Exhibitions can be a great way to give exposure to your PR messages, showcase your products, meet customers, find agents and build trade relationships. They can also be a fast way to burn money for little return. Plan carefully and take advantage of all publicity opportunities to maximise your investment.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Set out clear objectives and goals for the exhibition. How many customers do you want to see? How many leads do you expect to generate? If selling product at the show, what numbers do you expect to sell, what revenue to raise and so on?
- Crunch the numbers. Exhibitions vary over time. Look at the visitor numbers from previous shows – is the exhibition growing or contracting, how is the visitor profile changing, what are the peak days for attendance?
- Don’t forget the invisibles. Add into your cost benefit analysis all the invisibles of taking part such as accommodation cost, staff training, promotional gifts, literature, having sales people off the road and so on.
- Seek feedback from other exhibitors. Ask if they judged the show to be a success.
- Read the exhibitor manual. These often have forms for inclusion in the show catalogue, web site and visitor product guide, pre-show publicity pack, newsletter and so on. Exploit all ‘no cost’ or ‘low cost’ opportunities. Where an additional fee is involved weigh this more carefully.
- Plan well ahead. Many annual shows have web sites and quarterly newsletters that review after the show and signpost the next. Keep the publicity flowing.
- Regular visitors may pass you by at a show unless they have a genuine reason to visit.
- Live demonstrations, rolling seminars, competitions, overseas visitors, celebrities – a bit of creative showmanship can generate a bit more buzz.
- The sales person who has been three days on his feet at the show and three nights propping up the hotel bar is not the best person to greet your customers on day four. If you rotate the staff, you can present a fresh and lively face each day.
- Gather leads and follow-up promptly. Ensure everyone knows to collect business cards and takes detailed notes of what visitors want. Real pro’s have a back-up in the office to send samples, price lists and literature daily so that the enquirer receives relevant information while they are still keen.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Exhibitors often say they must be at this or that exhibition, ‘Because the industry expects us to be there!’ – ‘Because our competitors are there!’ – ‘Because people will say we are going bust if we don’t attend!’ Given that there are many other channels for cost effective communication none of these statements on their own are valid reasons to exhibit.
- Don’t be too competitive. Many large companies compete to see who can create the most lavish stand. Stand size is less important than position, content and staff motivation. How much you spend is less important than how cost effectively you use the budget.
- If you wish to meet customers in large groups to demonstrate new products, consider regional seminars or roadshows as an alternative to national exhibitions. This way you are not competing for time and attention of visitors.
- Don’t forget to follow-up. The real work starts when the show is over following up the leads and contacts made.
- Don’t go on holiday immediately after the show. See 4!