any business investment, success isn’t always guaranteed. And in the case of where your booth is at a trade show, location can be everything. One anonymous user chimed in to say, “[Certain trade shows] do not listen to their customers. Year after year they determine who gets the best booth space and make it nearly impossible for new companies or even established companies to get buyers and be seen at their shows. For this reason, we stopped paying for booths, just to stand around for days and see a handful of attendees.”

Trade show veteran, Ken Cowan, VP of Sales and Marketing at BiologicVET thinks they are a fantastic learning opportunity for everyone involved. “For the past 35 years, I have attended and participated in many trade shows. This is the place where anyone visiting the show can pick the brains of the experts and go home with an abundance of information you will never find online. For the vendors, if you’re not there you’re [missing out]. It isn’t always about the sale at the show but about the awareness of your brand, so send your experts, not just the marketing team, and let their brains get picked.”

Of course when you lock a bunch of brands in a room full of buyers, there’s bound to be a bit of competition. Lazyjack Press CEO Miriam Zelinsky says, “Depending on which shows you do, the other exhibitors can be nice or nasty as they see you as competition. Make sure they’re not stealing any of your ideas/designs. It happened to be me once and now I’m way more careful on where I ask to get placed.”

So what’s the bottom line? While trade shows can sometimes be hit-or-miss, they’re still an industry standard for brands trying to establish themselves. Korey Shienfield, Business Consultant at PG Professional Golf puts it thusly, “If you are in business, whatever that business is, you MUST be there. Out of sight, out of mind.”