Online marketing may be top of your list right now, and it can certainly be effective, but there’s nothing like going out and meeting people face to face. It gives you a chance to build those all-important relationships with prospects, customer and maybe even other businesses with a similar client group to yours.
It also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your product or service, and for your customers to test or maybe even touch and feel your product for themselves.
However, an exhibition or trade show is a big investment for a small business, so you want to make sure that you squeeze every benefit you possibly can from it.
Here are five top tips to help you do exactly that:
1. Have a clear plan
Obviously you’ll need to plan the practical things like the time you can get access to the building and what you’ll need to take with you. But don’t forget the less obvious – but still essential – aspects, too.
For example, what are your goals for the event? You’ll aim to boost your sales, but what exact role is this event going to play in that process? Is it going to give you an opportunity to collect leads – if so, what’s your system for collecting leads and following up? If you’re planning to sell on the day, how much stock will you take with you and how will customers pay?
2. Designing your stand
When it comes to designing your stand, make sure you strike a good balance between having enough to fill the stand on the one hand, but not so much that it looks cluttered on the other.
You’ll need a backdrop, including a sign to explain what your business is and the benefits you offer customers. Try a pop upstander, which can be assembled in seconds and easily packed away between shows.
3. How to approach and engage with visitors
You’ll want to make sure that your stand is never left unattended, which means that you won’t want to be there alone. You’ll need to brief your partner for the day – or staff – on your aims and how they should approach visitors to your stand. If they are just helping out on the day rather than being your employee, make sure they know your product range before they begin.
Always be friendly and aim to engage people without pouncing on them! So stand in front of the stand and try to catch the attention of passers by with a smile or even a free gift – even if it’s a cupcake in the same colours as your branding. Avoid hiding away behind a table and not making eye contact with passers-by.
4. Focusing on the best visitors
The best use of your time is going to be to spend it with visitors who are a good fit for your product or service. But it can be hard to tell who these people are. Always be friendly and polite, but if you suspect the visitor is from a competitor – or worse – trying to sell you something, you could ask them which company they represent or if they they are likely to buy a product like yours. Again, you want to be polite and professional, but it makes sense to move on from a visitor who clearly has no intention of ever being a customer.
5. Remember to follow up
The last thing you want is to invest so much time and effort in an event but be quickly forgotten straight afterwards. Many people won’t be ready to buy on the day, so you need a system to follow up.
This doesn’t need to be complicated. If it’s a business event you could ask vistors for their business cards. If you’re meeting the public then you could offer a discount off their first order in exchange for their email address. Make this as easy as possible for them by either writing down their email address on a paper list (then adding it to your mailing list service later) or by typing it yourself into your laptop or ipad on the day.
Then make sure you do follow up soon after the event. This could be a phone call for a business contact or an email sequence.
So there you go, five top tips for making the most of an exhibition or trade show.