Why choose an exhibition or trade show as a marketing tool? If used correctly, a trade show can be one of the most effective marketing tools available to your company. This is where your customers come to YOU, in large numbers, to see your product in action and meet you face-to face.
Yet many companies do not feel that exhibitions are an effective way of reaching their market, and do not take advantage of the opportunities offered by exhibitions to attract customers to their product. Many exhibiting companies rely entirely on the efforts of the organiser to attract -and keep – visitors to their stands. Whilst the organiser is responsible to a large degree for the advertising and promotion of a show and for reaching the “right” potential visitors, exhibitors
need to go beyond “just being there” to ensure maximum returns from any trade show.
Here are some guidelines to help you make the most of your participation as an exhibitor:
Pre-show marketing is vital in ensuring that the right people are aware of your presenceat an exhibition. This is an opportunity to reach new clients and keep in touch with existing ones.
As part of our service to exhibitors, our Foreign Officer organises a VIP Visitor Campaign, whereby exhibitors give us the names and contact details of their top 10-12 prospects, and we then contact these prospects, offering them VIP status at the show. This includes pre-registration, a VIP visitor badge, and, in most cases, a refreshment voucher.
We can also arrange that all exhibitors receive complimentary tickets for distribution to their clients. It is then up to the exhibitors to mail their databases and ensure that their prospects are aware of the show. Very often, a personalised letter from the exhibitor inviting the client to the show and giving him/her a good reason to visit is all that is required to attract the client’s attention. It is also more effective than simply sending a complimentary ticket, which could have come from anyone and doesn’t really show the exhibitor’s interest in reaching the client.
Some companies may embark on more expensive mail campaigns, or use postcards or “teasers” weeks before the show to get the client’s attention. A fax or e-mail shot, individually addressed, can also be successful. Whatever method is used, it is vital that the exhibitor makes sure his database is aware of his presence at the show.
Telemarketing can also be an effective tool in informing potential visitors of the exhibition, as well as setting up appointments for visitors at the show – another effective tool in getting the right people to the show. Someone who may keep putting off a one on- one meeting may be more likely to attend a show with more than one product an company on display – and if this client has a pre-arranged appointment with you, all the better.
Companies with web sites or newsletters can include a “special report” section to draw attention to the show and inform regular or potential customers of their presence their. Designing inserts to be included in all company mail sent out prior to the event is another excellent and cost effective way of reaching your market. Whatever method you use, pre-show marketing is vital to the success of your show – plan an effective marketing campaign and you WILL see the results!
At the Show
Ensure that all staff who will be manning the stand are presentable, approachable, and have a wide knowledge of the company and its products.
Take staff to the stand prior to the opening day to acquaint them with the stand and any new products or interesting display items they can draw visitors’ attention to. Show them the location of electrical connections, telephones, refreshment cupboard and fridge (if any), as well as familiarise them with the venue in relation to the stand (toilets, organisers office, fire equipment etc)
Provide staff with all necessary material for promoting the product/service and enough business cards to hand to exhibitors.
It is vital to keep a record of visitors to your stand. As part of our service, all exhibitors are issued with a Visitor Response Booklet on the first day of the exhibition. Visitors can also hire Electronic Visitor Recording Pens which scan in the visitor’s information from his/her bar coded visitor badge. There is also a facility to record comments like “contact later”, “send more info” etc. Either way, it is important to take down accurate information and useful comments so you know whom to contact and why.
Don’t block entrances. Look welcoming and encourage people to stop at your stand. Greet visitors with opening remarks like: “Have you seen/tried our latest product?”; “What is your particular area of interest?” Once you have someone interested, be attentive – let your visitor feel he/she is important to you.
Make sure the stand is clean and maintain a professional image at all times. Try to avoid dipping into the snacks bowl for visitors, and don’t stand around drinking alcohol and trying to get visitors to your stand because of its great “party” atmosphere. Remember, you are here to present a positive, professional image of your company.
Manning a stand can be tiring. Make sure you get enough sleep and try not to eat heavy meals during the day. If you can, take a few brisk walks during the day – check out the competition! – to boost your energy levels and maintain your enthusiasm.
Beyond the Booth
Take advantage of other opportunities offered by the exhibition to promote your company/product. Trade Investment South Africa allows exhibitors a free entry in the official exhibition catalogue – make sure your company’s details are included. Advertising in the catalogue is another way of reaching your audience. Ask about sponsorship opportunities – anything from the visitor registration desk to carrier bags for visitors – to get your brand across.
After the Show
FOLLOW UP! Don’t get complacent now that the show is over – chase up leads, make appointments, call visitors who showed an interest as soon as possible while their memories are still fresh.
FEEDBACK. After every show, Trade Investment South Africa sends out a Post Show Questionnaire to all exhibitors to get their feedback on the relative success of the show, and any ideas on how it could be improved. This is vital to the success of future shows and an opportunity for exhibitors to assess how successful the show was, not only in terms of generating leads and sales, but also to the industry as a whole. Constructive criticism and new ideas are always welcome.
The Handbook of Public Relations (4th edition) by JC Skinner and LM von Essen (1995) Published by ITP Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd ISBN 1-86864-035-3
Preshow Marketing: If you send it, will they come? – Copyright 1997< The Future of Trade Shows: It looks a lot like today – Copyright 1997 By Steve Miller, strategic marketing consultant specializing in the trade show industry and author of :
How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows
Over 88 Tips & Ideas to Supercharge Your Exhibit Sales
Over 66 Tips & Tricks to Supercharge Your Trade Show Promotion