How To Exhibit
Whether you have already booked your stand space, or you are still thinking about exhibiting with The South West Expo here are a few tips and ideas on how to get the best out of an exhibition.
A good exhibition creates something akin to a retail environment, which for many companies working in the business-to-business arena, and especially for service sector firms, is unique. The beauty of an exhibition is that it is a neutral environment in which to do business. The visitor feels, and to some extent is, in control and therefore is more at ease and less pressured. Which is a good attitude for them to have when you open up a business dialogue with them.
Exhibitions give you a substantial opportunity to meet new prospects and sometimes even close a few sales. In most instances of
course you will only be at stage one of the buying process – which is all about getting to know your prospect, and them getting to know you and your products, it’s about finding out what they need,
what kind of problems they have and need to solve, getting an idea of whether they have money to spend and who else they are talking to – and not necessarily the time to go in for the kill.
Event based marketing gives you an opportunity to make a high impact impression on clients and prospects because you have the
opportunity to attack all of their senses and they can engage interactively with you and potentially with your products, through demonstrations and trials. As an added bonus, through exhibitions you
can do some hands on research, see and talk to: competitors, potential suppliers, sector lead bodies and of course talk informally to potential customers themselves. For many businesses
with new ideas in the pipeline exhibitions can be a great opportunity to find out what your market is ‘thinking’ at a moment in time.
OK – so now you’re convinced that exhibiting might be a good thing. What next?
The key to success is thorough planning.
What is your primary reason for exhibiting? Your objectives might include:
to raise awareness of your business in a given geographic location or industry sector
to collect leads to follow up or to generate a mailing list
to make direct sales
to launch or promote a new product or service
to meet and/or entertain existing customers
to meet potential suppliers/partners/agents/distributors.
Whatever your objectives, the important thing is to quantify. How many visitors do you want to be exposed to overall. How many visitors do you expect on your stand? How many will take your literature, or leave their business card?. Think about the budget you are prepared to spend to achieve these objectives. Think through how you can best achieve your objectives and make sure you have the practical tools there on the day to help you achieve them - so if you want to build a mailing list is it enough just to collect business cards or do you want an intelligent database that give you a little bit more information so that you can target any mailing to specific needs. A soft approach is often very effective - ask their permission to keep them informed about changes to your product range, special offers or send them useful information. If people have a genuine need they are likely to want such information, if they are time wasters you don't want them on your prospect list or database anyway. remember it's not just a numbers game - the quality of lead is also really important.
Now you know whether you are focusing on leads, awareness, prospects or existing customers you can decide the type of physical presence you want at the event. And it will be quite different depending on your objectives. For a product launch for example you may have a far more dramatic stand and plan hi-impact, media appealing activities around the stand. The people manning the stand might be from your PR team, to handle media enquiries, or technicians if you are launching to a technically well informed audience.
In contrast, if your main purpose is to generate leads you need to think more about the type of lead you want, presumably you need leads to be as well qualified as possible. What does that mean for your business? Should the individual be the budget holder or main decision maker, looking to buy in the next few months, willing to agree to a sales appointment, leave a business card, fill out an enquiry form, take or request a brochure? As you can imagine there will be varying degrees of interest and commitment amongst these different categories of visitor. It’s worth thinking through how you will follow up leads and therefore what type of information you need to gather. Make sure you collect sufficient details to make a meaningful follow up – they may visit and speak to a dozen other suppliers – make sure you have made an impression and that when you call them you can use a simple reminder which enables you to start from where you left off.
When designing the stand make sure it passes the 30 second test – 30 seconds is roughly how long people will look at your stand
before they decide to visit or walk on. So the message must be loud and clear. Don’t be tempted to cover too much on the stand itself, but do make sure there’s a reason to stop and talk to you or
pick up literature. And if you are handing out literature on the stand, think seriously about what you give out and what you want readers to do next. The danger of giving out standard product or
corporate literature is that it gets put in the obligatory plastic bag that all exhibition visitors seems to acquire as soon as they walk through the door, and if it finds it’s way out it gets a 10
second skim through. So think about having literature produced specifically for the event, with messages targeted to the type of visitors you expect and maybe even special offers or exclusive deals.
That way visitors are more likely to read, and more likely to respond.
Make sure all your staff are appropriately dressed and where possible, are wearing printed T Shirts, this is an ideal way for you to convey a professional image of your company.
Customers like to take gifts home from exhibitions. This can include anything from a box of chocolates, a CD ROM or a free product
and don't forget the promotional merchandise, all prominently displaying your company logo and contact details.
Keep a record of all customers who have taken an interest in your stand, try to take down as many names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, as you possibly can. This will help you in the next section.
Don't let all of your hard work during the exhibition go to waste. Following the exhibition, make contact with all those clients who took an interest in your products or services. You can contact them via a mail shot, an e-mail campaign or even a simple phone call. Make sure your website is up to date, you want to reinforce the good impression you made at the exhibition.