As with any marketing tool, your exhibition participation needs to be well thought out, planned, budgeted for, aligned with and integrated into the company’s marketing strategies and mix, as well as assessed for effectiveness.
According to a paper by McCoy and du Plessi (2000) “In many leading market economies, exhibitions play a fundamental role in marketing and are regarded as crucial tools for stimulating trade in specific industries and even between countries. Accordingly, they occupy a large(r) proportion of the marketing budget and are integrated into the marketing strategies and activities of several leading corporations.”
Thus, with the right planning, your exhibition participation can be a significant driver in achieving your overall marketing and business goals. Below we’ve outlined the key steps to successful exhibition participation
1. Set your exhibition objectives:
What marketing or sales objective is your exhibition participation aiming to achieve? Are you building or expanding brand awareness? Do you have a new product or service that you are launching or promoting? Are you looking to engage and build relationships with existing customers? Are you looking to generate new sales leads? You can have multiple objectives, but it is vital that you establish what they are. This will guide all further planning and decision making and will give you a basis for measuring and assessing the success of your participation.
2. Choose the right show:
It is essential, as with any marketing medium, that the right marketing channel is selected. Based on your set objectives, select a show that is aligned with your marketing message and is targeting your desired industry and audience. Assess the show’s marketing strategy; review prior year’s visitor numbers details and feedback as well as previous exhibitor feedback; find out if the media and press are going to be in attendance; if there is a conference adjoining the show, review the speaker line up and ensure there is adequate time between conference sessions for visitors to engage with exhibitors. Review your stand options as well as the show floorplan and exhibitor manual. You want the ability to select a stand space and to design a stand that will facilitate your objectives.
3. Identify the specific products and or services you wish to exhibit:
Exhibitions out-perform other marketing mediums because they allow you to physically demonstrate your products and service offerings.
4. Design your stand:
Based on your show objectives, the products and services you have chosen to display and the show’s rules and regulations (found in the Exhibitor Manual) work with a designer to develop a stand that meets all of the above. Your designer should consider elements such as: your CI; stand branding and presence; product promotions, display and lighting; operational requirements (electricity, water supply, compressed air etc.); flow of traffic onto, and through your stand; graphics and stand messaging; engagement, entertainment and interaction; meeting or seating space and storage space. When designing your stand consider if you wish to hire or purchase your stand elements, taking into consideration what is supplied by the organisors, how many times a year you are going to exhibit as well as your stand budget. Your stand is the platform that is going to help you achieve your exhibition objectives and from where you are going to do business for the duration of the show, it should be approachable and practical.
5. Advertise and market your show participation:
Exhibitions give companies a fantastic opportunity to market and advertise to customers before, during, and after the show. Making use of alternative marketing tools ensure your target audience is aware that you will be exhibiting at the show and try arrange a few set meetings on your stand for during the show. Use social media to highlight your show participation, contact the show media partners and send out a press release. As an integrated component of your marketing mix your show messaging should be consistent across your stand, in press material, in company literature, and on your website and social media pages.
6. Comprehensively brief and train your stand staff:
Whether you are hiring stand promotors or having your own team man your stand, it is imperative that everyone is briefed on and fully understands your show objectives; your products and services; their way around your stand; and their specific roles and responsibilities during the show. You can have the best stand at a high-quality show with incredible product and service offerings, but if your stand is not staffed or your staff are not prepped you will not achieve your return of objectives. Exhibitions are an interactive, face to face marketing tool, ensure you make that engagement as positive and impressive as possible and diarise post show follow ups with key prospects.
7. Follow Up after the Show:
Research by Exhibit Surveys, Inc. shows that only 0.8 calls are needed to close a qualified exhibition lead, compared to 3.7 calls to close a typical business sale. With this in mind ensure to maximise your show participation and investment by following up on all show leads, the same way you would follow up on any other business or marketing lead.
To achieve maximum benefit start planning at least 3 – 6 months in advance, or ideally when you set your company’s sales and marketing objectives and budgets at the start of your financial year. This should include setting all deadlines for choosing the right show, identifying your products and services, designing and building your stand, submitting all relevant forms to the organisors and marketing your show participation.
Exhibitions are a unique and dynamic marketing communications tool. Great pre-show promotion, eye-catching stand design, well trained stand staff and conscientious follow-up after the show will maximise your return and ensure your successful exhibition participation.
If you need assistance with identifying the right exhibition to meet your objectives; allocating sufficient exhibition budgets; selecting a stand space; designing your stand; developing your pre and post show marketing campaigns; training your stand staff; managing your lead capturing processes, and your post show follow ups then contact SSQ Exhibitions to set up a meeting.