Entrepreneurship: Trade Shows: A view from the trenches

- Jay Maharjan

For the last couple of weeks, I have been writing on the topic of new economy and how entrepreneurs can tackle, get ready for the changing times. As I am preparing to speak on the topic of sustaining as an entrepreneur in tough economies, I visited a couple of trade shows at the Orange county fair (Los Angeles) today and boy, was it an eye opening experience!  Based on what I saw – saying economy is bad is an understatement. Entrepreneurs, small business owners (who had booths) shared their tough entrepreneurial stories. I am talking of serious business types with products ranging from high ticketed Jewelery to expensive hobbyist products. People who always loved their craft, sustained livelihood doing these trade shows for generations are simply abandoning their craft because they couldn’t sustain anymore amidst higher operation fees, lesser demand and due to growing influx of less expensive foreign competition.

Traditionally, Trade show model has worked out quite well for businesses – Trade show as an industry makes an impact of over 12 billion dollars in the US economy annually. Businesses would often showcase their new product (or as a part of regular marketing campaign) to highly targeted group of visitors. The rule of thumb has been that you have a decent product, service; pay booth fee for a couple of targeted trade shows and you come back home with sales leads and loyal customer base  to sustain business. Not so anymore!

Not only businesses are struggling to build a healthy clientele through these events, they are struggling to break even just to pay the cost of doing these shows. This is bad news for entrepreneurship. This means entrepreneurs will have one less effective marketing channel. This means that more businesses will go out of business. This means more start-ups won’t see the light of day. It is a simple math. The down economy means less disposable income for consumers and limited marketing dollars for businesses. And the consequences can be fatal – specially for the higher ticketed, luxury/hobby based market and the sub-economy that it creates.

End of the day, we still have to fundamentally restructure an environment and introduce policies that encourage entrepreneurship. But, taking quick measures like offering subsidies, tax credit for small businesses to attend trade shows and incentives, tax credits for tradeshows to lower fees would make a lot of sense.

Having said that, as an entrerpeneur there is still a lot you can do on your own to use your marketing dollars wisely. There are many ways entrepreneurs can take the lead and take advantage of the slow economy. Here is a good piece on how entrepreneurs can maximize tradeshow ROI in a  down economy

7 Responses to “Entrepreneurship: Trade Shows: A view from the trenches”

  1. s.webber says:

    great read!

  2. Jay Maharjan says:

    thanks also thanks for several RTs on twitter. Feel free to share comments, stories

  3. H. Tung says:

    Jay good to meet you at the Aquatics show and cool site.

  4. Don says:

    great to meet you at the London Business School. enjoyed your articles on this blog!

  5. Jay Maharjan says:

    Hey H.Tung -

    likewise. I like your magazine idea. I am currently traveling, lets catch up once I am back in LA and explore further. Best

  6. Jay Maharjan says:

    Don – Likewise! it was a great event at the London Business School. keep in touch

  7. Johaina says:

    I am actually happy to read this web site posts which includes tons of helpful facts, thanks for providing such statistics.

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