Exhibitions are perhaps one of the most important marketing practices for both product and service based businesses. Sure; websites, apps and social media allow you to connect to potential consumers from all around the world… but exhibitions offer a face-to-face opportunity to build new networks, increase brand recognition and potentially sell to your target audience.With all great opportunities come great costs, and exhibiting can be expensive. Stand Build, Courier transport, Staff Costs, Promotional Material, Travel and Accommodation – It all adds up, and often makes exhibitions a tricky investment for start ups.
Over the past 3 years, I have attended, exhibited and helped organise exhibitions from London to Milan in a range of industries spanning from Furniture + Lighting, Computer Technology and Nutritional Foods. In this post, I would like to share some exhibition tips for startups and small businesses who are looking to get the most out of your exhibitions.
GRANTS AND ORGANISATIONS
Sometimes it seems the easiest way to agree to an exhibition is to be persuaded by a convincing sales executive that they are giving you a high discount on a great exhibition space, but keep your wits about you! The government offer many grants that may help reduce the overall costs of exhibitions for start up businesses.(See Here) You will usually be exhibiting as part of a larger group, but it can help you reduce costs.
On another note, if you belong to certain industry organisations you can receive discounted entries to exhibitions – so do your research! An example of one of these organisations for discounted entries in the food industry is ‘Sugarwise’ – the low ‘free sugar’ certification.
Make sure you are on top of all of the pre-show marketing material that the exhibition is creating for the show. Brochures, Press Releases, Social Media posts, Website entries – all will help you have a larger presence at the show. It’s always wise to befriend the marketing contact from the exhibition!
As for yourself, update your customers, invite your stakeholders and organise pre-show meetings. Launching something new at the show would be a great way of attracting larger press attention.
Complexities of stand designs range dramatically depending on the type of exhibition, audience and industry; however, there are a few things that I have noticed throughout most of the exhibitions I have attended.
Gimmicks can be be successful in some B2C shows, but can also attract the wrong type of audience. An example being a magician performing at the stand, it may be good for branding and attract a lot of show visitors, but the visitors come for the magician and not to learn about the products. Try to do something creative that involves the product directly as opposed to something too diverse.
Competitions and samples can be a good way to attract people to the stand, particularly within food based events – but make sure that you capture the information of those who try! – Unless you are there purely for raising the brand recognition.
Low budget? You can be simple and creative at the same time, pack lots of colour.
It frustrates me to see that many exhibitors still hand out a piece of paper for you to subscribe to their newsletter etc. From past experience I can tell you that you will waste a lot of time trying to recognise the squiggles of handwriting and sort them into a usable spreadsheet.
Either collect business cards or use computerised forms on tablets or tablets. Software such as OnSpot Social and Akkroo allow you to record data quickly and organise efficiently. Worried about cost? You can usually download free trials up to a week long that can cover the duration of the exhibition.
When I say that exhibitions are all about networking, I don’t just mean the visitors. Some of the most valuable contacts made at exhibitions can be from the exhibitors that surround you. You’ll often find yourself surrounded by similar businesses that perhaps have more or less industry experience than yourself. Introduce yourself and get connected. Shared knowledge could make for effective market research and help you grow – Just don’t go spilling your company’s confidential secrets!
If you are a one man show or don’t have many staff to look after the stand, make the most out of the mornings or the exclusive after show events! Attending seminars may also be useful for expanding your industry knowledge.
I hope you have found these tips helpful – if there is any advice you would like to add then pop it in the comment section below. If you were looking for some help with an exhibition you are exhibiting at, feel free to get in touch at email@example.com or through my LinkedIN