When writing a business plan for a new business, it is almost imperative that you plan to involve yourself and your management team actively in tradeshows that pertain to your industry and/or your customers. The reason for this is that you should use a tradeshow as a time to get to know your customers; gain information on new products or services that can help you in your pursuit; get to know your competitors and their products or services; and gauge the initial reaction to your products or services in the marketplace. Tradeshows help small business or emerging business get a taste of the market and further adopt feedback and experience into their overall business plan.
You should enter into planning for a tradeshow with an overall strategy and whatever you do, do not plan this the night before and fly by the seat of your pants. You should look for opportunities before the trade show begins to become a speaker or panelist, furthering your recognition or credibility. Just like with your business plan, it is imperative that you research your target audience at the particular trade show. You may even want to send advanced introductions to registered attendees, making sure they come and check out your exhibit.
Tradeshows can also play into the public relations element that you discussed in your business plan. Oftentimes, media is present at trade shows—giving you time to make relationships face-to-face with reporters and editors.
However, your main goal with any tradeshow should be to get noticed. Just putting the marketing expense line item in your business plan for your trade show budget does not ensure that you will receive the attention you might deserve. Tradeshows are hard work. They take effort and planning. They require that your business differ itself from the boot right next to it.
In summary, you should plan your tradeshow appearance months in advance and use it to build relationships with anyone that might be involved in your product, service or marketing mix, not just your potential customers.