Being able to show off your latest product or your new venture directly to potential clients is one of the most effective ways of attracting interest in your brand, and one of the best methods of doing this is by exhibiting at a trade show.
This guide will take you through all of the essential stages in the build-up and aftermath of exhibiting at a trade show. We’ll explore some of the benefits that they can bring to your business, as well as sharing planning and organisational tips for before, during, and after the big day.
A trade show is an industry event where people within a certain industry or field congregate to share the latest innovations and to network with other like-minded people.
The people who attend trade shows are usually heavily interested, trained, or experts in the industry that the show is dedicated to. They go to the shows to preview or review the latest developments in the industry and meet with fellow colleagues.
You will also see representatives from businesses within the industry attending to make future buying decisions for their companies. You can expect large and elaborate exhibits, as companies seek to create displays that match their company prestige and position in the industry.
Company employees that are invited to attend are typically specialist sales staff or staff holding upper-level positions, as trade discussions are generally business-to-business (B2B) and above the standard consumer level. These shows are a place you can expect to see high volume or high cost deals being done.
Trade shows are also a hotbed for peer-to-peer meetings, with many high-level talks taking place between directors, who take advantage of the convenience of having the industry’s leading firms under one roof. Attendees are able to speak to many of these influential decision-makers, though most sales are completed after the close of the show.
If you are making a decision about whether to take your brand to a trade show, it is important that you know exactly what they can offer you before choosing to attend or not.
The most obvious benefit of attending is that you can communicate with both your customers and others in your industry on a face-to-face level. Trade shows will give you plenty of opportunities for networking with your peers, and you can also meet suppliers, experts, investors, and other key figures from within your industry.
The upper-level and qualified attendees who attend trade shows regularly have purchasing power that regular staff don’t have — often having responsibility for procuring new products and services for their respective companies. These visitors will have a larger budget than everyday consumers, but will probably have carried out most of their research before attending.
Through exhibiting at a show, you are granted access to a large pool of possible clients who have already registered their interest in your industry by going out of their way to attend the event. These customers are often happy to give you their time and are more likely to buy than someone who is just browsing or shopping around.
If your company has a new product or service to launch, a trade show can be the ideal place to do it. These events provide you with the chance to introduce and demonstrate your product/service in front of a large audience, with the possibility of increased press coverage and word-of-mouth news.
You can also use these events to reconnect with your peers in partner firms or forge relationships elsewhere in the industry, particularly trade shows where there will be many other like-minded individuals in attendance. Additionally, you the chance to stay abreast of the latest developments in your field: you can see what’s new and where your rivals might have innovated or be lagging behind.
Once you have decided to exhibit at a trade show, you can begin to prepare for the event itself. There are a number of stages that you should go through to develop a trade show strategy plan to ensure that your brand maximises the potential benefits from any event.
Before you go ahead and book your place at your event of choice, you need to make sure that this particular trade show will be able to accomplish the goal of attending. You can do this by first deciding what exactly it is you want to gain from exhibiting.
There can be a wide range of reasons for why you want to attend — perhaps you have a product to launch and want to make as big a splash as possible, or maybe you are looking to network at a trade show where all of the companies in your particular sector will be in attendance. When you have established these aims, you can decide if a trade show is right for your company.
If you have been to the same exhibition in the past, you may well have a good idea of what to expect, but you can establish the suitability by finding out for as much information as possible.
Look closely at who has attended in the past and who is confirmed to be attending this year. This is a good indicator of who else has looked at the event and thought it was worthy of their time and resources. Ask for an attendee list for both this year and the previous year and you will be able to see who deemed the exhibition valuable enough to book for two years in a row and who decided to turn down a second year. This is also a useful way of seeing if your competitors will be there.
Get in touch with past exhibitors to find out whether they thought that the event was valuable or not. Doing so can often give you a more genuine opinion, as well as giving you an insight into the event from the perspective of an attendee.
Ask questions of the trade show’s management and marketing departments to find out how your attendance will be promoted and how the show will be promoted on the whole. You need to ensure that you will be getting sufficient exposure for your outlay to confirm that you have the best chance of getting a positive return on investment (ROI).
