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Trade Shows Offer the Benefits of Capturing a Captive Audience

08/20/2015 12:56 EDT | Updated 08/20/2016 05:59 EDT
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Trade shows are chaotic, carnival-like events that almost never go as planned, but a bit of preparation and on-site strategy can go a long way toward keeping you relatively sane throughout, thwarting the unexpected and setting you up for a successful event. SEE MORE: 10 Trade Show Survival Tips Get the most out of the next trade show you attend.

The ability to be seen and heard by prospective clients is one of the greatest needs any business has. Cold calls used to be an efficient way to make contact, but that method has fallen out of favour. These days you're unlikely to find willing ears on the other end of the line, and messages are rarely returned. And forget about trying to reach out via email. The new Canadian anti-spam legislation has made contacting prospects through email more challenging than ever. Without explicit consent, this marketing tool is virtually useless.

Times have changed, but the need to boost your client base and increase sales hasn't. That's why now more than ever, when it comes to networking and promotion, the trade show is the way to go. Having a captive, interested audience at your fingertips is an incredibly efficient way to get the most out of your marketing dollars. It's a uniquely personal, face-to-face way to network, market, and sell directly to your target audience -- and yes, you'll find both like-minded prospects and current customers in the mix -- but lead generation isn't the only reason that trade shows are a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Consider the opportunities you can create to forge stronger relationships with current clients and with others in your industry, including influential decision makers with whom it might otherwise be very difficult to connect. Trade shows also give you the chance to get a good look at your competitors' offerings and collect useful intelligence to take home with you.

From a prospective client's point of view, a trade show is a fantastic way to touch, feel, hear, and see how your product or service can fulfill their business' unmet needs. They've come looking for the industry's latest and greatest innovations, and the trade show floor gives you an opportunity to demonstrate exactly what you have to offer to this very important audience. In fact, according to a report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 81 per cent of trade show attendees have buying authority. That means more than four out of five delegates visiting the show floor have money to spend -- and they may well choose to spend it on you.

Being part of a respected trade show is a way to demonstrate that a company is financially strong, innovative, competitive, and actively reaching out to share its successes with clients who can benefit from what it has to offer. It's just good PR, and in the weeks and months leading up to the show, it gives you another opportunity to reach out via social media to talk up your company. You can tweet about the offerings at your booth or post a message on your Facebook page about what new service or product you'll be promoting.

We live in an increasingly digital world, but nothing can replace the kind of face-to-face relationship building that can happen on a trade show floor. In fact, it's because of the fast-paced environment in which most business is conducted these days that trade shows are such an important resource for both clients and businesses alike. It's a chance for people to connect, put names to faces, shake hands and really get to know more about each other and the incredible opportunities they can create together.

Isabella Wai is the Director, Convention Exhibits for the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA). She has been instrumental in helping the OHA's annual HealthAchieve conference and exhibition -- the largest of its kind in North America -- win numerous international awards, and maintain its status as the preeminent gathering place for health care and business leaders.

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