For most job shops and small to mid-size manufacturers, your time is too precious to take a few days to attend a tradeshow. The time and the money that go into it just aren’t worth it and you won’t get anything useful out of it. Right? Actually, that isn’t true.
Tradeshows are a great place to network and gain customers. By hosting a booth, you’re able to meet far more people than you would by staying in your shop. These people are in the industry and are looking to make connections. They are more interested than someone who stumbled on your website or glanced at your ad. In addition, you can talk about what that specific person wants to know, and you can see if you’d want them to be a customer of yours. If you bring a few of your finished jobs along, or pictures of them, they can see the quality of what you do. In addition, you’re on an equal footing with big shops because you have the same crowd to meet without having to spend more. You can meet a slew of potential new customers and all you have to do is stand at your booth and talk to people.
Tradeshows work both ways if you want them to. If you are able to have people take shifts at your booth, then that frees you up to go to other booths and talk to the people there. Some of these people could become customers, and you might want to be a customer for some of them. One of them probably has a solution for your shop’s problems, which will have a huge impact on your business. In addition, some trade shows have classes about new trends in the industry. There might be a better way to run a job that will make your shop more productive or make your work flow smoother. Alternatively, you could attend a class for a process you’ve wanted to try but haven’t known where to start. If you stay in your shop, you won’t have access to any of this.
When you do go to a show, make sure you’re prepared. You don’t want to run out of business cards when you’re meeting so many potential customers, and you want to get their contact information or business card. Either have a paper list or set up a computer to get their information. It’s easier to use a computer so you don’t have to puzzle out anyone’s handwriting. You will also want to weigh the pros and cons of going to a tradeshow. The cost of the show itself, travel, and time that you’re not in your shop might be more than your budget can bear. However, if you are able to go, it will be well worth it not only in new customers, but also in learning new things about your industry, which will more than make up for the cost of going.