I attended a trade show recently and it struck me how many of the exhibitors fell into the same mould. They had their stand displaying their products or demonstrating their services but the exhibitors themselves were just standing around either talking to one another or simply waiting for visitors to walk up. Typically there was no effort to engage with people walking past. In some cases, there was almost a clear effort to avoid eye contact! It was almost as if all the effort in preparing for the exhibition was about creating the stand – some were very big and impressive – getting it set up, and then just turning up on the day. Actually getting the exhibition to deliver business value was an afterthought. In my case, I was there with a shopping list. I wanted to buy, either on the day or once I had done my research amongst potential suppliers and considered my options. The thing that really struck me was that although when I did I have in-depth conversations with exhibitors on many stands offering the things I was interested in, it was remarkable how few of the people I spoke to asked for contact details or showed any interest in following up or keeping in touch. To put the numbers into context, I visited over 30 stands. In each case, I was interested enough to spend time finding out more about their offering, and in most cases explained that my key objective was to do research prior to making a purchase. Of the 30 stands I visited, only 1 took contact details and asked if it was OK for them to keep in touch! In the age of email and social media, particularly now we are post-GDPR, real “opted in” contacts are like gold dust. For each of those exhibitors, I was an opportunity. I had…
- Visited the show at all – I am in their target market
- Taken the time to stop and speak to them
- Explained that I was researching prior to a purchase – (i.e. I had a requirement and a budget)
- I would have been more than willing to give them an email address and contact details (Had they been bothered to ask!)
These exhibitors were viewing the show as an event. They would prepare for it, see what happened on the day, and then move on to the next event. By switching their thinking to a marketing process rather than a lead-generating event, they would see that the long-term objective should be to build relationships with relevant contacts who had interest in their proposition, on the basis that these people would then buy when they were ready. The show then becomes just one part of a joined-up process and a great opportunity to build a solid, qualified prospect database. This database could then be used post-show to continue to develop relationships and ultimately to turn them into customers! Sales-leads generated on the day could almost be seen as a bonus!
The marketing approach to exhibitions
An exhibition is just another way to engage with contacts in your target market. They are great because they bring like-minded people together in one place at one time. The marketing approach to exhibitions starts well before the show and continues afterwards
Spread the word that you are exhibiting to your contacts. Encourage them to visit your stand, even if it is just to say hello. It’s an opportunity for more in-depth meetings too so offer to make specific arrangements if that would be useful for visitors. Check out the other exhibitors. Look for:
Maybe contact them ahead of the show and set up meetings for yourself? Engage with the exhibition organisers
- Press Releases
- Branding/Sponsorship opportunities
These are all opportunities to leverage your investment in eth exhibition at little or no additional cost.
Planning your show:
An exhibition is a show. Entertainment can be a valuable (and attractive) part of the package. Have a plan and a focus. Keep things relevant.
- Give your stand some focus
- Maybe a new product launch?
- Live demonstrations can gather a crowd
- Seminars/competitions (ideally relevant) can be a great ice-breaker with visitors
Look for something to attract people and something you can invite people to get involved with.
Given that most people do not buy on the day but do buy in the coming weeks and months, having a presence that attracts and engages people is a great plan to build contacts. This approach gives a significantly enhanced value, much less dependent on people making the snap decision to buy on the day.
It also creates a significantly better platform for building your business.
Follow up is important too…
“But I already take contact details.“, I hear you cry! If you do, that’s great, but what do you do with that information? In the Business to Business world, exhibitions are usually more about contacts than direct sales. Sure, a core focus of exhibitions identifying potential leads, but the value then comes from what you do with them. Let me take you through a scenario: You take a stand at an exhibition and you speak to 200 people during the show. These contact details are then divided up and passed on to the “sales team” to follow up. The sales team then ‘cherry-pick’ those where they think they can get a quick sale. After all, sales teams tend to be measured on revenue. The rest will probably wither and die. A better solution might be to feed all the contacts into your ongoing marketing communications process then let the sales team cherry pick and handle the short-term opportunities. Ongoing communication using a mix of direct marketing tools that will ensure that none are forgotten, but are developed into the short-term opportunities of the future. Take this approach, and whilst exhibitions may be expensive, they also become a valuable part of a joined-up marketing process, that can deliver real, long-term return on investment. If any of this has struck a chord with you, we would be delighted to talk to you about how we can help you get the most out of your investment in exhibitions & events.