How to be an exhibitionist and become the one to watch

27th July, 2010

Exhibiting is arguably the most useful form of marketing that you can perform. No other marketing medium gives you the captive audience that you crave and no other medium delivers that audience to you face-to-face without the hassle of door knocking, telesales and endless hours of sales calls and disappointments.

What is an Exhibition?

An exhibition could be likened to a very posh market stall. If you think about it, people are paying good money to visit your "market stall". They are not there to look around. They have a specific goal in mind. They will want to know who is selling the product that they desire, they will want to know all about the product, the company selling it, the people behind the company and this gives you a golden opportunity to showcase all of these to the best possible advantage to you.

Planning, objectives and strategy

Have a plan. Know what you want to gain - customers, one off sales, etc. Be clear in your mind about this and work your plan of attack around your requirements. Maybe you have two or more sorts of customers that you wish to cater for. Think about this beforehand. An idea could be to split your stand in two... for example half for trade and half for end user. If you are dealing with both, make sure that you only have end user pricing visible to everyone. You can always arrange to send trade price lists off to anyone making enquiries after the event. Don't forget that you may also meet with your existing customers so make sure that you are not offering something that they are not aware of or that may alienate them in any way. You don't want to end up losing more than you gain. Aim to keep everybody happy. If you come into contact with an existing client, it is any ideal opportunity to try to increase revenue.

What should your objectives be... Well you may say that from all the contacts that you make you would like to secure ten new customers or clients in two months. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. You have spent the money on the exhibition so make sure you maximise the benefits.

Your Stand

So how are you going to stand out from the crowd? With so many other people exhibiting in one place, you need to make sure that you look professional. What do we mean by this? Have a clear brand identity and use it to the max. Showcase your products using imagery, leaflets, in fact anything you can utilise. Be bold, be colourful, BE SEEN! There are so many variables of stand equipment and accessories available and they don't have to cost the earth. (Visit our page on exhibitions and signage to give you an idea of what you can achieve). Make the most of your unique selling points, offer promotions and always be one step ahead of your competitors.

People sell products too!

Make sure that you have adequate representation. Have staff that will be able to answer technical questions if necessary, managers and executive managers to meet decision makers and hospitality staff. Make sure that everyone involved has a clear idea on what they have to do, what you are hoping to achieve, how you would like them dressed, timings etc. They will be your company representatives so choose them wisely. Have a briefing meeting outlining exactly what you expect of them and maybe have some "dummy runs".

Literature and Promotion.

Make sure that you have adequate supplies of literature, business cards, etc to take with you. Never underestimate how many you will hand out. People love glossy brochures, especially when it involves products of interest. Don't leave your printing requests until the last minute. Have everything ready and waiting at least one month before the planned exhibition.

Let your customers know that you will be exhibiting. The event organisers may also have lists available of people who will be attending, so utilise every resource at your fingertips. Email them or send them a pre-printed postcard letting them know what Stand No. you will be occupying. (You will receive this information in plenty of time for you to notify people). Many of our clients run a free gift promotion or quiz. Filling out a form or leaving a business card in order to be entered into a 'prize draw' is one really effective way of creating footfall whilst enabling you to build up a database of interested potential clients. Also be clear about what you are going to do with this data after the exhibition. Don't let your leads go cold. Have a promotion or mailshot ready and waiting for when you return from the exhibition whilst it is still fresh in everybody's mind. Make sure this is all prepared, printed and ready to go. If you don't want to go to the cost of printing, enlist a company to prepare a really good, eyecatching email campaign which again can be prepared in advance.

Give the event coordinators copies of your brochures, printed literature etc. Organisers often use the upcoming event activities of the exhibitors to promote their exhibitions, so work with them and use them as another source of 'free' advertising.

If you are launching a new product at the exhibition, you could think about 'pre-booking' appointments for viewings. A page on your website can be easily created to do this. Don't forget to use social networking sites to notify people and of course a pre-event blog.

On the day:

Remind staff of the objectives and goals of the day. Ensure that all mobile phones are switched off. Never be on the phone whilst manning your stand and never eat at the stand. A quick reminder of sales techniques might be useful at this point. It may be an idea to have a "potential lead form" to fill in so that you have all the information you might need when you make your follow up call/visit. Any information you have will be invaluable to you. Prioritise your leads by maybe using a numbering system according to how likely you are to receive a sale from them. After the show, use the high priority leads first and work your way down the list.

Don't get bogged down with entertaining existing clients. You will need to strike a balance between keeping them happy and encouraging company growth through new business. After all, this is the point of the exhibition.

Visit the press office if there is one. Use them to promote you and your products. Tell them about your stand and encourage photographs if they have a photographer to hand. If your stand looks professional and eyecatching, they won't put up much of a fight!

After the show

Follow up on your leads immediately. A nice idea might be to send an "It was nice to meet you" card or email in the first instance, with a promise of a follow up call in say a week.

Utliise your data capture by creating a campaign for maybe the following month or two.

Assess how the exhibition went. What could you have changed, what should you have done that you didn't and most importantly, what was successful and worth using again. Do a cost analysis on expenditure vs sales to maybe last for the six months following the exhibition. Remember that not all leads will convert to sales immediately. However interested they may have seemed at the time, some of your best leads will still need some hard work.

You can often buy lists of show attendees from the organisers. You can use these as an introduction for future promotions or exhibitions. Also let the organiser know if you had any particular successes at the show. Encourage them to use these in their after show reviews (again, free advertising!).

If you spoke to the press office, follow them up with a call to thank them for their interest.

If the show was a success for you and you are considering re-exhibiting at the next year's event, early booking will almost certainly secure a prime position. Make sure you get to the front of the queue.

Happy Exhibiting!

If you would like any advice on promotions or marketing, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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