Getting the most from exhibiting
We all know that exhibiting is costly but we also know that nothing compares with meeting a blend of new prospects and existing customers face to face in a fully appropriate setting. We even get to catch up with what our competitors are doing too and often find excellent JV and referral opportunities with other exhibiting companies.
Visitors register to attend niche trade shows for many reasons but the primary ones are to keep abreast of new developments in the market and to specifically seek new specialist suppliers. There are other aims, of course, like networking and accessing training, but in the main everyone visiting a trade show or taking part in its paid conference programme has already pre-qualified themselves.
So how can you ensure that you achieve a good return on your investment in exhibiting?
Choose the right show(s) to take part in
Much like advertising, we may be swayed by the circulation figures quoted by some media but, if only a tiny fraction of the readership is definitely in the type of business we are targeting, we are going to be paying an extremely high cost per thousand (cpm) for the segment of the audience that is relevant.
Then if only a small percentage of the net audience has the influence or the decision making power for our product, service or solution then we are likely going to investing an awful lot of money in he hope that the right audience will somehow present itself in the wrong show.
It is very easy for an event organiser to create the illusion of a large interested audience but if that audience mostly comprises non-buyers like students, juniors, and “tyre kickers” rather than the serious business buyers we are targeting, then the likelihood is that most of the leads we generate will not convert. We will however get record entries into our prize draw drum and see all our giveaways find new homes!
In every sector that is showing growth there will be many exhibition organisers jumping on the bandwagon to cream quick profits whilst the subject matter is hot. Most will then exit just as swiftly as the buzz fades to move on to the “next big thing”. This makes it even more important that you choose carefully from the show opportunities on offer. Many new shows from businesses with no real commitment to the market you are targeting may find that they cannot achieve the support required and that their shows are cancelled at short notice. You could potentially lose your deposit or the entire fee you have paid in advance for your participation.
Consider too the added values that are on offer from some show organisers. ECMOD, for example, offer a full year’s exposure for its exhibitors via the high traffic www.ecmod360.co.uk website. This great extension to the live show allows exhibitors to add new content throughout the year including its press releases, special offers, case studies and new product information. In addition the combined reach of ECMOD media partners Catalogue e-Business and The Catalogue Exchange is brought into play offering ECMOD exhibitors exposure to the most active client side businesses in the sector over a full 12 month period. The ECMOD show also provides each of its exhibiting companies with a full pass to the paid for conference programme as well as opportunities to win awards via the Catalogue Exchange/ECMOD Supplier Awards.
Key Factors When Selecting Shows: audience quality attracted, profile/fit of other confirmed exhibitors, target market awareness & standing of the event
Making the most of your selected shows
Once you have selected the show(s) you want to take part in take a good look at the floor plan so that you can find the best location. It might be that your product, solution or service complements that of another exhibitor and being positioned close to that exhibitor will be beneficial. Consider which areas will get higher footfall – ie: those on route to refreshment areas or free seminar locations; those facing the main entrance to the hall, etc..
a) Consider how much space you will need to be able to do your product, service or solution justice & wherever possible try to reuse existing display materials. (if you exhibit frequently or have an demonstration room in your own premises making use of some of your existing furniture, graphics panels etc can save you a lot of money over hiring).
b) Some shows, like ECMOD, offer special “all in” toe in the water stands which include basic power supply & furniture – these are great value for first time exhibitors
c) Make sure you fully exploit all the opportunities offered to you by the show organiser – for example show tickets which you can send to your prospects inviting them to visit our stand; providing your show guide entry copy, developing your presence on the show’s website – see www.ecmod360.co.uk – not all shows have this facility but if they do be sure to make he most of it; make sure that the show organiser is aware of any products you are launching or other newsworthy information that can be used in its media campaigns & show previews; take a look at some of the additional opportunities offered by the organiser – like, for example, advertising in the show guide, placing inserts in visitor bags, sponsoring receptions or breakfast seminars etc..
d) When you are designing your stand layout keep your stand graphics clear and simple – visitors should be able to easily determine whether you have something to interest them or not – and carry the theme over to any print material and your website.
e) Lay out your stand to appeal to visitors – you want them to feel welcome to enter your space as well as making them at ease once they do so. Remember it should be as easy to exit the stand as it is to enter it.
f) Do consider the staffing of your stand carefully. Many stands are over-staffed and can intimidate prospects. Make sure that the staff who are selected for stand duty understand your objectives and are friendly as well as having a good understanding of your offer. Many seasoned exhibitors ensure that they have both male and female staff on their stands.
g) Ensure that your stand staff do not spend all of their time chatting to each other or pacing around the edge of your stand poised to “jump” on anyone showing the slightest interest. Visitors can be easily put off by indifferent stand staff as they are by those who are too pushy.
h) If you have sufficient budget for a larger stand, be sure to allow space for a meeting table & chairs – not for your staff – but to offer interested prospects the opportunity to pull up chair to engage in more detailed conversation OR have sufficient staff cover so that those wanting to talk in detail can be taken from your stand to a meeting/refreshment area within the exhibition hall. (it pays to scout these potential areas out during show build up – or to choose a stand that is in close proximity to them).
i) Do not try to cram your stand with everything you could say about your company – instead try to theme your message and keep it simple. If you have a complex proposition then consider taking a seminar theatre slot to make a benefit led presentation to which you can invite your known prospects and which the show organiser can promote with you.
j) Literature is always best placed within the stand space rather than at its edges – as you are trying to encourage dialogue rather than simply dispense literature.
k) Ensure that your stand staff members are encouraged to collect business cards from visitors or to “zap” them. Many companies run prize draws, for example, but consider what useful information you might reasonably expect to collect from draw entrants – and how the prize on offer actually fits the theme of your stand.
Of course, and most importantly, be sure to follow up all leads generated swiftly and professionally. Remember to record the source of each lead on your marketing database or contact management system so you can measure the value of business generated on an ongoing basis & attribute it to the originating show.