In the modern digitally connected world do exhibitions still have a role to play in the communications mix? We think the answer is yes!
Exhibitions have one great advantage; they give you a chance to meet potential customers, journalists and industry opinion formers face-to-face.
Unfortunately many businesses fail to make the most of the communications opportunity that events present and so fail to capitalise on their investment. So with the business exhibition season getting into full swing we’d like to offer our top 10 tips for making the most of exhibitions.
- Pick the right exhibition
It’s common sense, but there’s no point going to a food industry exhibition if you’re selling automotive goods. Do your research and find out which are the main exhibitions for your sector. Then get the organisers to send you the information they have on visitor numbers and their job roles. You can then workout if the people you want to target are going to be at the exhibition. If they’re, not think hard about where you could better spend your budget.
- Speaking opportunities
Well before the exhibition programme is announced the organisers are busy putting together a programme of seminars and speakers. Suggest an interesting topic and you’ve got a good chance of making it onto the programme. You’ll then benefit from the pre-show publicity machine promoting you and your brand, and you can brief your own PR team to secure more coverage on the back of the speaking opportunity.
You can sponsor everything from the delegate packs to the coffee shop, the added brand profile can really help you stand out from competitors. As a sponsor the show organiser may also offer you additional benefits such as attendance at drinks receptions, press events and seminars. All worth having if they raise your brand profile.
- Show previews
Most exhibitions have a pre-sell period of at least six months with an intensive marketing and PR programme. Introduce yourself to the show’s marketing and PR manager, explain what you hope to achieve from the event and provide them with information about your organisation. This way there’s a good chance they’ll include you in show pre-show PR and marketing. You’d be surprised how many organisations miss the chance of being included in previews because they simply fail to email some information.
Let existing and potential customers know you’ll be exhibiting. Give them an excuse to visit the stand or attend your speaking slot. It could be a prize draw a new product launch or the chance to meet an industry celebrity. Whatever it is, make sure they know you’ll be there and have something interesting for them to see, otherwise you may get passed by.
- Set appointments
Set appointments for target customers. Get them to commit to a meeting so you can have the right people from your organisation on stand to make the most of the sales opportunity. Get the meeting in their diary and get a mobile number so you can remind them on the day of your stand number and the time of the meeting.
- Sales training
How many times have you been to an exhibition and seen people looking really bored on their stands? It costs a lot of time and money to staff your stand so make sure your people are open, engaging and friendly to anyone who comes by. Invest in some sales training so your team makes the most of every opportunity to engage with a potential customer.
- Engage journalists
Industry journalists spend a lot of time reporting on exhibitions with show previews, at show reportage and post-show reviews. They are interested in new product launches, industry research, opinion and comment, so make sure you give them what they need before, during and after the show. This means well written press information and photography, plus suggestions for features and opinion pieces. You can also invite them onto your stand to meet and interview key people from your organisation or invite them to an exclusive pre-show briefing. Finally don’t forget to have plenty of press packs both in the press office and on your stand so you can help any journalist who pops-in unannounced.
- Keep it current
Use social and digital media to create a buzz around your stand. Follow the show Twitter stream so you can add comments and re-tweet. Keep your own social media sites up to date and link-in with any new contacts you make at the show.
Finally and most importantly follow-up. You’ve spent a lot of your budget on the event so don’t let your sales leads slip away with poor post-show planning. Contact everyone who visited your stand with a simple message thanking them for their interest. Get your sales team to arrange meetings with potential customers and monitor their success. Finally keep in touch with any media contacts you’ve made they may want to do a more in-depth feature on your business or visit your site.
So with the right preparation, exhibitions provide an excellent platform for building brand awareness and generating sales leads. Whatever the advantages of electronic communication, there’s still no substitute for meeting face-to-face and creating relationships with long-term value.
Pelican Communications are specialists in the environment, food and drink, outdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.