Trade shows can be a great opportunity to network and showcase your business. But they also demand a serious investment of your time and money - so make sure you're well prepared
Here are our top tips and insights to help you get the best out of exhibiting, from designing your stand to engaging with prospective customers:
- On average, 75% of visitors to an exhibition are there to buy or plan to buy in the future. It’s a highly-qualified audience - so make sure your pitch is up to scratch.
- Exhibiting is one of the most cost-effective way of getting your products and services in front of customers, as long as you maximise your presence and work hard.
- Exhibiting allows you to truly interact with potential customers, using all five senses. Exploit that with creative, hands-on stand displays.
- Decide why you are exhibiting and what you want to achieve. Have some specific, measurable targets in mind - for example, to get 300 qualified sales leads, or conduct 50 research interviews.
- Design your stand to help deliver your objectives. Make sure it is smart, attractive, visible and reflects well on your company.
- Have one person in charge of every aspect of the exhibition. Make them accountable, and ask for progress reports.
- 80% of stand success is down to your staff, so train them thoroughly and ensure they're working hard throughout the day.
- If you can invite people, do. Use social media, email and your website to get the message out and invite potential customers to your stand.
- Formulate a plan for how you will follow up all leads.
- At the show, let people know you are there - advertise. Don't be a shrinking violet.
- Don't ask closed questions. Open questions encourage prospects to talk about their business, issues and needs.
- Keep your conversations short and concise. Your aim is to speak to as many prospects as possible.
- Turn off your mobile phone or other gadgets, and focus on the visitors to your stand.
- Get all the contact details and information you can from your prospect, or scan their badge or lanyard if you can to capture their data.
- Make a staff rota, so everyone knows where he or she is and what he or she is doing, when.
- Always make eye contact and smile.
- Listen to your prospect and sell the benefits, not the features, of your products or services. Make sure you can explain how your business can solve their problems.
- Anticipate questions and objections and make sure you can quickly answer them without looking flustered, or saying "I'll come back to you on that"… you've already lost them.
- You and your staff need to look fresh and feel fresh. If you're flagging, take a short break or rota on another person with new energy - you don't have time to waste.
- Be creative to attract people to your stand - free samples work well.
- If it's a multi-day event, have daily team debriefs to help you understand what you can do better the following day.
- Classify all leads - don't just take details; ensure you know who the person is and what they're looking for, so your follow-up is personal and relevant.
- Don't eat whilst on the stand, or chat amongst yourselves - stay looking professional and customer-focused.
- Remember why you are there - stay focused on your objectives.
- Talk less and listen more to draw out your prospect.
- At the end of the event, conduct a show debrief with the stand team, and identify what went well and what didn't.
- Don't forget to thank the event organiser for a successful show. You may be able to help them with after-show promotion to further raise your (and their) profile.
- Follow up leads with a personalised message or call. You may need to contact them on average six times before they convert.
- Make use of all the information you have gathered. For example, use attendee feedback to drive future product development.
- Book early for next year, to get the best stand placement.
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Written with input from Chris Skeith of AEO.