Let’s be honest, we would all like to think that taking our products and services out on the road and putting them under the spotlight at an exhibition, will prove to be the ideal way to blow the socks off our prospective customers.
Sadly, it’s entirely possible that the opposite will happen. You will plan for months, if not years and invest considerable resources in exhibiting, only to end up with absolutely nothing to show for it.
For many, exhibiting will prove to be somewhere in between those two extremes. So, how can you make sure you come home armed with lots of juicy business leads and bundles of other great contacts and feedback?
Here are some dos and don’ts, to help make your exhibition foray a success…
Pick Your Exhibition Outings With Care
Just because it sounds like your target customers will be among the visitors, doesn’t mean it will be fertile ground. Check who else has taken the stands – is it your rivals? Is it a good mix of similar products and services from your marketplace? Also, make sure the job titles of the people likely to attend are the decision-makers you need to reach. It’s great to have a bunch of production folk to talk to, but if it’s one of the directors you need to be reaching, don’t rely on anyone to pass your message along. Research previous versions of the event, to see what sort of coverage and participation it received. Give non-competitive previous exhibitors a call and ask for their views.
See Your Stand as a Static Entity
Your presence is a fluid thing and you should use it to network as much as possible. Invite clients and potential clients to meet you there and use it as a starting point for spending time winning them over. Move around the exhibition halls and spend time with potential suppliers or collaborators. The most successful exhibitors see the show days as just one part of the exhibition campaign. Treat the exhibition as an overall marketing campaign. Who do you want to target, what is your objective and what are your key messages? Make sure you build a communications plan for pre & post-event, via multiple channels including your social media platforms and email.
“SHINE” With an Attention-Grabbing Stand
You love your logo and you’re rightly proud of your product and service. It could well be instantly recognisable to existing clients. However, you are there to engage with as many new contacts as possible and they need quick, memorable visual references to know who you are, what you’re selling and why they should talk to you. To drive traffic to your exhibition stand, give them a hook, an attention-grabbing angle. And no, a tub of sweets or free pens really isn’t going to do it. This doesn’t have to be expensive. The most important thing is to be creative. Also, add as much height to your stand as you’re allowed.
Populate Your Stand With People Who Wait For Things to Happen
One of the most common exhibition fails is to have staff sitting down, looking up hopefully at each person who passes by. Get your team trained up beforehand; physically to be ready for standing and walking around for hours and professionally to be engaging and immersive throughout the day. Stand at the front of your space or slightly in the aisle, with an open body posture. Look interested! Select people who will engage with visitors on the stand, but make sure it’s not those who just want a chat. You have limited time at the exhibition, be clear about what you want to get from the conversation. By the way, eating while on the stand or leaving coffee cups and other debris around is not going to make you look professional. First impressions really do count.
Make the Most of Technology
As well as using technology to demonstrate your latest products and services, use technology to capture visitor data. If you can get them to subscribe to your newsletter or some other offer by filling in a basic “opt-in screen”, you’ll be able to continue the conversation long after the show.
Being engaging doesn’t have to translate into being pushy. There really is nothing more off-putting than someone with aggressive selling techniques. It’s a balance. Visitors to exhibitions are ready to be spoken to and they know that they may be challenged to start a conversation. It goes with the territory. However, when they are determined to walk past your stand, don’t try to stop them. Instead, find reasons to engage with them. Can you create a video to play or perhaps a gimmick on your stand?
It’s surprising how many people still come back from exhibitions with heaps of business cards that gather dust until they are binned. Your engagement with people shouldn’t just be a load of random names and job titles. Keep notes on your conversations. Then after the event, tailor your communications to each contact based on their engagement on the stand. Above all, make sure you do what you’ve said you will do. If you promised information or action, follow through.
And that’s where the Expositionists come in…