Exhibiting at a trade show is an excellent way to touch potential customers, strengthen relationships with your current customer base, visually position yourselves within the market place and above all it is an economic way of gaining sales. However, in order to maximise on the success of the show there is some important work which needs to be done prior to and post the event itself.
You'll improve your trade show experience by planning ahead. The most important things at any trade show are the exhibitors and the attendees yet according to a study conducted by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) 85 percent of attendees had not been contacted by a salesperson before the show and then consider that 86 of these attendees are the decision maker or influence the buying decision.
Exhibitors without attendees aren't of much worth. High-quality attendees are the lifeblood of any successful trade show. Keep in mind that sheer number of attendees is not the only issue. A show that attracts a relatively small number of attendees who happen to be exactly the type of people you are looking for might easily be more successful at helping you grow than a bigger show with a broader group of attendees.
So, how do you get the right people there? Firstly, you sell the show and not yourself. As good as your company are the customer is going to need more of a pull to dedicate the time to attend the event than just your service offering. Send personal invitations, letters or emails informing people of what the show is about, who is exhibiting (not just yourself), are there any demonstrations, competitions, seminars or networking opportunities? This has to be a structured process of telling them that you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them that you’ve told them!
Have you decided what your show objective is? Are you exhibiting to generate sales leads? Is this an opportunity to road test or introduce a new product? Is this your opportunity to obtain customer feedback? Have you considered studying the competition? And don't forget the opportunity to recruit new employees, distributors or dealers from your industry.
So, you know why you’re doing it and you’ve got them there. Make sure you get the most from your stand or your interactions with the footfall. You may go so far as to write a script for people staffing your stand to present to visitors. Qualifying is an important part of speaking to people at trade shows. You can spend a lot of time talking to the wrong people. So make sure you know who you want to talk to, whether it's a potential customer, supplier, dealer or other contact, and make sure you spend as much time as possible interacting with the target people. Consider a method of data capture, this could be a competition – place your business card in this bowl for the chance to win...., this is critical for your post exhibition follow up.
Finally, collateral. You’re one stand of many. How are you going to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. Take the time to review the floor plan. Consider floor walkers, promotional staff with t shirts branded with your company name and stand number walking around the show offering a hand out – coffee voucher, cotton shopper bag to act as a show carry case, information about the show. Are the staff on the stand carrying your corporate identity? Do they have name badges so attendees know who they are speaking with? Do they have lots of business cards and brochures to give away and have you considered promotional gifts? If so, have you considered the nature of the gifts? These are going to be a permanent reminder from the day. Are they relative to your market? There’s no point giving a branded condom to a religious group however they are the perfect give away for the I.T. industry who sell anti virus software.
Planning is the key to a successful exhibition. Do not make the mistake of just booking a stand, ensure you maximise on the opportunities being presented to you.