How to ensure success when exhibiting at a trade or business show

So, you’ve decided to exhibit at a trade or business show. But how do you ensure it will be a success?

Well first, you should be clear why you’re doing it and set realistic objectives. Of course, ultimately, you hope to increase sales but realistically, you’re unlikely to do that from your stand or booth. It’s said that only 3% of people you speak to are ready to buy now although a further 6-7% are open to buying. However, this still means less than 1 in 10 people who visit you at an expo are likely to buy any time soon.

So I’d suggest the real reason for your being there is to collect qualified leads and position your business in the mind of prospective customers or clients. But how do you do this? A little planning is called for, in which you should consider these three questions:

  • How are you going to attract prospects to your stand?
  • How are you going to engage with them whilst they’re there?
  • How are you going to be remembered after they’ve left?

Attracting visitors to your stand

It’s always worth letting your existing contacts know you’re going to be exhibiting at an event and inviting them to call by and see you if they’re visiting the show. Perhaps give them an incentive to do so, like a prize draw or small gift. Use any other methods available to tell people about the event and your being there too because it’s good to promote it and try increase attendance.

At the show itself, you need to draw attention to your stand or booth, simply to get people to notice and visit you. Something bright, colourful and novel is called for. To catch the eye, a feature with movement works well. You don’t need to spend a fortune to achieve this but don’t think just a box of Quality Street will work; you need to think more creatively. And once someone has arrived at your stand, its appearance has completed its task and you’re on to the next question.

Engaging with prospects

Be prepared for how to initiate a conversation with visitors and, ultimately, collect their contact details. This is probably your single most important objective. However, you don’t just want any old body’s details. Here, quality, not quantity, is what’s important. So, plan a script that’s going to get visitors talking, build rapport with them, qualify whether they’re appropriate prospects for you, then capture their details.

Be prepared to offer something in return for this valuable information. Again, entry into a prize draw or small gift is worth considering. The gift of a branded promotional product is particularly appropriate because it not only rewards your visitor for sharing their details and gives them a warm feeling of satisfaction but also gives them a lasting reminder of you. More about this below.

Being memorable after the show

It’s reported that the most memorable aspect of visiting an exhibition stand or show booth is the people there; what kind of an impression did they make? People buy from people so it’s crucially important to make the right impression at the event. But in all probability, the actual business will be conducted after the event, if at all.

So it’s equally important to send your visitors away with an enduring reminder of you. And if the most memorable part of the show experience is the people at the stand, the second most memorable has to be what you send them away with to remember you by. Back to the branded promotional merchandise. Choose wisely for maximum effect. Below are some top tips for selecting trade show giveaways.

Promotional products are an effective and enduring reminder of your brand but they’re only one part of your follow up plan. Remember the marketing ‘Rule of 7’ – it takes at least 7 exposures to your message for prospects to even consider your offer. The show was your first, starting with a bang, and a promotional gift an enduring second. Now you need a plan for several other follow up contacts to nurture your relationship and try establish when your prospect is next likely to want your product or service. Then work on being front of mind at that time. I would suggest your plan should include a thank you email, subsequent direct mail with further product or service information, connect on LinkedIn and other social media, make a phone call … you get the picture?

If you don’t follow up, and in a serious way, you’ll be wasting your exhibition or show investment!

Selecting effective branded promotional merchandise products

So finally, just what should you consider for an exhibition premium gift? Les Murphy, former Trading Director at major drinks brand Heineken UK, says to be effective, promotional products must:

  • Be Functional yet Desirable
  • Be Affordable
  • Be Relevant to the Brand
  • Be Appropriate to the Customer
  • Be Innovative
  • Be Appreciated

Popular promotional gifts include bags (to put exhibition bumph in), notebooks and pens, USB memory sticks (perhaps preloaded with your product/service information), drinkware (mugs & flasks) and desk accessories like pen holders, smartphone holders or cleaners, calendars, and so on.

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