Back in December fellow guest poster Helen L explained exactly why small businesses should exhibit at trade shows. With the initial cost of setting up an exhibition so high there is little room for mistake on the trade show floor. As with any enterprise good preparation can make all the difference between making a profit or throwing away money and time, the difference is that there is less room for exhibitors.
The list below will cover some essential points of preparation. Some of these might be a bit basic but I’m sure you will all have seen what happens when these points are missed.
Objectives:What do you want to achieve from the event? Make sure you and your staff know and plan accordingly. Decide your key metric, whether its number of leads obtained, press coverage or ROI and make sure you have a way to track it.
Training:Staff don’t need to be trained to talk to people surely? Well yes, actually they do. Good exhibition communication is an odd mixture of counselling and acting. Your exhibitors need to be able to listen to the problems that visitors bring them and offer them solutions, not products. They also need to be able to do this while hiding the fact they are tired from standing on their feet all day, and stay on message. There also details such as ensuring your staff take down enough information on leads that you can follow them up properly.
Training your staff will help to keep them enthusiastic and on message. Depending upon your budget can you can hire outside experts to coach staff through the finer points of exhibiting but for small business a more affordable approach would be to set aside an afternoon before the event too brief your staff. The briefing should include products they need to be aware off, along with proper data capture methods and some practice of talking to visitors.
Consistent messaging:As I’m sure all the readers are aware, consistent messaging is a vital part of any marketing and branding. The trick with exhibiting is to make sure that your efforts fit in with your other marketing attempts. So using your brand colours and logo’s on marketing literature, exhibition stands and even clothing is vital.
As far as clothes are concerned think about the message you want your brand to convey. A professional consulting company will probably want to wear suits, whereas as a tech start up might prefer a more relaxed approach such as adopting branded polo shirts. Similarly any promotional gifts need to be well thought through. For example If you are proud of your green credentials a pile of plastic tat looks hypocritical at best; a report that can be downloaded from your website with a code only available at your stand will look more professional and far more green.
Pre-event Marketing:So you have well trained staff, branded material and a great looking stand. How do you get people to your stand? That’s what the pre-event marketing is about. Are you going to be revealing a new product? Do you have a report or a whitepaper out? Try to construct a mailing list of people attending the event, clients and contacts and let them know about any special offers, competitions or gifts available at your stand. You should make sure that any promotional copy you can give to the show organiser states exactly what you do and where to find you.
Eating and Sleeping:You cannot afford to leave your booth unmanned, but at the same time you can’t expect your staff to spend all day on it. Ensure that you arrange a schedule beforehand so that everyone has a chance to sit down and eat some food. This will also mean that you won’t have anyone eating at the stand itself. A problem that always looks unprofessional. If at all possible you should also ensure that there are at least two people on the stand at all times. This will stop anyone being caught short and help prevent visitors overwhelming your staff.
Similarly book hotels and transport as far in advance as possible. Not only will this save you money, it will also mean you can get as close as possible to the exhibition centre. If you have a five minute walk to work in the morning it will mean you can be better rested than your poor competitors.
Hopefully this guide should help make any exhibits a success and ensure that you come out of the event with lots of great leads.
Written by Daniel Frank on behalf of Nimlok Exhibition Stands