4 Dynamic Ways You Can Make Business Exhibitions Successful
Exhibitions and trade shows can provide multiple opportunities for your small business. Just make sure you turn up with the right attitude
In the ever increasing world of business, everyone is striving for the most exciting and innovative ways they can approach trade shows and market their business.
Whether you want to grow your pool of prospects, build your brand or maximise your ROI – these events can be effective. They also generate big business; unfortunately, the statistics aren’t evaluated and released regularly, but for instance in 2010 the exhibitions sector in the UK generated £11bn. Even better news – it has previously been reported than 81% of attendees have buying authority.
Events such as these gather large numbers of professionals in one place, meaning that both attendees and exhibitors are able to network, connect and build meaningful relationships whilst showcasing their knowledge and expertise.
Promote the event
As if it was your own event – which in effect it is; you are exhibiting your business there. Some businesses even go a step beyond and pay for their best customers or prospects to also attend.
Just a word to the wise – don’t make it solely about your business, but instead promote the event, how successful it is, the ROI that exhibiting secures and what your business has taken away from exhibiting. Simply put – its 2016 and no one wants your shameless self-promotion.
Your pre-show strategy must all stem from a solid action plan. As well as creating pre-show insightful content to be outreached, you could also create social campaigns and mailers. Fully commit to the event, even swapping out your social profile pictures or cover images for ones that promote the show.
Creating a pre-show icebreaker can pay off dividends; depending on what your offering is why not conduct a survey about perceptions, or current services, how much money is spent….or even create a ‘hit list’ of attendees and make it personal to them and their business.
If you know that there are attendees you would love to have on board, why not host a dinner after the event? It doesn’t have to be a formal affair, just the beginning of a beautiful (and enduring) relationship.
Only go to exhibitions and trade shows that you can speak at
The client-brand relationship has developed into one that is beyond being purely transactional. It’s no longer about who has the biggest advertising budget; it’s about creating a brand that is engaging, in order to establish a long term relationship that benefits both parties.
We need to aim to connect with our audience and trade shows and exhibitions provide the perfect opportunity to establish trusting relationships built on shared values. What better way to communicate your business values and vision, and showcase yourself as an industry thought leader than to take the stage and talk with passion?
Claire Lew from KnowYourCompany thinks that speaking at events can help a business to hone your messaging. “After presenting at a conference, I watched people’s reactions to it. Everyone took out pencils and started to frantically scribble down what I’d put up on the slide. I made a mental note that information was very useful to people. And I’ve since included that in more talks, podcast appearances and media appearances that I’ve done.”
If giving a talk isn’t an option but a sitting on a panel is – it’s better than nothing. You could also take matters into your own hands and give mini-talks in your exhibition stand, inviting prospects and other vendors.
People shy away from an aggressive sales pitch and if this is your angle, expect your stand to be empty. Saying this, a sales pitch thinly veiled as a two-way conversation will be detected instantly; this approach will inevitably hurt your business.
Aim for your stand to be educational – not about your business but about the industry.
Perhaps conduct a survey before the show about the most commonly asked questions or areas where people become confused and focus your time at the stand to clear up confusion and misconceptions. Focus on establishing great conversations – even a debate!
“Engaging with others over mutual interests is a great way of making new [business] relations,” says Colin Hudson, director of career development at Cranfield University School of Management.
Does your business have established core values or a great brand story? Refer back to this for inspiration. Have faith in the solution that your offering provides without giving it the hard sell. If people ask about your business, tell them…..but don’t talk at them.
Only give away quality items
First things first – forget the stress ball, forget the cardboard coaster and nail file, cheap pens and notepads, outdated business cards while you are at it. They are nothing more than a waste of money
“First impressions are everything and ultimately if something isn’t presented well it’s unlikely we will pursue it further and find out more. Keeping your business on brand is essential and it needs to extend to all areas of your business.” comments Richard LeCount at USBMakers, “We can guarantee when a trade show is happening because there is always a sudden increase in orders for our branded items.”
Your swag should always be high quality, maybe leading to conversions but certainly growing your brand perception. Think along the gamification route – a trend that is rapidly gaining traction, games are fun and attract crowds, they are also a great for data capture. Turning the game into a competition, means that you can offer a meaningful prize that will get people talking rather than a cheap pen that will sit redundant in a desk drawer until the annual clean. Creating a social element to share results shows you to be current.
If you decide you do want to have branded give-aways, make them useful; high quality notebooks, battery packs for smart phones, digital reward promotions and travel mugs.
These shows are often considered to be a pseudo vacation – on the contrary they are effective lead generation exercises and should be executed with due care and attention. By also implementing a solid follow up strategy, many companies choose to operate in the dark once the event is over.
The follow up isn’t about closing the sale – it should also be about gauging the events ROI. If you evaluate, how many leads you came away with and how many of those have converted you will be able to accurately track the ROI of your business events and trade shows.
Rebecca Moore is a freelance writer