Exhibitions, expos, conventions… all different words that mean the gathering of like-minded people to peruse, purchase and discuss a particular industry. These types of events cover a huge range of topics, from comic con to wedding shows and everything in between; often spanning giant halls, the likes of the NEC or Earls Court, which can comfortably hold 16,000 and 20,000 people respectively.
Exhibiting at these events is a fantastic way to elbow yourself into your industry, get your name out there and interact with peers and potential customers. With the cost of exhibiting today, it pays to plan ahead. Most good organisers offer useful and practical tips but how do you ensure the success of your stand?
At Mansfields we have decades of event experience, from stand design and build to full coordination. Here is our advice for maximising your brands potential in a competitive environment.
The best advice for any exhibitor is to start the planning process early. Last minute panics can lead to poorly thought through designs which reduces quality. Show organisers and contractors love the last minute clients – it’s where they make their best margins – as last minute, tight deadlines will always cost you more.
Decide why you are exhibiting & how to get that message across
Exhibiting at a show is an expensive business, so to make sure you get a good return on investment, be clear about why you are exhibiting. Some, but not all, of the most common reasons include:
Reinforcing an existing brand
If you are a major player in an industry or market, people will expect you to be at the show; by not attending you could send a negative message. It is also an opportunity to reinstate the brand and its values.
If you’re trying to reinforce a brand then it will be more about image, style and a design that matches the brand values. If you have a prestigious, high-end brand you can’t present a cheap looking stand. If you don’t have a big budget, either scale back the size of the stand or work with a design agency to find innovative ways to achieve the required quality without great cost. This is an area where professional designers prove their worth.
Rendezvous with existing clients/distributors
Part of good marketing is to make people who have already bought from you confident and comfortable that they have made the right choice. Seeing a well-designed and appealing stand is a good way to achieve that.
Introducing a new product
Exhibitions are an ideal opportunity to introduce and focus attention on a new product directly to some of your target audience.
If you are introducing a new product then a more technical approach will be needed. You will need to decide what features or benefits of the product will need to be emphasised.
Demonstrating an existing product
An ideal opportunity to let potential customers find out more about the products or even test out the product.
You will be surrounded by visitors who are at the show because they are interested in the sort of products and services you are selling. It is essential to grab their details to increase your database of potential customers.
However, don’t try to do too much. You have a very limited time to grab the attention of visitors and when you have their attention, you have to work to keep it. Don’t bombard the visitor with information, keep it simple and brief.
The staff manning the stand also form part of the communication process. On the simplest of levels, their appearance and manner will send a message – you need it to be the right one. More importantly, they are vital to establishing a connection with interested visitors and to enable contact details and leads to be collected as well as providing detailed information about your products.
Choose where to exhibit
Some shows are going to deliver a much better audience than others and therefore make a more significant return on investment. It’s worth spending some time considering what a ‘better’ audience is. In some cases this will simply mean larger but in other cases it is better to have a smaller audience who have more interest in your products or services and one that is more likely to buy.
It’s essential to know who your target audience are before booking your stand. If the show has run before then organisers should be able to provide a profile of previous visitors which can be used to make the judgement. If the right audience is not there then there is the danger that you will spend a lot of money exhibiting to people who aren’t interested, or worse – to your competitors.
It’s also important to understand your market and be there. For example, if you are trying to sell products in Germany then you need to exhibit in Germany.
It’s worth exploring shows you might not think are relevant. Some shows serve different industries or areas that attract a similar audience. For instance people who visit boat shows are likely to be interested in SUVs or lifestyle cars so they are often seen together.
Choose how to communicate
Your stand should first attract customers, engage with them, and then educate them on your products and services. Often the most successful stands combine a number of the following options to create a stimulating variety and opportunities to engage with visitors.
Design is everything
There are a multitude of design options available to an exhibitor, ranging from ‘do it yourself’ which might be appropriate for a simple shell scheme, to using a specialist design agency for a bespoke stand.
Whoever you choose to design your stand, make sure they have a proven track record in the design and construction of exhibition stands similar to the one you have in mind, together with effective brand marketing support to ensure your stand is a success.
Dealing with the show organiser
Organising exhibition stands can be demanding and stressful. Having booked the stand space you will then need to carry out some of the following steps to ensure you meet critical deadlines:
This is your chance to show the human side of your brand; make sure you give a good impression. If you have space on the stand, create an obvious reception point which is manned continuously.
Provide a hospitality area if space permits. If it’s likely that you will need detailed conversations with visitors then it’s beneficial to have an area aside from the general hubbub on the stand to talk without being interrupted.
Tell people you’ll be there
A good design agency will help with live event marketing support and create a buzz around the show.
Maximise the footfall on the stand by telling customers, potential customers and the press that you will be at the show using advertising, mail shots, and social media. Advertising in the show guide is another great way of making sure visitors know where to find you.
It’s worth considering purchasing and distributing complimentary tickets. Even if the recipients don’t come to the show it is a good way to keep your company in people’s front of mind.
Follow up afterwards
Exhibiting at shows can be exhausting, so when it’s all over there is a huge temptation to take a well-earned break. However, all that effort generating interest and gaining leads will be wasted unless you follow up quickly. The period during which leads stay ‘warm’ is remarkably short.
Collect all contact details gained during the show; add them to an email database and either call or email them and remind them how you can benefit them.
Publicise the success of the show, particularly any major orders taken or exciting news, using email newsletters and press releases. Updating the success of the show as it happens is a great source of attention, especially when using the designated event hashtags.
Make sure you have a number of good quality photographs of the stand that can be used in future promotional activities.
Click here to see some of our recent exhibition and event projects.