Exhibiting at a trade show or event isn’t just about the day itself; there is a lot of preparation and follow-up work needed to make your exhibition as successful as possible.
So, how can you make the expense of exhibiting worth it for your business? Here are eight steps to running a smart exhibition campaign in a digital age.
1.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, and this will determine how you go through the next seven 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 them to the stand and then convince them to convert? Lay out all your plans, so that throughout the next steps, you have something to revert back to.
Begin to plan your stand and what is it going to look like. Consider the likes of pop up banners, display stands, and perhaps even lighting and flooring, depending on what space your package includes. These things can take a little while to design, produce and be delivered or installed, so it may be worth getting these in motion early, so they are ready in time for your exhibition (and it leaves plenty of time for any issues that may crop up to be dealt with.)
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.
2. 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 posting 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 updated, 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.
3. Build the suspense
Now people know that you are attending this event, build on it. 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.
4. Edge your bets
You will have picked this show no doubt because of the attendees you will have visit your stand, and 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 you are 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 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.
5. 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 event.
Is there a sufficient brief?
Does your team know what you want to achieve from the day, 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 arranging 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?
Do you have offers in place?
If you have offers in place, make sure your team knows them inside out. There is nothing more frustrating for attendees (or embarrassing for your team) than staff members having to ask each other the details of an offer.
6. 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 they are 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.
7. The next step
In no way is the exhibition the last step, and this is where most people fall down.
You have done this exhibition for a reason, and we can bet that the majority of your objectives relate to gaining leads or increasing brand awareness. Yes, some of this is done at the exhibition, but the bulk of the work is done 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 your time efficiently
If you are out of the office for a day or two, 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 in a mess rather quickly.
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, but by managing your time when you return (or even planning it before you go) you can complete your own work, plus 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 it’s worth staying connected. This is where social media is great, as you can connect but there is no sales pressure. 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. Tell them how great the expo was and if they can still take advantage of any exhibition offers.
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.
8. 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, by showcasing your stand in all its glory. Or perhaps create a more immersive experience for those who visit your stand by letting them experience your product in virtual reality, or let people tour your whole showroom without ever leaving your stand.
How we can help
Are you exhibiting this year? We can help you from the initial planning of your stand, to the creation of your stand, and the follow up afterwards.
If you require any stationery for your stand, we can help to design and produce leaflets, business cards, feedback forms or any other printed media. Pull up banners can be really effective if designed properly, so speak to us to make sure they are eye-catching and impactful.
We can create on-screen presentations so that people visiting your stand can find out a little more about your products or services in a succinct and persuasive manner.
As mentioned in the blog, it is important that your website and social pages are up to date before you exhibit, as you will certainly be getting more traffic to your site following the event. We can take the hassle out of this for you and update and improve your website before and after the big day.
To ensure you are getting seen online, take advantage of our free SEO initial audit. We add real value to any SEO contract we provide by offering monthly reports and meetings to monitor and manage your ranking, making changes to the copy writing or anything else needed to boost your listing.
Get your marketing strategy right and reap the rewards of exhibiting. If you’d like to have a friendly chat on how we could work together, call us today on 01543 495752.