Trade Show Success Secrets

Article excerpt

Don't overlook the potential profit and natural synergy of a trade show when you're searching for new revenue streams.

In hot pursuit of new revenue streams, many trade publishers are considering additions to their traditional, paper-based editorial products. Fax publishing, CD-ROM, online services and 900 numbers are all under the microscope. But trade show sponsorship, a decidedly low-tech option, may hold the greatest promise in the search for a healthier bottom line.

Trade shows have a well-documented track record, have earned some publishers millions, and do not rely on a new--and perhaps transitory--technology. Although most shows are feeling some effect from our current recession, the high margins typical of trade shows have allowed otherwise healthy events to remain solidly in the black.

The beauty of a magazine-sponsored trade show is its natural fit. Advertisers become exhibitors, readers become attendees, writers--or those written about--become speakers. Editorial topics become seminar topics, and your ad pages and lists form the basis of the marketing campaign. Thus, you already have most of the ingredients necessary to create a trade show.

Sizing up the market

The first step is to determine if the market your magazine serves needs a trade show and whether that need is already being met. If you are unsure of the trade show activity in your industry, Tradeshow Week Data Book, published by R.R. Bowker, is an excellent resource. If there are one or more shows, don't despair. An opportunity may still exist. For now, let's assume there is no show in your publication's market. The best way to determine your chances of success is to look at what's happening with your magazine. If you are struggling to attract advertisers, selling exhibit space will probably be no easier. You'll be relying on the same resources to close sales: your magazine's reach and reputation. On the other hand, if the professionals within your industry have embraced your editorial direction, then build the show and they will come.

Here's what induces people to go to a trade show:

* They need knowledge and information that is not readily available from any other sources to grow their careers or businesses.

* They use complex tools in the practice of their craft. For example, a manufacturer of kitchen cabinets uses a variety of sophisticated woodworking tools that can be better compared on a show floor than in a catalog.

* They sell products made by other companies. Shoe stores stock their shelves with the latest Italian pumps from samples first examined at an importer's booth.

* They need to make contact with peers, suppliers, experts, prospective employers or employees, new or current customers, etc.

The more of the above needs your readers possess, the more likely it is that your show will succeed. However, you will still need a quality promotional campaign to spread the word, an excellent educational component to capture their interest, and several key vendors as exhibitors to lend additional credibility and serve as yet another drawing card. The objective is to give prospective attendees many reasons to make the trip.

What if a show already exists?

In all likelihood, though, there are already one or more shows in your market. However, there still may be room for another. Your challenge is to find an angle that will allow you to capture all or part of the market. Here are six tried-and-true strategies you can use to get a piece of the pie:

* Location. Almost every show is regional from an attendance standpoint. If your competition is running in Los Angeles, consider Atlanta.

* Time. Larger industries can often support more than one show. If there's one in the fall, run yours in the spring.

* Niche. Look for a vertical slice of a horizontal show, or a segment that is not being served. I started a very successful show for professional photographers in a market that already had a well-established show by targeting a fast-growing segment the competition was slow to recognize. …