Robert Ochtel’s Blog

An Experienced Approach to Venture Funding

Entrepreneurs, Trade Shows Can Be Useful Events to Move Your Start-up Company Forward

As the entrepreneur of a start-up company you need to take advantage of anything that will help move your company forward.  Trade shows are focused events that often only take place once a year.  Generally, these events bring together a broad set of senior management and other individuals with a common interest in technologies, products or services for a specific industry.  As a start-up company looking to get your name out there, you need leverage these trade show events to your advantage. To do this, as a start-up company with limited funds, it is most cost effective to just attend these events as a “registered attendee”. This does not cost much money and will provide your start-up company with the maximum amount of exposure for a limited amount of money. This article focuses on some of the things to consider and do when attending a trade show.  If done properly trade shows can be useful events to move your start-up company forward.

Focus on the Correct Trade Show Events

As part of your business planning process and ultimately outlined in your business plan, you need to focus on attending a limited number of trade shows each year.  If you are an industry insider you will know which trade shows that are important to your targeted industry.  If you are not, talk to your customers and ask them which trade shows they regularly attend on an annual basis.  All trade shows, even within the same industry, have different focuses, and as such, some trade shows, although similar in theme, are much more important and effective to attend than others.  Unless you have attended a specific trade show, you will not really know which events are more valuable to your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering.  Therefore, it is very important to not waste your time and money on trade show events that will not bring significant value and result in a productive experience for you and your start-up company. 

As a minimum, you should plan on attending three to four trade shows a year.  This will provide you with a broad exposure to what is going on within your industry and will also allow you to consider which trade show you will need to exhibit at in the future.  So, as an entrepreneur, you need to focus on the correct trade shows that will bring the most value to your start-up company. Generally, these are trade shows that are focused on your end customer base and at the same time are closest to the end market application that you are targeting as a vendor.  Doing this, will allow you to focus only the necessary trade shows that will help move your start-up company forward.

Set up Your Important Meetings Ahead of Time

One of the keys to having a successful trade show is to set up your meetings with important current and potential customers and possible strategic partners a head of time.  This is very important, as with most industry focused trade shows, they are widely attended by the senior management of virtually all customers and vendors that are important to that particular industry.  Therefore, you have the ability to meet with all of your potential customers and many possible strategic partners, and show them your technology, product or service offering by only having to travel to a single event. Therefore, you need to necessarily take advantage of this opportunity.  So, several weeks to a month ahead of time you need to get on the phone with your current and potential customers and set up times to meet with their senior management at the trade show.  These meetings generally last an hour and are often where start-up companies can meet “face-to-face” with their key senior management of their customers for the first time.  These events and associated meetings are often very productive for both parties and can be the beginning of a long term relationship. 

The same is true for potential strategic partners.  If you are aware of a company that has a technology, product or service offering that can complement or supplement your start-up company’s product offering, it is important to set up a meeting with the appropriate individual within senior management from this company so that you can meet them and properly explain the potential value and synergies of your company’s working together.  Therefore, for each trade show you attend, it is very important to get on the phone and set up as many potential meetings as possible. This will provide for a productive event and allow you to move your start-up company forward.  

Prepare and Attack the Trade Show Floor

As a start-up company, attending a trade show, it is important to set aside the appropriate amount of time to walk the trade show floor.  This walking the floor of the trade show should not be a random event.  To take the most advantage of your limited time available at the event you need to first prepare and then attack the trade show floor.  To do this, after you register, you need to sit down and spend the appropriate amount of time to go over the trade show guide and exhibitor map and identify those exhibitor booths that you would like to visit as potential customers and strategic partners. In addition, you need to identify all of your competitors and visit their booths to better understand what they are showing, and to pick up as much G-2 that you can on their technology, products or service offerings.  By diligently mapping out your targeted customers, strategic partners and competitors, you can then put together an attack plan to make the best use of your time while you are on the trade show floor.  Also, remember, it is very important meet and talk with the appropriate senior management at your targeted companies of interest. This should also include your competitors.  If these individuals are not available, get their card and contact information.  This will be invaluable for follow-up to the trade show and will allow you to contact them as appropriate after the event.  Therefore, it is very important to make the best use of your time while you are on the trade show floor by first planning and then attacking the floor to the best advantage of your start-up company.    

Trade shows can be very useful events to help move your start-up company forward. By focusing on the correct trade shows, setting up your important meetings ahead of time, and properly planning and attacking the trade show floor, even with a limited budget, you can make the most of these events. This can include meeting and engaging the appropriate potential customers, strategic partners and competitors.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you need to identify and attend a limited number of targeted trade show events each year.  By doing so, you will have the opportunity to identify and then develop and nurture the necessary relationships to move your start-up company forward in the future.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at www.amazon.com.  For more information on the book go to www.carlsbadpublishing.com.

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January 11, 2010 - Posted by | Venture Capital | , , ,

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