Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Trade Shows: An Effective Promotional Tool for the Small Industrial Business

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Trade Shows: An Effective Promotional Tool for the Small Industrial Business

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: LES FOIRES COMMERCIALES: UN OUTIL DE PROMOTION EFFICACE POUR LES PETITES ENTREPRISES INDUSTRIELLES

Les foires offrent aux petites entreprises industrielles une methode effective pour etablir des contacts commerciaux, motiver une nouvelle clientele et multiplier les contrats de vente. Les foires commerciales regionales devenant plus frequentes, les petits entrepreneurs peuvent maintenant faire concurrence aux grandes firmesde facon plus efficace. Cet article examine les considerations d'ordre directorial liees a la prise de decision de participation a une foire, y compris les procedes d'evaluation de la performance de ce genre de manifestations et les possibilities d'amelioration du processus de prise de decision lui-meme.

The high cost of field sales work can severely limit the ability of the small industrial business to expand its customer base. On average, industrial sales calls cost $179 per customer, and the entire sales cycle, from prospect identification to completion of the sale, costs approximately $910 when field salespeople are used to initiate the transaction.' Regional industrial trade shows are a cost-efficient alternative to field sales work. For the trade show participant, customer contacts average $70, and the expense of the sales cycle is reduced to $210 per transaction. As the number of regional trade shows increases, this method of marketing communication will become an increasingly important component of the small industrial firm's promotion mix-a component that clearly warrants the attention of small business decision makers.

This article assesses the viability of trade shows for the small industrial business and provides important guidelines for effective trade show participation. The article begins with a brief overview of the trade show concept, including a review of recent trade show activity. Attention is then directed toward trade show planning and decision making. Trade show objectives, decision criteria, and budgetary planning are considered. The article concludes with a brief recapitulation of major implications for small business managers contemplating trade show participation.

OVERVIEW

Trade shows are an important promotional vehicle. By definition, trade shows are gatherings where vendors display their products to invited customers, suppliers, and the press. Central to this concept is the notion of a highly targetd, "qualified" audience; invitees commonly include businesses, government agencies, and institutional buyers who have common product and service needs. Exhibitors include manufacturers, wholesalers, industrial distributors, media representatives, and consultants within a defined industry. The general public is normally excluded. Thus, the trade show provides a close match between buyer requirements and seller offerings. And, as noted above, the trade show can often deliver this audience on a relatively low cost-per-contact basis.

Trade show activity has increased dramatically in recent years. The Trade Show Bureau estimates that the number of exhibitions conducted annually in the United States has doubled during the last decade-increasing from less than 5,000 shows in 1976 to approximately 10,000 in 1986. Their research also revealed that trade shows attracted 2.9 percent more visitors in 1986 than in 1985; total floor space used increased by 6.9 percent for the same period; and the number of exhibitors increased by 6 percent over 1985. Current projections indicate that more than 145,000 firms will participate in trade shows by 1991.

Growth in trade show activity is largely attributable to the tremendous expansion of suitable facilities for housing exhibitions and to increased local and regional interest in promoting trade shows. Until just recently only the largest cities had facilities large enough to accommodate the traffic generated by these exhibitions. As a result, trade shows were geographically concentrated in a few metropolitan areas. …

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