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Ten Trade Show Best Practices:
Is now a good time to spend on a trade show exhibit? Regardless of the economic conditions or competitive landscape, there are many tactics your small business can use to ensure a winning trade show.

1. Set clear goals for your trade show participation. What do you want to get out of it? Do you expect to sell a particular amount of inventory at trade shows, or expect to become known to a certain number of wholesale suppliers? Are you focusing on promotion or hoping to launch a new product.

2. Never exhibit at a new trade show. New trade shows are untested venues. Small businesses have limited time and money to experiment on unknowns. Save your cash for the regular, proven shows in your industry.

3. Focus on quality. Invest in shows that reach the key decision-makers of your target market.

4. Create a buzz. Months prior to the trade show spend time informing existing clients and your market of the upcoming show. Use the show as a platform for a new product or service launch.

5. Be an attendee-not an exhibitor. If the budget is tight this year, don't spend on trade show exhibits. Capitalize on the trade show by being a speaker or a panel expert. This will add credibility to your business and attract potential leads.

6. Partner with the trade show`s management team. Good trade show organizers will want your business to have success and come back next year. Contact the management team for help with developing an appealing booth, staff scheduling, and marketing campaigning prior to the show kick-off.

7. Advertise in advance. Put the word out that you're participating in a particular trade show by inviting your clients, customers, suppliers, and other contacts to attend the show. (Be sure you give them all the details, such as your booth number.) If you have one, be sure to advertise your coming trade show attendance on your website as well.

8. Train your trade show team. Trade shows are unlike other sales environments. Limited time and attention of attendees requires quick qualifying, and lead generating tactics. Make sure your staff is prepared and has a clear goal for each day.

9. Call them while they're hot. Sales staff frequently makes the mistake of contacting trade show leads, months after the show. Make sure your sales staff has extra time and incentive to follow-up with all leads within weeks of your trade show exhibit.

10. Make your business newsworthy. Entrepreneur, Joseph Cossman, was a master of promotion. To create a buzz around his new toy spud gun at a big toy show, Cossman, ordered hundred's of pounds of potatoes and invited the local orphanage to come and play. The Spud Gun was the hit of the show. Use drama and flair to have your small business stand above the competition. Trade shows can be an incredibly effective promotion and sales tool for small businesses. But they can also be a complete waste of time and money. How successful your attendance at Trade Shows depends a great deal on your advance preparation.