Showcasing your business by exhibiting at a trade fair or business event can give you an excellent opportunity to meet new prospects and business associates, do market research, and test out your marketing messages. Here are my top tips to help ensure you get the most from the time and money you invest in attending.
- Be clear on your objectives for the day
What is your purpose for attending? Do not say ‘to raise awareness’ or ‘sell more’. These are too vague! Do you want to book appointments to generate new sales, build your prospect list, re-engage with existing or past clients, launch a new product or service? Make sure that you know exactly what you want to achieve, and set clear but realistic targets to motivate yourself and your team.
- Allow plenty of time for planning and preparation
Brief your team clearly well in advance of the event and ensure they have understood what will be expected of them on the day. Gather all your marketing materials together in good time. Consider if you need to invest in producing new materials. Let your customers and prospects know you will be attending the event and capitalise on opportunities for pre-event publicity offered by the organisers, as well as through your own marketing channels – e.g. your social media profiles and email newsletter. Consider running a special offer, competition or promotion on the day and build anticipation in advance of the event.
- Pick one key message to communicate on the day
If you sell a range of different products and services, just pick one to focus on for the day to avoid confusion from passers-by as to what you offer on your stand. You can still talk about the other aspects of your business, but there is only room to really promote one on your stand. Think about the key benefit your offer and why people choose to buy from you. What makes you different? And find ways to communicate this.
- Starting conversations on the day should be your number one aim
Do not ask ‘can I help you?’ or any other ‘closed’ questions where the answer could be a ‘no thanks’! See how many people you can engage in a conversation by asking open questions such as:
– what brings you here today?
– what do you think of the day so far?
– have you come from far to be here today?
- Keep your stand simple
Don’t take too many different pieces of print or have too many props or signs. The key visual element that will create the biggest impact is colour. Ensure that your brand colours are strongly represented on your stand, and make sure that you and your team dress to match so you can clearly be identified and help to reinforce the messaging.
- Do not stand behind a table
Avoid creating any physical barrier between yourself and your prospective customers. Stand out in front of your stand so you can engage passers-by in conversation more easily. If you need a hard surface to write on, consider using a clipboard or high ‘poser’ table if need be, so you can remain at eye-level. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as you need to be standing up all day. Do not sit down unless you are having a conversation with someone at length.
- Capture data
Run a business card prize draw. Record contact details and conversations. Giving someone a leaflet, or saying you’ll call them isn’t enough. You will talk to a lot of people and by the end of the day you might struggle to remember who was who. Aim to schedule specific follow-up appointments.
- Schedule a lunch break
You will really be flagging by mid-afternoon if you don’t stop for a break. You will also miss the opportunity to visit the other stands and observe the event from your buyers perspective. You should avoid eating on the stand too – it just looks unprofessional and is difficult to start an effective conversation if you are chomping away on a sandwich. Get someone to cover you for an hour or so and schedule a lunch meeting to really maximise the time.
- Maximise every minute
You can be engaging in useful conversations from the moment you walk in to set-up until the moment you leave at the end of the day. Do not start packing up before the end. It is just a missed opportunity, plus the organisers and your fellow exhibitors won’t thank you.
Get in touch with new leads after the event and thank them for taking the time to visit your stand. Remind them of what you discussed, and how you can help them.
If you are planning to exhibit at an event and would like some fresh insight and expert support with planning your stand, and integrating the event into a joined-up strategic marketing plan, email me at email@example.com and see if I can help you.