Exhibitions provide an excellent opportunity to collect qualified leads, make sales, build relationships and much more. But there are some definite do's and don'ts when it comes to exhibiting your business
- Look carefully at who is already booked into the show before you commit to taking a stand. It's an obvious suggestion I know, but this is one of the biggest indicators of how successful an event currently is. Are your competitors exhibiting? Do the other exhibitors' products and target customers complement yours? If you can find out if they have exhibited regularly for several years, even better. Try to find out if any major companies have pulled out, or indeed signed up in recent years? This will give you an indication as to whether the show is growing or declining in popularity.
- Speak to other exhibitors. Exhibitions are essentially all about networking and that's not just with show visitors. It never ceases to amaze me how some of the best strategic advice and potential sales leads come from the most 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 are 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. This need not add significantly to your budget, but a theme, show promotion or competition will help your staff to open conversations and entice people to your stand.
- Motivate and train your stand staff. Most marketing experts know the golden rules of exhibiting including: 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. But how many companies actually adhere to them?
- Speculate to accumulate. Securing sales and hot sales leads are usually 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 orders 12 months hence or even longer.
- Be afraid to negotiate hard with stand sales personnel. Exhibition organisers, like everyone else, have had to work harder than ever in recent years to retain their market share. This has lead to most good organisers offering a whole range of additional marketing opportunities designed to enhance your presence at the show and extend your company's marketing opportunities before, during and after the exhibition. Some of these add-on benefits are offered free with the stand, such as a free listing in the show guide and on the website. Others can be obtained at an additional cost, however if you are shrewd, as well as negotiating a discount on your stand space, you will ascertain if the sales person you are speaking to is in a position to include additional benefits free of charge - such as access to pre-registered visitor data, inclusion in show e-alerts and enhanced listings in the show guide.
- Assume. Plan, plan, plan. Attention to detail at every stage pays dividends when you arrive on site to set up your stand. If you assume that items or services will be supplied automatically without checking, you are laying yourself open to the risk of a last minute and possibly embarrassing panic.
- Waste time on time wasters. There is a trend for exhibition organisers to move away from boasting about huge visitor figures. The focus is now on quality audiences. An audience of buyers not time wasters is vital. Previous visitor statistics will give you a good guide to the type of visitors you can expect to see. However it is down to your sales team on the front line at the show to minimise the amount of time they spend with visitors who have no influence on purchasing and certainly are not or ever likely to be 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 team build and motivate. As a rule your staff will expect you to be realistic with your budget and won't take advantage by running up expenses. In return, a little goes a long way. Lay on a team meal, make sure you obtain tickets to the exhibitor party or special industry events taking place during the show and acknowledge with thanks any exceptional personal sacrifices or family arrangements an employee has made in order to attend an exhibition.