If your sales or marketing team come to you with a proposal to exhibit at an event, don’t be afraid to ask them to justify why. This can expose flawed reasons for attending, such as ‘our competitors are going to be there so we should too’, which do not usually qualify as sound reasons to book your place. On the other hand, your team might have approached the subject from a different angle, so a healthy dialogue can help you approach the idea in a new way.
Look for feedback from event attendees who weren’t exhibiting — the best place to find this is through social media. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn will often see attendees passing comment on how enjoyable and useful they found an event. You can use the search function on each of these sites to find related posts, though you may have to look back to find comments about past events.
After you have established that a certain trade show promises to meet all of your objectives, you can book your place and put together a plan of action and a budget.
Meet with the key members of staff who will be responsible for event preparation and discuss your strategy. You should do this as soon as you can after you have booked the event to avoid any organisational headaches down the line and to make sure everyone is clear about their role.
You can use this opportunity to communicate what your key message will be and who exactly you are hoping to target through the event. Make sure that all of your staff involved in the planning and execution are aware of these two important pieces of information, as it will ensure that you are all on the same page when it comes to establishing a plan.
Together, you should be able to plan and budget for the run-up toand day(s) of the event, as well as plans for post-event activities. Review each aspect of the exhibition — how you will go about accomplishing it and how much it will cost to do.
Take into account:
· Graphics for your stand
· Will you need to take advantage of any services offered on-site?
· Transport to the event for staff
· Logistics and delivery of materials and stand items
· Which staff will attend and will they will need training?
· How to collect details from interested attendees and how you will follow them up
· Will you run any promotions before, after, or during the event?
· Are you in need of any extra or event-specific marketing materials?
· Will you invest in promotional items?
Make sure you plan your budget before pressing ahead with your plan, as costs can quickly spiral out of control if not monitored closely. If necessary, you can make decisions about your plan and then staff can go away and research approximate costs, reconvening to establish a more precise budget. This may have to be done if your staff have no pre-existing idea of how much individual aspects of the event preparation and implementation will come to. A good budget is essential if you want to be able to accurately forecast what your ROI will be.
When you have established what needs to be done and how you will accomplish it, you can piece together a schedule to follow that will run from the moment the planning meeting ends to the final post-event follow-ups. Set realistic deadlines and make sure that you stick to them — you can appoint a member of staff to be the event co-ordinator with the responsibility of chasing up overdue parts of the project if you will be too busy.
The schedule should also take into account event marketing activities. You should know when you are announcing your presence at the event, offers and promotions exclusive to the show, and how you will promote your attendance on the day, among many other possible actions. When you have established this, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your marketing team know precisely what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.
Sponsors and partners can be valuable allies at trade shows. If you are a small business or working within the confines of a limited budget, exchanging the publicity you can offer for some funds from a sponsor can often expand your horizons significantly.
You can offer potential sponsors a range of opportunities to work alongside your brand, ranging from simply having their logo displayed alongside your own to allowing them to showcase their own products at your exhibit. A well-known and relevant sponsor can often attract new clients to your stand through the strength of their brand being associated with your own.
If you have any established partner companies, they may well be interested in becoming involved with your exhibit. A partner company gives you the opportunity to share resources — whether this just involves trading marketing materials for your stands or extends to co-exhibiting will depend on the relationship between the two brands. Either way, it gives you the opportunity to pool your resources, potentially saving money and expanding your brand’s reach.
The helping hand you can extend to one another can also extend to online marketing for the show, from sharing one another’s social media posts to circulating email campaigns around the other’s customer base, any extra exposure you can get for your brand can count.
Promotional products are one of the most widely used methods of getting a brand out there, and they are especially useful at trade shows. Well-chosen, useful, and desirable promo items can work hugely in favour of your exhibit: not only will they surprise and get a positive reaction from visitors to your exhibit, but they may well attract more visitors when they discover the high-quality products you have on offer. They can also act as an effective ice-breaker when you are trying to attract someone to your stand.
Also, once you have given out your promotional products, your branding will be on display whenever that item is used, and the more useful it proves to be, the more frequently it will be used.
You can find out more about the many benefits of promotional merchandise in our guide to using promotional products to market your business.
