Wholesale trade shows can benefit your wholesale distribution and/or manufacturing business in dozens of ways, from providing opportunities to spot trends that are relevant to your industry, to building brand awareness with potential customers.

Here are 5 reasons why we think wholesale trade shows should be part of your yearly marketing strategy:

Why Wholesale Trade Shows are a Must for Your Business

1) Directly Target Customers: At wholesale trade shows, the majority of attendees are there for the express purpose of finding, learning about, and buying new products. Most trade shows have thousands of qualified buyers in attendance, and even if they don’t make a purchase at the show, making connections is key. Introducing your products to these buyers can have long-term positive effects on your sales numbers even after the show.

Statistics bear this out. According to Trade Show News Network, 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority. Of these attendees, various sources estimate that about half attend with the intention of making a purchase decision at the show. Better yet, even among those that don’t close at the show, the cost to close a lead sourced at a trade show is about half that of leads found via other means. These are all compelling arguments for exhibiting at wholesale trade shows.

2) Build Brand Awareness: Obviously, we want to sell products at a trade show. But beyond that, wholesale trade shows offer unique opportunities to build brand awareness with the thousands of attendees there. The key to maximizing this opportunity lies in consistent branding. All aspects of your booth presence––from the booth itself to marketing collateral and other materials––should be in line with the brand. Consistent messaging and a clear call to action are critical to turn brand awareness into potential new customers.

3) Partnership Opportunities: B2B is all about relationships, not just with your customers but also with suppliers and other firms that may provide services or make products that complement your brand. If you’re looking for new or more competitively-priced suppliers, wholesale trade shows are a great way to see and touch the products you need before you buy. Wholesale trades hows also provide excellent opportunities for networking and learning about other companies and potential partners that can help your business grow.

Don’t just wander the show floor aimlessly, however: to get the most out of the partnership opportunities that will be available at the show, do your research ahead of time and if possible, set up appointments to meet with potential partners.

4) Trend Spotting: The best way to know what will happen next in your industry is to stay on top of what your competitors and others in your industry are doing today. Wholesale trade shows give you an opportunity to see new products up close and personal. In industries like fashion, gift and home, and even food and beverage, this is even more important, since many of the trends that are seen on the expo floor today may not be seen in retail stores or magazines for two seasons or more. You will see the direction your industry is heading before it’s too late to adjust course.

5) Get Educated: Most wholesale trade shows have training and presentations occurring side-by-side with exhibits on the trade show floor. Depending on your industry, different educational opportunities will be available. If you’re in fashion or retail, designer showcases will help you keep up to date on the latest designers and trends, while food and beverage shows might provide opportunities to learn more about new food categories like healthy, organic or imported products.

Getting the Most Value from Wholesale Trade Shows

Obviously, there are many good reasons to attend wholesale trade shows. But it’s still important to ensure that your investment provides the best possible returns. The most important tip to ensure success is to prepare well in advance. From developing your trade show marketing strategy to determining what products to bring to highlight and how to present them, trade shows require your best planning efforts. Don’t simply rely on the fact that the show will attract thousands of attendees either. Make the most of the opportunity by reaching out to attendees before the show, and following up with them after.

Finally, make sure to do a good job of planning your time at the show. Wholesale trade shows are months in the planning, and then over in just a few days, so make sure you have appropriate coverage for your booth, and any necessary appointments scheduled in advance.

Are trade shows part of your marketing strategy for 2016? We’d love to hear why – or why not – in the comments.