Exhibiting at a trade show or event in 2016 isn’t just about the day itself, there is a lot of preparation, and after work to make your exhibition as successful as possible.
So how can make the expense of exhibiting worth it for your business? Here are 8 steps to running a smart exhibition campaign in a digital age.
Hatch the plan
So you’ve seen an exhibition that looks like it may be fruitful, and decided to take the plunge. You book your space and you’re off.
Now what? You need to create a marketing strategy that goes further than just your objectives for that day or couple of days, and this will determine how you go through the next 7 steps.
Consider why you are taking on this exhibition, what do you hope to achieve, and who do you hope to meet? How will people interact with you, and what will attract to the stand and then convince them to convert? Lay out all of your plans, so that throughout the next steps, you have something to revert back to.
Begin to plan your stand, what is it going to look like, and look at the likes of pop up banners, display stands, and perhaps even lighting and flooring, depending on what your space package included. These things can take a little while to design, make and arrange to get delivered or installed, so it may be worth getting these in motion, so they are ready in time for your exhibition (and it leaves plenty of times for problems to crop up and be dealt with.)
Also think of an on stand offer or competition. Why are people going to come to your stand? What is going to convince people to buy tickets and come along?
By setting up the goals and pipeline now, you have something solid to keep referring back to, so though your plans on how to achieve it may change, your goals won’t.
Lay the groundwork
Now you have your plan, you can begin to lay out the very beginnings of the groundwork. Think about following the event on social media, and mentioning that you will be attending.
Start to mention it to your clients in conversation, as well as if you are out networking that you will be attending the event.
Start to assess your social media and website to ensure they are all up to date, as you will hopefully be experiencing more traffic over the next few weeks. Do you have the best images on your social and the correct contact information? Does your website have up to date branding, messages and products? Take the time to sort the foundation out before you begin to look at adding offers and such on to the website and social networks.
Build the suspense
Now there are whispers that are attending this event, build on it. Make it official, and build the suspense. Perhaps post a blog to show your team preparing goody bags for the show, or a little bit of what your stand will look like. Now would be a good time to announce any on stand offers you will be running too, to give people motivation to go. You could also include links to where people can book tickets, and find out more about the event.
You can then share this blog across your social media, with the announcement of your offers, and where people can buy tickets, as well as beginning to connect with other exhibitors who will be there on the day.
If you are looking to run an offer, it might be an idea to include this on your website too. So that if someone see’s any of your marketing before or during the exhibition, they are met with the same messages on your website as they are at the stand.
Edge your bets
Though you will have picked this show no doubt because of the attendees you will have visit your stand, it is true that nothing attracts people to your stand more than a crowd. Which is why inviting your current customers to come and visit you on the stand is always a good idea.
This could be through an email, or a direct mail campaign to your clients, detailing where your exhibiting, and when. This can be as an all guns blazing marketing email showcasing all of the on stand offers you have available, or it could be a simple email to say you are attending so may not be able to respond to email that day, but they could come and join you for a day of fun instead.
Some of your customers or clients you may have never actually met face to face before, so this could be a great time to actually put a face to a name. If you have enough people on your stand, and you are at an event near some of your clients, it may be a good idea to arrange a meeting at the event and utilise the time you are there.
Prepare your troops
Depending on the size of your company, you could have your whole team attending the expo, or perhaps a dedicated handful of exhibiting experts, but whatever the size or experience of your troops, you need to ensure a number of things before you set off for the expo.
Is there a sufficient brief?
Do you team know what you want to achieve from this, and how you expect them to do this? Everyone needs to be on the same page, and have a clear picture of what you are all working towards.
Have specific roles been set out?
Do you have people who are better at grabbing the attention of passers-by who have the knowledge to know the difference between a lead and a just browsing? Do you have experts who can take over these quality leads? Do you have a representative who will be setting up follow up appointments? Do you have someone who is going to be managing your social on the day, and gaining images for future marketing purposes? Who is managing your team, and ensuring people take breaks etc. Along with a brief of the company’s overall’s objectives, you need to also brief each individual on their responsibilities. This not only ensures work load is split, with the best person on the right job, this also adds extra motivation for each individual to keep them going through the day.
Do you have offers in place?
