I’ve been writing a series of regular articles on things I find super-efficient and wonderful. As a technology lawyer, there’s nothing I like more than tradeshows. I also love technology events. Rolling those up together and you will have, among others Canadian Innovation Exchange 2016, which is the topic of today’s column on “My Favorite Things.”
As an emerging company, the decision whether to invest resources and effort towards attending or presenting at tradeshows has become a consistent theme in our office. Trade shows are expensive (both cost to attend and from a staffing perspective). Here are five things that I already know will come out of our exhibition at CIX.
- Chance to reconnect with friends. Busy lawyers and entrepreneurs can relate that the busier you get, the less and less likely it is that such folks will be able to find time for business development, so finding opportunities to optimize time is essential to survival.
Some of these folks who will be attending CIX will be my friends and they/I am so busy that we seem to only find time to meet during work hours in a public place, with a thousand other people present. Reconnecting once or twice a year also keeps me relevant, gives me a chance to smile to my community and to remind them that we’re still here, and that we’re growing. It also helps me to stay aware of industry movements.
- Chance to meet with people face to face. At CIX and other major events, I will finally be able to shake hands and directly chat face-to-face with folks who have, up until now, been only on the other end of a phone or Zoom call. Certain events like CIX bring out the industry’s “who’s who”. I might not know who they are. This is why I do my best to read ahead to see who is presenting. I find that there’s never any harm in sending a LinkedIn “hello” ahead of time to folks you know will be attending. I have definitely found that some event organizers will make it easier than others to let you scan the list of attendees, and I have also found that some people are more receptive than others to hearing from me in advance.
- Exposure, and of course, making sales! We have been busy building a new law firm and now with the growth of Clausehound.com, we have found that it is often difficult to get our brand in front of the proper audience. As tradeshows are typically themed (startup/business, industry specific, geographically specific, etc.), I have enjoyed the opportunity to put our product directly in front of different categories of potential users or consumers in a “pop-up”-rescue environment, and as a result, to narrow our focus on who our target audience is. The amount of time and investment required to open a store on the street or in a mall, as compared to either attending or exhibiting at trade shows, is significant. Tradeshows have provided my business the opportunity to get our product or service in front of large audiences, and as I have discovered, the referrals and word-of-mouth that have been generated from our attendance at events, have also increased the breadth of my business’ reach.
In the chaotic environments of tradeshows, I know that I’ve had to keep my energy level up especially over the course of the day, as it can be daunting to put on our ‘sales hat’ and to engage hundreds or thousands of individuals. Some of our learnings from this past year of trade shows are very simple and traditional. We have found that if we put together a nice and clean booth, and offer tiny giveaways like branded swag, interested people will flock to our booth. Recently we have been giving away candy, and that’s come with it’s own built-in danger - when things get quiet, I can honestly say that I have never been able to resist chomping on our giveaways.
- Consumer Research. Tradeshows have proven to be a great opportunity to speak directly with a wide range of potential customers to understand exactly what they are looking for and what they value in a product. If your business or sales pitch or new product offerings are still at an early stage of development, tradeshows are a great opportunity to engage in design thinking – giving you the opportunity to shape your product(s) based on the needs and desires of the consumer, while also avoiding small failures. I certainly have found that our pitch has changed, the amount and type of swag we have brought along has iterated, and our conversations with end customers have become much more focused over time.
- Partnerships. Tradeshows are a fantastic place to meet a wide variety of stakeholders. Similar to the importance of networking, the opportunity to develop formal partnerships may prove to be a game-changer for your business, and it certainly has been for us. Regardless of the type of theme of the trade show, the personalities we have had the opportunity to meet can be amazingly invaluable. We have met potential investors, customers, and people to collaborate with in the future, all of which we have found to be essential to building our brand.
I certainly have found that it is important to offer our potential partners mutually beneficial opportunities (It can’t be one-sided! Even if people would like to help you they will have to optimize their time and mutual-benefit will always come first!), and borrowing from my second point above, I have certainly found that it is important to go to any trade show or similar event with an idea of the type of stakeholders our business requires to grow and to seek those people out.
Friends, customers, future business partners, I am certainly looking forward to attending CIX and I hope to see you there!
- Rajah Lehal
CEO, Clausehound Inc.