Business exhibitions offer many benefits to those exhibiting. While they do represent a significant investment, especially for a small business, they can be one of the most successful forms of marketing when approached with the right strategy. They provide a unique opportunity for face-to-face interaction with your audience. Exhibition veterans confirm that the return on investment (ROI) generated from a successful show is often impossible to match using other methods of outbound marketing.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the UK Events report gathered several information of the impact on the economy by the UK events industry. In 2019, business events generated more than £31bn of revenue in the UK. In total, the events industry generated £70 billion, accounting for over 50% of spend in the UK visitor economy, providing over 700,000 jobs and generating in excess of £165 billion in trade facilitated at business events.
How to make a success of your next event
In order to gain maximum ROI from a business exhibition, it is wise to take the following steps:
Choose the right exhibition event
To achieve the best return it is vital to choose the exhibition that most suits your business. There are hundreds of exhibitions every year so make sure you do your research to pick the right one.
Research the audience it attracts, will they be interested in your products? Find out who else exhibits, if your competitors are there it could be a good place for you to have a presence. Look for a strong speaker line-up which will draw attendees.
Ask the event organiser how they market the event and ensure their marketing will maximise visitor numbers.
Pre-show planning for your exhibition
Careful planning is vital to make a success of an exhibition. Make sure you start planning well in advance of the show. Organising an eye-catching stand will take time, high-end exhibition stand contractor Quadrant2Design recommend ordering in 6-9 months before the event.
Booking your space promptly may bring early bird discounts which are worth looking out for as they can save a fair bit. You will also need to arrange services to your stand, such as electricity and water, in plenty of time.
Securing the best staff for your stand and ensuring they are trained is important to make a success of the exhibition. You may also want to arrange branded promotional giveaways.
Ensure you read through the exhibition manual carefully to make sure you have arranged everything necessary. If in doubt speak to the organiser or your stand contractor. Alan Jenkins of Black Robin Exhibits who make affordable but good quality stands said ‘We are always happy to guide first time exhibitors through the organisation process, it can be a bit daunting at first so we are here to help’.
Market your attendance at the trade show
Pre-show marketing is vital to maximise visitors to your stand. Send out emails to all your customers and prospects a few weeks before the event. Aim to set up meetings, either on the stand or afterwards at a restaurant, a business exhibition offers the perfect opportunity to meet with customers face-to-face.
Use social media to advertise your attendance, find out the hashtag being used by the event organiser and use it too.
Issue a press release to relevant industry publications a few weeks before the event. You’ll also need to prepare a press pack, as most exhibitions have a press office for journalists attending. A press pack should include background information, images, news, customer case studies and contact details. Invite journalists to your stand, or set a time to meet them for a chat.
Make sure your exhibition stand message is clear
Ensure you have consistent messaging across your stand and marketing materials with a clear call to action. Mixed messaging will confuse people and look unprofessional.
Train your staff to speak knowledgeably about the product and business, you should have a clear elevator pitch which sums up your offering in less than a minute.
Offer promotional items at the exhibition
Branded gifts are a great way to attract visitors to your stand and ensure they remember you after the event. Try to come up with something more original than a pen or mouse mat, maybe a reusable coffee cup or wireless phone charger that people are likely to use. Human nature is such that we are programmed to want to give back to those who give to us so receiving a gift from you will encourage the recipients to buy from you. Plus a useful branded gadget will aid your brand awareness for several years.
Networking at the trade show
Use the exhibition to build relationships with prospects and customers. It is an opportunity to get feedback in person from customers to improve your products or services. Conduct market research to find out the needs of visitors and how you can help, you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.
Exhibitions also offer the perfect opportunity to network with key people within your industry. Use them to forge relationships with key players who can help your business. You may find useful partners or suppliers as well as customers.
Take the opportunity to assess what your competitors are doing, what works and what doesn’t, it will give you tips for your own business.
Follow up after the fair
Incredibly, 81% of exhibition leads are not followed up. If a visitor has expressed interest in your business make sure you follow up with a phone call or email afterwards. Sales don’t always happen immediately, and you may have to nurture leads for months or years so don’t give up if it doesn’t happen straight away.
You need to keep your business at the front of your prospects’ minds by staying in touch after the event. This increases the chance of converting your leads into long-term relationships and sales.
Business exhibitions offer a great opportunity to build your brand awareness and gain leads. 92% of trade show attendees said their main reason for attending was to see new products on offer. It takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, and only 3.5 sales calls to close a lead from an exhibition. The advantage of face-to-face contact with your lead means you can close sales more quickly. Careful planning will ensure your next event is a success for your business.