This is probably the single biggest question that we get asked by clients in the fitness industry.  The reason? It is because majority of business owners fell in love with the industry because they either attended a fitness expo like the Arnold Sports Festival or Mr. Olympia or they competed in a local, regional, or national fitness competition.  That being said, it is a very different question on whether to attend when you are a business owner of a fitness brand (be it sports nutrition, apparel, or accessories).  Fitness trade shows (expos) are unlike any other industry because it blends opportunities to engage fans, meet potential suppliers or vendors, and showcase branding or product improvements all while having a very laid back and enjoyable atmosphere surrounded by your peers.

Here are the facts…

There are about 13,000 trade shows and conferences held annually across every industry from pest control to yoga.  According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 77% of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended. And Exhibit Surveys says in 2015, 51% of show goers planned to buy within 12 months after attending a show (we predict that percentage being low compared to the consumer-facing fitness expos attended by majority end customers).

So what do we suggest our clients do when they want to exhibit at a fitness expo?

  1. Figure out WHY you want to attend!  Before you get excited about booth designs, contests, or giveaways, your company should be able to answer the question of “Why are we attending this show?”  We encourage companies to back up and figure out “WHY” they want to exhibit in the first place. This leads to a more relevant and effective booth design and sometimes even the discovery that they should be pursuing another marketing channel all together. When you are clear on your purpose, you can also be clear on your success once the show is over.
  2. Do your due diligence on the opportunity!  Usually the best way to understand the foot traffic and opportunities at the particular event would be to attend it the year before you decide to drop thousands in exhibitor fees.  This way you can understand the scope of the opportunities firsthand and be able to budget and have a strategic plan of action.
  3. Bring the right employees of your business! The normal attendees are sales people that are assigned to that territory and contract help but are you missing something critical?  Make sure you bring a subject matter expert that has ties to the corporate office and brand.  That way the right language and tone is used to keep the brand integrity strong from conversation to conversation.  People want to converse and immerse, not be sold to. Unlike years ago, attendees can get all the sales info they need about you from your website. So use the trade show to give them something they can’t get online, a dynamic conversation and a sensory experience.
  4. Make your booth inviting! The first big mistake new exhibitors make is over packing their booths with furniture and inventory. Leave room for your team, your displays and show attendees, many of whom will be toting large swag bags. To ensure you don’t overcrowd the booth, map it out ahead of time in your office using tape on the floor. The second big mistake is placing a rectangular table across the front of your booth. This just screams uninviting to your customers, many of which want to engage the brand they love. Instead, position large tables against the back or side of the booth.  Less is more in many cases.
  5. Make sure to have a budget but don’t cut corners in the wrong areas! These shows can be extremely expensive and throw off potential ROI before you even get to the event.  Look at negotiating exhibitor fees, buy booth displays overseas, and hire contract help to hand out samples of your product.  Remember to splurge though on areas that support your WHY reason of attending the expo.  If its getting buzz out on a new product, be sure to stock up on samples.  If you are showing off your improved branding, make sure to double up on the apparel and different freebie swag options to draw in new brand advocates.
  6. Don’t forget about technology! With the emergence of Facebook Live, Periscope, and every other app that engages fans, make sure you are utilizing them to their max potential.  Just make sure you have the staff to handle these social media and PR opportunities.  Also make sure you are looking at the potential costs involved with them or more robust technologies like virtual reality.  If you are looking at the cheapest but effective way to use technology, expos are a great way to build email marketing lists so bring your cheap laptops.
  7. Network! Talk to everyone, everywhere.  Even your competitors will be more willing to share information at these events so be sure to create opportunities through conversation.

If you nail these things you will have a greater chance of getting a positive direct and/or indirect ROI on a trade show (expo).