Make no mistake exhibitions are expensive, so why is it that many companies don’t make the most of exhibitions where they take space? This fact was brought home recently when we attended very typical trade show. We went with a shopping list. We wanted to buy, either on the day or once we had done our research amongst potential suppliers and considered our options. The thing that really struck me was that although we had in-depth conversations with exhibitors on many stands offering the things we were interested in, it was remarkable how few of the people we spoke to asked for contact details, or showed any interest in keeping in touch. To put the numbers into context, we visited over 30 stands. In all cases we were interested enough to spend time finding out more about their offering, and in most cases explained that our key objective was to do research prior to making a purchase. Of the 30 stands we visited, only 1 took contact details and asked if we were OK for them to keep in touch! As most of the stands were actually taking orders on the day, I must assume that they were only interested if you were actually going to buy then and there, but what a wasted opportunity! In the age of email and social media, real “opted in” contacts are like gold dust. For each of those exhibitors, we were an opportunity:
- That we were at the show suggests that we are in their target market
- We had taken the time to stop and speak to them
- We had explained that we were researching prior to a purchase – (i.e. we had a requirement and a budget)
- We would have been more than willing to give them an email address (Had they been bothered to ask!)
These exhibitors were viewing the show as an event. They would prepare for it, take as many orders on the day as possible, and then move on to the next event. By switching their thinking to the marketing process, they would see that the long term objective was to build relationships with people who wanted what they are selling, 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 their contact lists. Lists that could then be used post-show to continue to develop relationships and ultimately to turn them into customers! Sales on the day could almost be seen as a bonus. Treating the exhibition as a direct sales opportunity means the maths is simple:
Value=Gross profit on the day – Cost of attending
Value of the event is directly related to orders taken but no value is placed on enquirers who don’t buy there and then – a big missed opportunity in a joined-up marketing world
Treat the event as part of the marketing process, and the equation becomes slightly more complex:
Value=Gross profit on the day + Future value of all additional well-qualified contacts
Given that most people do not buy on the day but do buy in the coming weeks and months, this second approach gives a significantly enhanced valued, 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 wonderful, but what you then do with that information? In the Business to Business world, exhibitions are usually more about contacts than direct sales, and a core focus of exhibitions identifying potential sales 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 at the end you have a database of 200 people who you have spoken to on the day. These 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 let the sales team cherry pick and handle the short term opportunities, then feed the rest into a longer term communications process using a mix of direct marketing tools that will ensure that they are not forgotten, and 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.