“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”
(Aristotle 384 BC – 322 BC, Greek Philosopher)
Funny how some things never really change, isn't it? Invariably, if your goal is to get the most out of your marketing budget and your objective is to make an impact on potential clients, then it is likely at some point you will be preparing for a major Trade Show or Exhibition.
Deciding where the budget goes is key, but so is having the right materials and getting the stand staff to behave! If you want to win Best In Show when you next exhibit then here are a few little tips:
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Look out to see if the market leaders are attending the show, their presence can be a good indicator of attendance levels. Ask previous exhibitors for their opinions of the show, their answers are likely to be more honest than the promoters. And ask the event organisers for last years attendance figures to look at the profile of visitors - are they the kind of people who will be able to make a decision to purchase your products or services? Finally, make sure you study the floor plan to make the most of your position in the Hall itself. Have someone plan out the space to accommodate all your stuff and your staff - but make sure you leave some room for visitors!
BE LOUD AND CLEAR. Think about your reasons for exhibiting and decide what your core message is right at the outset so that your objectives are clear to staff and visitors alike. You might be looking to raise brand awareness, launch a new product, boost sales or just meet up with existing clients. Your stand design can help you to achieve these goals. Planning at this stage is vital if the communication with your customers is to be maximised. Remember you will only have a short time potentially with any visitor so resist the urge to be “all things to all men” by mixing messages and making it hard for the passing visitors to work out what you do - think Sniper not Blunderbuss!
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. Exhibiting is an expensive business, no doubt about it. It is one of those things where you need to spend enough to get the positioning and message right but balance the cost against the return. The return on your investment is easier to quantify if you can calculate actual sales or sign-ups but a certain amount of 'flag-waving' to generate brand awareness can be the main reason for being there, and this is harder to evaluate. Your printer can help you out here. Take a look at the stand design in detail and see how much of the panelling or roller banners can be re-used with generic branding. Modular systems are great value as you can break down larger sets into stand alone units for smaller roadshows. Keep graphics that refer to specific dates or show offers to small "flash" panels or feature them on pre-show and your follow-up materials instead.
STAND RULES, OK! It is not only your brand or your products on show at an exhibition, it is you and your staff too so have some clear rules concerning stand etiquette and dress code. Consider issuing a stand uniform if budget allows or at least try and get colour co-ordinated and wear a clear name badge. Make sure that someone has the responsibility of handing out literature or keeping the dispensers topped up. Keep the stock out of sight, ideally in a store room, until you need to use it. Engage with visitors as they pass by - you don't have to jump out and accost people but don't sit down and stare at your iPad or phone. In fact, ideally don't sit down at all unless it is at a meeting table with a client, it just makes you hard to approach. Don't eat and drink on your stand, even if you offer refreshments to clients (which is a nice thing to do and can keep them around). And if you do have to attend industry dinners or take clients out for drinks the night before make sure you don't have a hangover on the stand the next day. You will be up close and personal so make sure you are fresh and fragrant!
MEANS TO AN END. As important as planning is and all that pre-show work you do to promote yourselves, having an end game is just as critical if you want to get the maximum ROI. Follow up all show leads as soon as possible - send the brochures you promised and make those follow up calls promptly. Without quick action momentum is lost and you could lose the sale. Conduct a thorough de-brief after the show to decide what went well and what could be improved next time. If you are lucky enough to pick up an industry award, make sure you promote it through all your communications channels.
This is just a really quick snapshot of my show know-how based on over 25 years experience so if you would like to discuss specific ways to attract and engage visitors, including getting them to seek YOU out then call me: Claire McFadden on 0116 255 4336.