If you have offers in place, ensure your team know them inside out. There is nothing more frustrating for attendees (or embarrassing for your team) than having staff members keep having to ask each other the details of an offer. These should hopefully be clear within your marketing on the stand, but your staff should be clear on these too.
Ride the wave
It’s finally here, and its exhibition time, so what do you do? Enjoy it! With your objectives in mind, talk to as many people as possible, collect as much information as possible, whilst making use of all the tools you have available to you.
Use your social channels to send out a few blasts on your day, how people can find you, why people should pop over to your stand, and if people aren’t there, what are they missing out on?
There are plenty of live streaming options available now which could be done straight from your phone, such as periscope or Facebook Live. This works especially well if you are running a competition on your stand, and broadens your exhibition audience to those who aren’t at the exhibition.
Check out our previous blog on running a successful exhibition for practical tips on keeping yourself and your team motivated and in good health for the day.
The next step
In no way is the exhibition the last step, and this is where most people fall down. (Consider when you miss the last step on the staircase and fall down the last part as a very obvious metaphor on this part folks).
You have done this exhibition for a reason, and I can bet that 90% of your objectives have to do with gaining leads or increasing brand awareness. Yes, some of this is done at the exhibition, but the bulk of the work is when you get back to the office, and you have to close those leads, or take advantage of any awareness you’ve gained.
So let’s break this down on how you can fully capitalise on the opportunities you now have at your fingertips.
First and foremost, schedule in the time to do the below.
If you are out of the office for a day or three, you are most likely going to head back to a pile of paperwork, and a bulging inbox. Add this on to all the extra exhibition work you wouldn’t normally be completing, and you can end up a mess pretty quick. Manage your time, and work with your managers and your team to prioritise the tasks on your to do list. It is easy to panic, and flap, and never call back anyone who left their details with you leaving all the hard work you have done at a dead end. But by managing your time when you return (or even planning it before you go) you can complete your own work, and make the most of these extra opportunities.
Follow up your leads.
This is a bit of a no brainer, but if people have genuinely shown interest in your products or services, then talk to them. Whatever your method of sale, go for it, you have qualified leads you have met face to face who have said they are interested, you are not going to get a better time than that to approach people.
You may have spoken to several people at the exhibition who have not shown immediate interest in your product, but may do in the future, or you may have just had a good chat, and its worth staying connected. This is where social media is great, as you can connect, there is no sales pressure, but you can still see what their company is up to, and when might be a good time to approach them in the future. It is also great exposure for you as well if the event has had some buzz, and you can join in on the conversation.
What happened at the exhibition? Tell people about it! If you decide to do this all again next year, why should people come and seek you out? Show them what great fun it was, and post your blog on social media. This may get shared by other people who attended, and drive more traffic back to your website.
All that hard work you’ve put into the blog? Re-use that content and send an email out to your marketing list. Here is what your staff have been hard at work with the last few days, this is why it’s great. Can people still take advantage of any exhibition offers? Tell them how they can.
If you did have on stand offers that were advertised on your website, then make sure they are taken back down. Now would be the time to add any valuable knowledge you gained at the expo on to your website. Perhaps several people asked you the exact same question? Is this worth adding a new page for? Writing a blog about it? Or even just adding a quick note to your FAQs? If you are driving more people back to your website through social media, blog and emails, then make sure it really provides all the information a customer needs to make their decision.
Feedback to all.
Speak to your team, and to anyone involved, and let them know the outcome. What did they achieve? Did you complete your objectives? What will you be doing differently next year? By not feeding back, any motivation for the next event will be depleted, and general atmosphere can drop if people feel the really hard work of the last few days has gone un-noticed and un-appreciated.
Want to get really smart?
If you have a little spare time, and spare budget, it may be worth considering a 360 video ready for virtual reality. Reach more people than just your exhibition audience, but showcasing your stand in all its glory through virtual reality. Or perhaps create a more immersive experience for those who visit your stand, let people experience your product in virtual reality, or let people tour your whole showroom without ever leaving your stand. Look out for our upcoming article on virtual reality for more ideas on how it could work for you.
Are you exhibiting this year? We can help you from the initial planning of your stand, to the creation on your stand, and the follow up afterwards. If you’d like to have a friendly chat on how we could work together, call us today on 01543 495752.