Exhibitions often get a bad reputation for being a waste of time, energy and money. You know the drill; you attend an event, invest your all, and get little return. And consequently, end up being bombarded with calls to sign up for the next event; because if you attended previously, you’re certainly not going to miss the next event!
If you’re attending an exhibition with the same tired pop-up banner, trestle table and drab sales spiel, then it’s you that’s not making the most of the opportunity. Trade shows provide you with the chance to exhibit your products or services in a room with an audience who are looking for businesses like yours. If you aren’t making the most of the opportunity, then it’s your money and reputation down the drain.
So, what can you do to ensure you’re using exhibitions to their maximum effect?
Put data at the heart
You may be thinking about how you’re going to capture data at your event, but unless you’re putting data at the heart of your exhibition before you’ve gotten there to help form your trade show strategy, then you aren’t going to have any attendees to take data from.
Data should be a key part of everything you do in your business, and especially so when you’re investing a lot of money in attending an event. If you’ve previously exhibited at that particular event - or a different one – you should be looking at the numbers and assessing what worked, and what didn’t. It’s no good going into something blindly simply because you did it before; if it didn’t work when it comes to the figures, then bin the idea.
Don’t just stop with your own figures either. Ask event organisers whether they have a list of attendees available for you to look at; information which can inform your event plan and give you greater guidance as to who you should be catering for at the exhibition. If you know who’s going to be attending, you can build up a rapport with them before they’ve even got to your stand if you choose to connect with them on social media.
If there are opportunities for you to talk or share your written opinion, then take it! You’ve got a captive audience, so take the chance to share your industry expertise. It’s worth noting here that when speaking or writing you should be imparting your knowledge, not starting a sales pitch.
Take the time to share worthwhile insights and knowledge which are of value to your audience. You can provide contact details or where you can be found at the end; if they follow up then you know you’ve piqued their interest.
Prepare your sales team
Far too often it’s the marketing team organising an event, and the sales team attending. Meaning sales teams are unprepared as to what’s going on when they get there. If you’re putting your sales team on the front line, then equip them with the insights they need before they get there. You want everyone to be working towards a common goal; so, communicate your aim and assign targets accordingly.
Give your sales team the data you gathered during your initial findings; allow them to be the ones who connect with prospects. It’ll make their jobs easier when it comes to making contact on the stand. If one of your team’s strengths lies in approaching people and another in going into more detail about your offering, then play to these strengths.
If you feel that your team lacks confidence, then ensure you empower them and provide them with the appropriate training so that they can make the most of the exhibition. Brief your team, and give them enough time to prepare for the event. Don’t put your team on the battlefield, if you haven’t given them the right tools to win!
Engage with those who have value
Maximising your time with those who hold the most value to your business is tricky, but it can make the difference between attending an exhibition which drives sales, and one which fails to provide you with any return at all.
You need to ensure you’re able to focus on those who are truly interested in your offering and not those who are just looking for a freebie (more on free takeaway items next). Wheedle out the time wasters by offering consultations at your stand; it’ll give you the chance to find out more about their requirements, and for you to showcase you’re offering. As soon as you want someone to stay for longer than a quick two-minute chat, you’ll be able to tell who’s truly invested in your business, and who isn’t.
Provide a takeaway
Provide those who attend your stand – and actively engaged with you – with a takeaway which cements that relationship, and provides relevant contact details and information about your products or service offering.
Business cards and pens are in excess at trade shows; consider what else you can offer which is of use to the attendee, but still contains your key messaging and details on there. A tote bag or USB may seem like different options, but they are two things which can be of great use to the attendee later down the line.
Trade shows are one of the best places to exhibit your business. In a room full of your competitors, and a captive audience, the only barrier in your way is your own willingness to succeed. Keep in mind these tips, and you can make sure your next exhibition is a true success.
By Richard LeCount, Sales and Marketing Director at USB Makers.