How do you get your product into the hands of a big customer? For many of us it’s still about exhibiting at the best shows. While online visuals are improving all the time, they don’t quite seal the deal like a live display or demonstration.
But top exhibitions are costly. They are a major investment of money and time and you need to make sure that you will squeeze the greatest value out of the opportunity. Here are our top tips to help you make the most of that exhibition opportunity:
1. Choose the right show
Be clear about what you want to achieve and do as much research as you can on the best shows in your industry. Ask suppliers and current customers which shows they would expect to see your type of product or service exhibited at. Visit if possible, get a feel for the event and who is attending and ask current exhibitors about their experience.
2. Have the collateral
What marketing materials do you need to take to the event? A good online printer can supply the lot, including banners to dress your stand. As a minimum, make sure you also have lots of business cards and, depending on what you are promoting, you may want to have leaflets or information packs. And, of course, make sure you have everything in order to make or take sales, too.
3. Take a team
It’s hard to get the most out of an exhibition when you are there on your own. You will need toilet breaks, at least, and it’s a shame to miss out on networking with others in your industry. Plan well in advance for a team or so that at least one other person can come along with you, whether that’s a colleague, friend or relative. Whoever you take along, make sure you brief them thoroughly and rehearse the key messages you want to deliver.
4. Get promoting
Promotions need to start well before the event. Is there a broader PR angle, such as the launch of a new line, that you could send out a press release about? Could you invite current customers and associates to visit you on the stand for a champagne celebration or cake?
5. Speak up
There are often speaking opportunities at exhibitions. Volunteer if you can. It will give people something to talk to you about – you may even have a queue! Most events, these days, also have a Twitter hashtag which adds an additional layer of conversation and direct promotion to the event.
6. Look your best
How do you want people to feel about your business? Whatever that emotion is, for example: luxury, fun or security, make sure that your marketing materials, exhibition display stand and personal presentation reinforce it. A good level of grooming is essential for the whole look too, regardless of whether you’re trying to appeal to hippies or high end. Avoid clutter and the temptation to show everything; stay tightly focused on key products.
7. A warm welcome
Exhibitions are exhausting. But you don’t want that key customer to swing by just at the moment you’re in a huddle grumbling with a colleague. Do your best to stay bright and alert, maintain positive, open body language, keep your head up and smile. Then, when that dream customer finds your stand they will be pleased to see you. Remember, exhibitions are just as tiring for visitors. Offering small snacks or sweets, or even a glass of water, is a thoughtful gesture that not only makes people feel better about your business but also encourages them to drop in and hang around.
8. Make conversation
It helps to think of an exhibition as an opportunity for market research as much as for sales. You’ll come over as curious rather than desperate, as well! Prepare a few conversation openers, not ‘Can I help you?’ That’s a conversation closer, not an opener! It could be the offer of refreshments or asking them what the best thing they’ve seen at the event, so far, has been. The objective is to lead on to feedback about your products or service. A closer look may result in a sale. Or if they could be a potential customer, get contact details so that you can send them more information, free samples, special offers or future developments.
No, it’s not over! You’re not allowed to collapse in a heap until you’ve done the follow-up. The best time is immediately. Add contacts to your system, fulfil all your promises and, if nothing else, send a personal email thanking people for dropping by. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to prompt the sale.
Was it worth it? Make sure that you measure the exhibition’s impact in terms of potential and actual customers, sales and other opportunities. The results might surprise you and should feed into your marketing strategy. There is always room for improvement. What will you do better next time?