Pros and Cons of getting involved in trade shows as a small business

4 Minutes Read

Let's face it, the trade show industry is booming! Today, trade shows are a pretty big trend for a lot of businesses in all industries. It seems as if everyone's going to one and therefore, you're probably thinking that attending a trade show could be just the thing your small business needs to generate more success. On the other hand, attending one involves a lot of time and money and might not give you the ROI you're hoping for. If you're conflicted whether or not your small business or start up should get involved in trade shows, you've come to the right place.

We're here to take a closer look at what trade shows are and spell out some pros and cons of attending one as a small business or start up.

What is a trade show

Trade shows, also referred to as trade fairs in simple terms, are essentially big meetups of a bunch of different companies from a specific industry to display and discuss their new product or service. They can last from a day to a week and typically the venues are convention centers and big gathering halls. Right now, if you search for trade shows online or even on social media such as Facebook, dozens will show up. Trade shows often provide an exhibition area, presentations and workshops, networking events, and awards. Clearly, there's nothing minimal about them.

Before we turn around and tell you why you shouldn't attend a trade show, let's be optimistic and start with the positives, the pros.


1. They're great for lead generation

One of the main purposes of a trade show is for networking. You're not going to get a better opportunity to speak to potential customers face to face (unless you host your own event). Attending a trade show could result in you increasing your odds of generating qualified sales leads.

Chances are, if it's an industry specific trade show, members of your target market are bound to be there. It's a good idea to network and sell yourself and your business by handing out business cards to people in your target audience in the hopes that they become qualified leads. Networking with attendees at the expo gives you the chance to answer questions these potential buyers might have through face to face interaction. Answering their questions might lead you to determine whether these people are indeed qualified leads or not. Also, make sure you get contact information such as email addresses from these potential customers before they walk away.

2. They give opportunity for benchmarking

Attending a trade show is a great opportunity to get the inside scoop on the industry you're in. You'll be able to do proper research on the market of your industry in real time - much better than conducting market research on the internet. Benchmarking is a great way to do some competitor analysis, determine any trends in the industry, and see what might be happening in the future. You can also take a look at your target audience that attends the trade show to see which companies they gravitate towards and what types of commerce is taking place.

3. They can increase your brand awareness

As a start-up or small business owner, we understand the challenges to get your foot in the door. Attending a trade show provides you with a better chance to increase your brand awareness and help prospective customers know who you are. Make sure if you do attend a trade show, you have stellar graphics and branding to showcase at your trade show booth so people are more apt to remember who you are. Showing off your latest products and services at an expo could increase your odds of converting people into new customers, so don't be shy sharing them.

While at an industry wide trade show, you might run into some of your current customers as fellow trade show attendees. Utilizing your relationships with them to your advantage is a good way for them to help spread the word about your brand. 

Who knows, you may experience trade show success and could have yourself eagerly anticipating when the next trade show you'll attend is. But, let's not get too optimistic yet. Instead, let's flip the coin and learn about the disadvantages to getting involved with trade shows, the cons.


1. They're expensive

If you know anything about trade shows, you know that they're expensive. From the attendee fee to the travel accommodation and lodging, not to mention posters, brochures, promotional items for giveaways, and shipping costs for anything else you might need in your trade show booth, it costs a lot of dollars to attend one. Plus, it could take a lot of time for some return on investment once you attend a trade show.

2. They take a lot of time to plan

If you're a small business owner, chances are that trade show marketing is probably at the bottom of your list. It takes time to research the right trade show to attend while also planning all the logistics. Then you'll need to plan your marketing strategy as well as your strategy for the event. Will you be posting about it on social media? Will you be hosting giveaways during the event? Will you be having people scan QR codes to learn more about your business? We guarantee you'll have an endless checklist of things to plan before you even attend the expo.

3. It's hard to stand out

Oftentimes, trade shows will host a lot of different businesses in a specific market. Therefore, you're one small tuna in a school of fish - in other words, you could be blending in with all the other exhibitors on the trade show floor. Also, as a small business, you're likely to have a smaller booth than larger competitors, making it harder for you to get noticed.

The best way to determine whether or not your business should attend a trade show is by partnering with a marketing expert like ourselves. By working with us, we'll help get you started in developing the right strategy for your business. We'd love to chat with you! Don't hesitate to set up a call with us to get started.

Picture of Stephanie Milne

Stephanie Milne

Stephanie is a digital marketer passionate about storytelling and content creation.