So you’ve got a small business. Maybe you’re a solopreneur with a one-person shop, or maybe you’re the owner and operator of a fledgling business with a few employees. Either way, you’ve launched, you’re successful, and your business is thriving.

What to do next? You’re probably already utilizing a lot of the marketing tips recommended for small businesses: getting involved in the local community, interacting on social media, and finding your own niche groups of loyal customers. However, at some point you’re going to need to take your business to the next level. Taking your products to a trade show is one way to make that happen.

Take Your Business To The Next Level With Trade Shows

What is a Trade Show?

A trade show is any large convention designed to allow businesses to display and sell their products. There are trade shows for nearly every type of industry, from computer hardware to farm equipment to fashion. While some trade shows allow the general public to attend and shop for products, many trade shows are “industry-only;” that is, they are designed for business owners in that industry to build connections, see what other people are selling, and learn about new innovations in their chosen market.

Taking your business to a trade show gives you an opportunity to interact with people you might not be able to contact otherwise. You’ll be put in contact with other business owners, as well as with vendors, marketers, PR strategists and other people working in your industry. You’ll also get the opportunity to show off your business and its products, and make sales to customers you might never meet anywhere else.

How do you find Trade Shows?

There are trade shows throughout the country. LogicBlock has a great article about where to look for trade shows in your area. Pay attention to the different types of trade shows; some shows are enormous and attract the biggest competitors, while others are more locally-based and allow smaller businesses the chance to shine.

What Type of Trade Shows should you consider Applying for?

Here’s a good rule of thumb: as a business owner, you should visit as many big trade shows as possible, and apply to exhibit at the trade shows that are one level above where you think your business currently is. A good appearance at a tri-state trade show this year will help you prepare for a national trade show next year.

How far in Advance do you need to Apply to Trade Shows?

If you want to exhibit at a trade show, you need to apply at least six months in advance. For some of the largest trade shows, you need to apply over a year in advance. As you search for trade shows in your area, note the application dates; and don’t forget that even if it’s too late for you to exhibit, it’s still possible for you to attend the trade show and use it as a networking opportunity.

How do you have a Successful Trade Show Exhibit?

To have a successful trade show exhibit, you need a display that stands out. People often make decisions about which exhibits to visit simply by glancing at displays from across the room. Look at different types of portable trade show displays and choose one that fits your needs and your budget.

Once you have your display, you need to hit the floor and interact with every single person who approaches your exhibit. Read Inc Magazine’s 8 Tricks of the Trade Show to learn how to pace yourself throughout the day and make the most of your trade show opportunities. Remember that you are likely to be exposed to numerous types of opportunities, including potential vendors, new customers, and marketing contacts. Be prepared for everything.

Adding trade shows to your marketing plan is a great way to take your business to the next level. Attend a few trade shows this winter, then plan to exhibit at a trade show this spring.