Participation in a trade exhibition is an essential weapon in the marketing armoury – and like any weapon it has to handled with care, skill and attention if it is not to go off at half-cock.
Its effective use requires careful preparation and training. Incorporate it into the total marketing strategy and it becomes a tactical device which, when aimed at the right target, can trigger a highly successful campaign.
All craftsmen will confirm that a good job depends on good preparation.
Tell everyone in your organisation that your company is going to take a stand at the exhibition. Everyone may have something very worthwhile to contribute to your ultimate success.
Create a small Action Committee and appoint one of its members as Exhibition Co-ordinator with responsibility for all aspects of your participation – and the authority to get all things down. Allocate a budget and set a regular agenda with a clear timescale for each action.
Look again at what you have booked. Is it space only? A shell stand? Or an all-in- package? – is it what you need?
Space Only – i.e. chalk marks on the floor. This means you have simply rented some empty floor space on which you have to pay to have a stand erected. You’ll need to appoint a stand contractor/designer.
Shell Stand – i.e. in addition to the floor space you have rented a simple structure usually comprising two or three walls, carpet tiles, name board and a lattice work or muslin ceiling. Check if other items such as lighting or stand cleaning are included in the purchase price. If you have your own demountable display system you will probably only be allowed to set it up within the official shell scheme. Do you need an interior designer or contractor?
All in package – i.e. a ready made unit usually for smaller stands only but comes complete with all the basics and awaiting your display.
Right, so now you know what you’ve booked and you’re ready for the opening day. No, not the first day of the show though that will come along quickly enough, but the first day of your preparation which is never a moment too soon.
Remember that when you move into the exhibition hall you will be putting your company on show. What you do with your stand reflects your company’s image.
Decide what it is that you want to show. Try to introduce a theme which will give a focal point to the display, a theme, perhaps, that can be carried through your pre-show advertising. If possible include a demonstration of the product in action – remember the old Hoover Salesmen who emptied dust on the housewife’s carpet before vacuuming it away? If the visitor can see the product working or, better still, can try it for himself, he’ll be easier to convince.
If you sell a service or your product is to large to display on the stand think about other ways you can attract potential customers onto your stand
Face to face contact means that you can use all five senses – sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing – so take a good look at your product and see how many of these can be brought into play. They say that the more senses involved in an experience the longer that experience will be remembered.
Remember that it is your product that the visitor has some to see, or other similar products. There is nothing more infuriating – and deflating – than a visitor trying to sell you something while having no interest in your product. Have an action plan to deal with these type of persons, maybe just explain that you are very busy trying to get business for your company and if they can just leave you a business card, you will contact them after the show if you need more information.
You’ll find, for example, that your stand should be at least two-thirds open. This is for your sake as well as the visitors, the exhibition is neutral territory. If your stand is designed like a fortress or a special club into which only very selected visitors are invited, a barrier is created.
As you begin to design the layout, think what would help entice you onto a stand if you were the visitor. You’d want it to be accessible, welcoming and not full of little areas where you might be trapped. Ensure it is well lit, highlighting those products which you wish to emphasize. Make your visitors feel comfortable about coming onto the stand. Remember the psychological barriers that can be so easily erected. Visitors may be reluctant or hesitant to step up onto a platform or even to cross the carpet line, feeling that either will leave them, as fair game to predatory sales people.
So make the stand inviting, easy to get onto – perhaps, with a hands on demonstration that the visitor can try out without fear of being ambushed.
Live demonstrations of your product are the best way to get visitors onto your stand, if you can’t do this think about employing a crowd-magnet someone that specializes in this area.
Contact www.crowdmagnets.com for further information. A professional crowd-magnet is a top flight magician that can attract many passing visitors to your stand, and then perform exciting close up illusions while educating the visitors about a companies USPs. Normally, a crowd-magnet can increase the amount of visitors to your stand by over 300% while educating and getting these potential clients interested in your product or services.
Remember, that some visitors like to browse or window shop. If they see something they like then they will make a move to find out more. Watch body language. It’s also worth taking a tip from some of the big department stores who are past masters at window display – not too much, not cluttered, but the message is all there. If you are having large graphics to get your message across, do not have too many words printed on them. Keep it short and simple. Visitors do not have the time to stand and read something that is to wordy.
Small stands can be effective too. Exhibitions give the opportunity to demonstrate your product to a large number of potential clients simultaneously, something not possible in your office or theirs – and one good visitor can make the entire exercise worthwhile. Sometimes that visitor is the one that even your best sales representative couldn’t get to see in his office but he came to the exhibition!
It’s as well to read the Rules and Regulation again. Again? You mean you didn’t read them when you booked the site? They’re there to help, not to hinder, and their contents draw on years of experience.
Check the exhibition Manual; it includes a checklist of things to do and when to do them by, it includes order forms, catalogue entry forms and a mass of important information. It may be tedious but it’s not difficult and it will keep your operation running smoothly. It even sets out a timetable with deadline dates for your planning progress. Use it.
