By: Cheryl Cliffe
Exhibiting at a trade show, like SARCDA, means that you have the opportunity to engage a captive audience that has come to the show specifically to do business with a company like yours. It also allows you to network and strengthen relationships with existing customers and build your database.
But, despite the many benefits of exhibiting, it's not an inexpensive exercise and to get the maximum return on your exhibition investment, careful thought must be given to how you are going to showcase, not only your products, but your brand. After all, your stand is the personification of your brand and every element must convey how you want customers to experience your brand.
SET MEASURABLE GOALS
To get the maximum benefit from your trade exhibition spend start with brainstorming your goals. Once you know exactly what you want to achieve at the exhibition you can plan your participation accordingly. And the more specific the goals, the easier it is to plan for their realisation. For instance, ideally a exhibition goal plan specifies clear and measurable goals like "launch product A; clear stock of product B; and showcase how product C works". It's important to set measurable goals so that you can assess your performance after the exhibition and, if necessary, tweak your next exhibition participation.
PLAN YOUR EXHIBITION STAND
When planning your stand, deciding which products to exhibit is important. Remember, this is about showcasing your brand and creating a lasting impression in the minds of buyers, not showing them every single product, in every colour and size. Having a clear idea of exactly what you are going to showcase is important before you start talking to stand designers.
Once you know what you want to achieve, and what you are going to showcase to meet your objective, its important to decide what you want to spend. If you are using an external company to design and build your stand you will need to brief them as comprehensively as possible, both in terms of what you want to achieve and what you are willing to spend.
When choosing you stand position consider factors like proximity to restaurants, the main aisle, entrance and exits. It's also important to choose a stand size that will suit what you want to showcase and then make the most of your exhibition space - think about creative ways to display your products.
MARKET YOUR ATTENDANCE
One of the biggest mistakes that exhibitors make is to think that their exhibition experience starts at the exhibition. In fact, it starts the day you sign your contract with the organiser. Like all organisers, SARCDA markets the exhibition in all appropriate spaces but the organiser doesn't have access to your data base and they don't know your business like you do. As soon as you know you are going to be exhibiting, start telling everyone you communicate with that you will be there. Use all your communication tools - including social media, advertisements, mailers, email signatures and your website - to tell customers and prospective customers that you will be at the exhibition. Consider running trade exhibition specials and activations to attract trade buyers to your stand. It's also a good idea to send out reminders during the exhibition. Social media is particularly useful in this regard.
It would be a wasted opportunity not to canvas the opinions of trade visitors to your stand and an exhibition stand is the ideal place to conduct some informal market research.
Remember that the trade exhibition organiser is your partner in this venture. Speak to them about additional marketing opportunities that they offer and share your ideas with how you can work together to attract more buyers to the exhibition in general and your stand in particular.
TRAIN YOUR STAFF
Make sure that every staff member that will be working on your stand knows what the exhibition goal is and that they are trained to deal with enquiries. While on the stand, they are the face of your company, as much part of the brand expression as the physical stand is. Some basic housekeeping rules like no eating on the stand, an acceptable dress code and limited mobile device usage are a good idea. Also give some thought to how orders will be captured, and deposits received to ensure that this is done as quickly and easily as possible.
And, just as your exhibition experience starts long before actual exhibition does, it continues long after the exhibition closes. Keep in contact with the buyers that visited your stand, tell them how much you appreciated the time they spent with you and let them know how you can serve them in future. Don't bombard them with communications - that's just annoying - but do stay in touch from time to time.
Then there's the vital key to maintaining successful brand awareness: keep your promises. Deliver the products that have been ordered - on time - and make sure that the after sales service reflects the impression that you want customers to have of your business.
Trade exhibitions are about much more than taking orders. A well-orchestrated exhibition stand is a major brand shaper and enhancer. It's a platform for creating new relationships and reinforcing existing relationships. Give your exhibition stand the attention and forethought it deserves and you will reap the rewards.