Face-to-face events such as exhibitions and conferences are valuable opportunities for making useful contacts and promoting your business.
Exhibitions enable you to meet lots of people that matter to your business in one place, including customers, new prospects, suppliers, investors, competitors and key figures in your industry. Exhibitions come in all shapes and sizes, but the two main types are consumer shows and trade fairs.
The benefits of trade fairs and consumer shows
Trade shows attract qualified visitors who often have buying responsibility - people that can be hard to get hold of at other times. Visitors go to business events prepared to give their time and attention and they are often ready to buy. As well as allowing you to sell your products and services, a business exhibition is the ideal opportunity to find out more about your customers and their needs.
Consumer shows can be a great launch pad for a new business or product; they offer the chance to do live demonstrations in front of a large audience. With a strong offering, your business could create a word of mouth buzz at the show and attract media coverage.
Visiting trade shows
You don’t have to be an exhibitor to get the most out of exhibitions. As a visitor, you can:
- learn about industry developments
- make appointments with people you’d like to meet
- see what your competitors are up to
- hold your own launch party or product demonstration
Making a success of exhibiting
The first step as an exhibitor is to choose the right event. Every event organiser has information about attendance figures and visitor profiles. Don't be seduced by big numbers though - quality is more important than quantity. The presence of your competitors is generally a good thing - their promotional activity will bring more prospective clients through the doors.
Conferences and seminars that run alongside an exhibition also attract visitors. You can make an impact by offering your services on a panel discussion or by sponsoring an event.
When it comes to booking exhibition space, the best spots are near the entrance and at the corners. The perimeters of the exhibition hall are also better than the inner aisles. However, it's what you do with the space that really counts. Exhibition stands range from simple pop-ups or shell schemes to more sophisticated modular or custom-builds. No matter what your budget is, even the simplest design can stand out in the exhibition hall.
PR should be a key part of your exhibition strategy. Contact relevant publications before the event to ensure that your business is featured in their pre-show coverage. Invite journalists to your stand, and put copies of press releases and brochures in the exhibition press office.
Making sales at exhibitions and events
One of the most important jobs at any exhibition is to meet people, find out what they are looking for, give them the information they need and collect their contact details so that you can continue the dialogue after the show. Make sure your stand staff are properly trained to ask the right questions and to help visitors with their enquiries.
The work doesn’t stop once the show is over - the contact details you’ve collected are valuable leads and sales are often closed after an event so follow-up is vital. Start by emailing everyone you have met, saying thanks for visiting the stand and offering your services. Honour any commitments you've made by sending information or quotes to anyone who requested them. Most importantly, make a list of the hottest prospects, rate your leads and get in touch to close the sale.