As build up approaches, do a final check. Make sure that everything works. If you have any electrical appliance on the stand, make sure that you have got the right electrical connections, that sockets have been installed, that the equipment has a plug and that it all operates. Take a spare or have one available at short notice.
Tell people that you’re going to be there. Communicate.
Whose show is it anyway? It’s yours, as if there was no other exhibitor, as if every visitor was coming to the show just to see you. The organiser has been employed by you to do certain things – like hiring a hall, arranging the technicalities and promoting the event – but when it comes to getting visitors there the organiser’s job stops as soon as they have entered the exhibition. From that point onwards, it’s up to you to make sure that they come onto your stand.
Think about your investment. Would you trust it all to someone else? Your participation has to be an integral part of your overall strategy. Remember organisers help those who help themselves.
Your participation is, has to be, part of your total strategy, an integral part. It is the one medium that can make all the others come together.
So what are the other mediums?
Advertising: It works better if there is a requirement to action – like sending for a free ticket, or bringing the advertisement to your stand to collect a further benefit. So use your existing advertising campaign by quoting your stand number at the show. Use the show’s logo; it identifies you with the exhibition. It’s provided free of charge, and gives the reader a further focus, a touch of added confidence.
Direct Mail: Send a free ticket with your mail shot – it adds an extra benefit, a purpose, it helps to communicate.
PR: Your Participation at the event gives you something to talk about, create news – use it.
Sales Representatives: If an interview is not reaching a conclusion, your sales staff can invite the hesitant client to ‘take another look’ by coming along to the show. It’s also a courteous way to maintain contacts with existing customers.
When the circus comes to town the most important part is the parade – letting people know that it’s on. The organiser will do his stuff but like the circus promoter, he needs to highlight the stars of the show. That’s a good reason for you to book early – a great deal of addition publicity at no extra cost. But the organiser will do a great deal more. He’ll provide you with a range of promotional items. Use them…
Posters: Put them up in reception, in rest rooms, in the sales office, in the showrooms etc and make sure that your stand number is written large print.
Let staff and visitors know that you’re going to be at an exhibition.
Letter Stickers: They should go on every letter leaving your office, including invoices and statements. If all your staff are aware of, and enthusiastic about the show then they’ll want to use them – because they are a way of bringing more business.
Logos: Use them on advertisements; they provide an action point where potential visitors can make a mental note to visit you. They also boost confidence among staff and customers, knowing that you’ll be taking part.
Tickets: Ensure that you have a good supply but remember they will do you no good if they sit in the pending tray. Ensure that invitation tickets are enclosed with all mail shots and quotations. Plan a specific mailing to existing and potential customers, preferably with a personalised letter. Make sure that your Reps carry a supply of tickets and use them to invite potential clients to the show.
It’s a proven fact that more visitors respond to an invitation from an Exhibitor than they do from any other source.
Many exhibitors do not invite their existing customers – fearful that they may be attracted to a rival.
This is the wrong strategy. It is important to install confidence in customers – confidence in your product and confidence in your ability to out-swing the competition. Not to invite them is a negative attitude.
Look at your client list, putting the biggest and most regular at the top, indicating roughly how much business they give you each year. How far down this list do you have to go before you reach 80% of your annual turnover? Probably not very far. Give those special customers a little VIP treatment – invite them to breakfast; or send them a first class rail ticket; or a special invitation which ensures they are met at the entrance to the show and escorted to your stand; or provide a car parking and collection facility.
Use the event to its fullest potential – inside and outside the exhibition itself.
Don’t forget the show catalogue. You will usually be entitled to a free editorial entry, so make the most of it. Many exhibitors write inappropriate copy or fail to submit it altogether for this important reference work. This is to misunderstand its function. It is not primarily designed as a programme or guide but rather as a permanent source of reference.
Of course, you will be issuing your own press releases from time to time as part of your overall marketing strategy. You may be introducing a new product at the exhibition but do not want to say too much too soon. It may be an opportunity for a ‘tease’ campaign, hinting that the wraps will be coming off at the show. This is particularly effective if the industry has been expectant about a particular development.
The Press Relations Office will be eager to highlight particular attractions to ensure that you have kept them fully informed, and have someone available in case there is a chance of an interview.
Make sure that your press packets are in the Press Office in good time and in good order. There will be many other packs seeking the attention of visiting journalists to ensure that yours is clear, manageable, relevant and recognizable. Usually the press are not interested in your glossy or technical brochure. They want a simple explanation of your product, what it is, what it does and how well it does it. A black and white picture helps.
With so many important people attending an exhibition you may decide to use the opportunity to hold your own press reception,. By keeping in close touch with Press Relations Office you will avoid holding it at the same time as the organisers or other exhibitors are holding theirs, thus increasing your chances of getting a satisfactory attendance.
Remember, no matter how good you’re planning, no matter how attractive your stand, no matter how exciting your product range, unless you tell your potential customers it will all go for naught. People can only beat a path to your door if they know where it is.