By now, your small business has settled into its routine: you’ve got customers, you’ve got sales, you’ve got a secure sense of self and that you’re not a failure even though your bully in middle school once told you so.
But is an entrepreneur’s job really ever done? Life is a learning process, and you’ll never stop, you know, learning. That’s why for small businesses, trade shows are the optimal place to gather more resources, meet new people, and keep on educating yourself on the world of commerce.
Through your marketing efforts, you’ve already put your business on the map, but some good old-fashioned networking can do you good too, especially because you’re surrounded by hundreds of people in your industry.
So how exactly do you network? It’s all in the preparation. Arriving at a trade show with questions to ask the bigwigs, a deck of attention-grabbing business cards, and a bit of prior knowledge of who will be there (and how a trade show works!).
It’s also good to know what you potentially want out of a trade show; having a firm understanding of where you are in your business’s life is the first step. If you’re newbie, you’re gonna want advice. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you may be seeking fresh ideas.
No one who attends a trade show is going to be exactly the same, and that goes for their agendas, too. Just be sure to go in with a positive attitude and a willingness to meet people—there’s going to be a lot of people who will want to meet you too!
If you thought the Internet was the sweetest honey pot for pulling in new customers, I’ve got news for you: that isn’t 100% true. Okay, while it is true you can find people literally anyone in the world, walking into a business-oriented trade show and facing hundreds of people in your industry can do you one better.
This is where networking and marketing go hand-in-hand. Someone who’s good at networking (and is also just a good people person) can put themselves on another person’s radar just by being themselves.
What makes branding even easier at a trade show is that people are expecting to discover new businesses and brands anyway. Trade shows are all about learning, and everyone is there to do it, no matter who they are or what they do.
The takeaway here is that, again, branding really does go hand-in-hand with networking, and that a trade show setting makes for the expectation that people will be pitching their stuff. So if you’ve ever been nervous about marketing, a trade show allows you to do it humbly without pushing your limits.
Sometimes you just can’t come up with everything on your own. Trust me, as SumAll’s content creator, I know, which is why I’m actually attending the Small Business Expo in New York City on May 3. While I’m coming in as a marketer, I’m excited to meet small business entrepreneurs and hear their stories.
When you go to a trade show as business owner, while you’ll definitely go in prepared, you’ll still want to be leave room for being surprised—surprised by all the wonderful people you will meet, the businesses you’ll discover, and the ideas that will inspire you.
At a trade show, you can expect anything from exciting new small business technologies to businesses themselves that are whimsical and even unimaginable. You’ll meet entrepreneurs quite like yourself, and entrepreneurs who are very unlike you. That’s the beauty of running a small business: it’s for everyone! So you can expect anyone to show up at a trade show, too.
There will be a lot of new and innovative ideas floating around a trade show, and they will all be up for grabs. Having an open ear and an open mind will only let you go far.
Get out there and go to a trade show!
Doing your research and finding a trade show to attend is the hardest part, but it’s also important to know that through all the prep and planning, your experience will most definitely be a positive one. And dare I say, even fun.