Trade shows or exhibitions are a must for any business. As a marketing tool they are great for getting your message out there, to announce to your market what you are about and to size up the competition. They also create an ideal opportunity to meet potential clients face to face. But this comes at a cost. It’s certainly not cheap to attend exhibitions so you need to ensure a good return on investment if you are to warrant the proportion of budget required. To make it worth all the effort you need as many people as possible of the pre-selected audience to visit your stand.
But how can you entice the RIGHT people to YOUR stand? You need a 3-fold plan to follow prior to the exhibition, during and afterwards.
‘Prior to E-day’
As soon as you’ve booked and paid for an exhibition stand at your carefully chosen exhibition you need to get to work. No doubt you have selected the show because of the specific demographics or interests of visitors likely to attend. As soon as you can, you need to let these know you will be there and that you can offer them something beneficial. Advertise in all the right places, such as special interest magazines, trade journals and the exhibition programme (trade show manual). Maximise on low cost social media by tweeting or announcing on Face Book you’ll be attending the show. Build awareness by blogging on SM or your own website and be sure to include the name of the event in the title, sub headings and main body. This will mean your website will be flagged up on search engines when potential customers look for the event. You can even show the countdown to the event on homepage banners of your website or on regular social media blogs.
Go direct to existing and potential clients via email. Inform them of your intention to participate in the exhibition, what you’ll be offering including special incentives like discounts and highlight how their business will benefit from visiting your stand. It may even be possible to arrange appointments with them to meet up at the venue for further conversation.
Be creative and stand out
Your next focus needs to be on enticing your potential visitors to come to your exhibition stand. Your display must stand out and be clearly identifiable in the sea of banners and hoardings. (see our blog “Wow! Now that’s what I call an exhibition stand!” for hints and tips on how to give your exhibition displays the wow factor).
Nowadays there’s so much competition for potential buyers it’s a tough gig trying to differentiate your brand. By knowing your ideal customer well there are ways to appeal to their interests and preferences. Think about what makes them tick. Would they enjoy some technological toys to play on whilst learning about your products, such as iPads? Or would they respond well to cosy seating, refreshments and a friendly host to chat to? Most buyers are drawn by videos or something visible to observe. Maybe a sample or prototype of your product to inspect and evaluate. Anything they can interact with seems to be the order of the day.
Visitors attend exhibitions for two principal reasons; to experience or to be entertained. Your company can tap into this need by providing live music, iPad magicians, caricaturists or guest speakers to discuss business topics or demonstrate a product.
Other incentives that appeal are digital games, competitions, freebies and gifts, device charging and Wi-Fi.
On the day
Reach out to potential customers
Keep your customers in touch by posting a running commentary, images and live feeds on SM throughout the day. Regularly ‘tweet’ giving mentions of speakers and fellow exhibitors to boost your presence online and increase your access to many more potential customers when your posts are retweeted.
Make a big impact whilst on view to the masses particularly journalists and create a buzz around your stand by launching a new product or service or announcing some exciting company news. You can build anticipation for this through regular posts on SM or launch some PR via the press on the lead up to E-Day.
Meet up with your public by circulating staff with invites and leaflets to incite interest or give them an incentive to search you out.
Listen to your audience
Make each minute with a potential customer count. Listen attentively to their needs and requirements and ascertain how your business can best provide for these. Make notes as you go along to show genuine interest. Create a contact database and carefully record all contact details correctly along with a general description of their business activities if they are a trade member. It’s easy to acquire customer information via QR codes at exhibitions but where these systems are not provided a manual option will suffice. Keep this aspect of the meeting simple and bearable for the visitor; they don’t want to feel trapped or that they are under investigation! The whole experience of coming to your business stand and engaging in conversation needs to be pleasant and memorable for all the right reasons.
R & R – Reminisce and Recount
Let everyone know what a huge success the event was and why. Tweet the salient points and interesting experiences. Post memorable pictures of interesting people you met and highlight incentives for a post exhibition sale such as discounts or vouchers gifted to those you met.
Analyse and follow up
To really maximise on the full benefit of attending an event the work does not stop there. It’s vital to nurture the contacts developing them into potential customers and they say in the business that you only have 48 hours to convert a ‘hot lead’ into a future prime customer. All contact information should be sorted according to priority; are your leads hot, warm or cold in their motivation to purchase? Once they are organised make contact with your high priority contacts straight away, meeting with them face to face or conference calling for preferential treatment to develop the business relationship. Don’t expect too much directly after the event as its common for as many as 75% of leads made B2B will convert into sales within 12 to 18 months. The less inclined contacts can be emailed, or contacted via SM or letter in the weeks following the event. Research suggests that we would need to make contact 6 times before a lead converts. Keep warm and cold contacts informed with the latest on your business through regular newsletters and special discount offers to encourage a sale.