Exhibitions provide an excellent opportunity to collect qualified leads, make sales, build relationships and much more. But there are some definite dos and don'ts when it comes to exhibiting at a trade event or consumer show
- Find out who has already taken a stand at the show before you book. This is one of the biggest indicators of how successful an event currently is - and how big an audience it is likely to attract. Are your competitors exhibiting? Do the other exhibitors' products and target customers complement yours? Try to find out whether any major companies have pulled out, or indeed signed up in recent years. This will indicate whether the show is growing or declining in popularity.
- Speak to other exhibitors. Exhibitions are essentially all about networking, and not just with show visitors. Some of the best strategic advice and potential sales leads come from unexpected sources. Fellow exhibitors, trade associations and sponsoring media are not necessarily always on your side, but they are there to do business, and if you're in the right place at the right time opening dialogue on all sides of your industry can work to your advantage.
- Ensure you stand out from the crowd. Think creatively about how to grab the attention of visitors walking past your stand and how best to qualify sales leads. A theme, promotion or competition will help your staff to open conversations and entice people to your stand.
- Motivate and train your stand staff. Don't forget the golden rules of exhibiting: don't eat on the stand, don't seem too eager, ask open-ended questions, obtain as much information as possible to determine if the person you are speaking to is a prospective customer, and so on.
- Speculate to accumulate. Securing sales and hot leads are the primary goals of exhibiting, however there is a lot to be said for simply getting your name known and spreading the word. This type of marketing is unlikely to result in a quick return, but can result in more orders over time.
- Be afraid to negotiate hard with exhibition organisers when booking a stand. Most industry events offer additional marketing opportunities designed to enhance and extend your company's visibility before, during and after the exhibition. Some of these add-on benefits are free, such as a free listing in the show guide and on the website; others can be obtained at an additional cost. As well as negotiating a discount on your stand space, find out if the sales person you are speaking to can give you additional free benefits - such as access to pre-registered visitor data, inclusion in show e-alerts and enhanced listings in the show guide.
- Assume. Exhibition success relies on planning and paying attention to detail at every stage. If you assume that items or services will be supplied automatically without checking, you are risk glitches on the day and last-minute stress.
- Waste time on time-wasters. Exhibition organisers tend to focus more on the quality of the audience they can deliver more than huge visitor figures. You need to find an event that can offer an audience of buyers, not time-wasters. Visitor data from previous events will give you a good guide to the type of visitors you can expect to see. However, it's up to your sales team at the show to minimise the amount of time they spend with visitors who are not decision-makers.
- Embrace technology at the cost of personal service. Recent developments, particularly in online and mobile communication, have made the exhibition arena an even more exciting and dynamic place to market your products and services, but these technological breakthroughs need to be used wisely.
- Forget to reward your staff for a good job well done. Exhibitions are an ideal opportunity to motivate staff and build a team. Organise a team meal or give out tickets to the exhibitor party or other events. It's also important to acknowledge, with thanks, any exceptional personal sacrifices or family arrangements an employee has made in order to attend an exhibition.