- Posted by: Jade Brindley
- Category: networking
Exhibitions can be a fantastic way to promote your business. When an average of 75% of visitors to an exhibition are there to buy or plan to buy in the future, you know that there is already an interest in you and what you do have to offer.
But you really do have to make the most out of the exhibition by planning and preparing well in advance. Here’s my advice covering each stage of the exhibiting process and how you can make the event a successful return on your investment.
Plan for the event weeks in advance
It’s important to know how many attendees you can expect on the day and their demographics, i.e. age, interests, the reason for attending, etc as knowing your audience can help you pinpoint the offer you should promote on the day.
Most of this information should be available from the exhibition organisers but it’s a good idea to scope things out for yourself through social media, forums and previous feedback to understand the audience better.
Knowing who else is exhibiting can give you an idea on your competition and how they may entice your target audience their way, but you can also establish who the businesses are that compliment your business so you can network with them before the exhibition.
Know what you’re getting from your exhibition package
Where is your allocated space in the venue? Consider if:
- it’s near natural gathering points
- close to food or coffee stations
- how close it is to the entrance
If you think you may be in a bit of a blind spot, is there anything you can do to attract more footfall your way?
Clarify with the exhibition organisers what you can expect to receive on the day. Is it just a table or will you get table cloths, power points and seating too? Is it just one large room or like exhibitions at the NEC where “shell schemes” are used to divide the main hall into smaller rooms.
Knowing how much space you’ll have and how you can dress it will help you plan what to take and how you can collect data on the day.
Understand your objectives for exhibiting at the event
You should have a short-term and long-term aim in mind for your exhibition.
For your short-term goal consider objectives like talking to x amount of people, collecting x email addresses or booking x discovery calls with interested people.
Your long-term goal should be the next level from this. Out of those x people, how many do you want to become clients?
Knowing your objectives will help you plan the best ways of making them a reality, i.e. having a means for people to give you their email addresses or schedule those discovery calls.
Promotion is paramount when you’re exhibiting
As soon as your exhibition space is booked, you should be promoting your attendance at the event to your network. Telling your target audience where you will be on the day so they can find you easily is a good way of ensuring you get the footfall you need to meet your objectives.
Sharing the exhibition will also make it likely that the event organisers will share your promotional content to help you reach even more people as it boosts their profile too.
Increase your promotional activity leading up to the event and keep posting during the day too. Take photos with other exhibitors, people that attend your exhibit, etc and tag them in your social media posts for an added boost.
Don’t hide away behind your table
You must be active when you’re exhibiting.
I don’t mean being pushy and annoying, we’ve all been pounced on by an over-keen sales rep before. Just try to say hello to people as they pass, catch their eye and ask them something relevant.
Having a competition or freebies on your stand is a popular way of attracting people because they work, who doesn’t want the chance of getting something for free? But make sure it’s relevant to what you do and that your target audience will actually want it – we really don’t need to take 50 branded pens home with us!
Make sure you’re gathering data throughout the exhibition
This is the most important element of any exhibition. No matter what your planned objectives are for the event, collecting data is an absolute must. So many people exhibit and sit behind their tables, speaking to a few people through the day before going home disappointed that their business isn’t going to benefit from the event.
Every person you speak to is a potential client or advocate. If they don’t want or need what you have to offer, they will know someone that does. This is why you need to be active, speak to as many people as possible and capture their details (obviously with their permission!)
Never underestimate the importance of a follow-up
I’ve talked about follow-ups before and how they’re such an important part of the sales process. Sales seldom happen the first time around, and it’s the same for exhibitions and events.
This is the top part of your “sales funnel” – the generating interest stage. Once you’ve captured that interest and got their details, you can use a targeted follow-up to remind them of what you do in a less busy environment where they have the time to dig deeper and consider your offer.
I suggest sending a ‘nice to meet you’ email to anyone you have a conversation with and try to make this as personal to them as you can. What did you talk about? Did you offer to send them some specific information, is there an article you can link them to that might help them?
At the very least, avoid a generic blanket email and use their name rather than a “Dear Sir or Madam”.
Promote what you did when the exhibition has ended
Just because the doors have closed for the exhibition doesn’t mean that your promotional activity around the event should stop too. Share a post-event photo, thank the organisers and other exhibitors for a great day, share anything you’ve learned from the experience, funny moments, etc.
This gives you the opportunity to raise your profile, talk about what you do and expand your networking in the days following the event.
If you would like some help and guidance with your next event or exhibition, get in touch with me today.