Before going ahead and ordering your products, there are a few factors that you should consider:
· The type of business you are
· The type of show you are attending
· How much space you have at your exhibit
· Quantity of items
If you are working within a limited budget, you should look to invest in basic promotional products first, before investing in more expensive or fancy items. This way, you can cater for the many people who visit your exhibit. It's better to be able to provide many people with basic items than only a few with items that cost more.
If you have limited budget left over for more expensive luxury products or electronics, consider keeping them back for a contest where visitors can register to win a higher-cost item or a giveaway that requires visitors to provide you with their contact details in exchange for the product. This way, you can ensure that you will get generate some leads from your investment.
If you have a larger budget, you can look to get a good balance of basic and more desirable promo products. While you may be tempted to invest solely in high-value merchandise, you should not underestimate the takeaway value of more basic items, taking extra care to get the balance just right. The advantage of having a larger budget is that you can be more liberal when giving out your higher-cost products.
You also need to take into account the fact that every promo item you plan on giving out at an trade show has to be transported there. You may be planning to carry these products yourself in a bag or in the boot of a car, or you may be counting on using a delivery service if you are travelling far or even abroad. Be sure to factor in any logistical cost when planning your promotional items.
The type of business that you are will influence the type of product that you choose for your giveaway. Look for items that will reflect well on your business, or are especially relevant, such as a branded calculator for an accountancy, a USB memory stick for a tech or IT company, or an eco-friendly product for a sustainable brand.
Similarly, the type of show you have booked to exhibit at can affect your choice of branded products. If you are attending a trade show, your target audience will most likely be people who are experts or heavily involved in that particular trade.
You can still make use of basic promotional products that will prove to be popular no matter what the industry, but if you are looking to give away high-end items they will have to be both useful and of suitable quality to make your brand stand out from the crowd.
Relevancy is also a key factor, as you don’t want to be giving away things that don’t fit the bill, so it seems like your company hasn’t put much thought into the event. A good example of relevant products would be giving branded USB memory sticks or power banks to a tech-oriented audience.
This goes without saying, but you need to make sure that you have ample space for any products that you plan on taking. There isn’t any point in ordering a huge number of bulky products if you know that you will not have a lot of room at your stand. You can often book storage space if it is a multi-day event, but this is usually available at an extra cost.
A useful tip for saving space with basic promo items is to group them up into a pack — especially easy when you are giving away branded bags. Before the exhibition, take the time to combine all of your brand’s basic items, such as pens, keyrings, and other stationery, with any brochures or leaflets you wish to distribute, and put them together inside your bags. When the time comes, you will have these packs ready to hand out, without having to assemble them when you have visitors.
Be aware of how many visitors you expect to get at your exhibition stand. While it may not be possible to cater exactly to the number of interested attendees, having a predicted figure can prove useful when it comes to ordering your products. When it comes to ordering, you should look to overstock rather than understock, as you won’t want to see visitors going away empty-handed.
Look at the event information to see if there is an estimated number of visitors or look at the previous year’s attendance numbers. You can also speak to any past exhibitors to get an idea of how many visitors they go to their stand throughout the event.
Here at Custom Planet, we specialise in helping businesses in ordering their perfect promotional products. We are able to provide a wide range of items that can all be completely tailored with your own unique company branding. This is achieved through our expertise in customisation; we are able to print onto plastic, screen print, and embroider to meet your specifications. Some of the most popular promo products we offer are pens, USB memory sticks, bags, T-shirts and hoodies.
We are also very happy to discuss your promo item requirements with you, as well as providing you with great advice on what might be suitable for the event that you are attending. Head over to our contact us page to ask us any questions or discuss a bulk order.
To get people to come to your exhibition, you have to make sure that they know that you will be attending. To do this, you will need to put together a great promotional campaign that communicates your key message, targeting the type of people you want to get visit your stand. You need to give these people a reason why they should visit you out of all the other brands at the event.
To be able to come up with the message of your campaign, you should ask yourself these key questions:
· What is your most significant product or service? And how does it distinguish you from your competitors?
· What do you offer that no other brand is able to? The most innovative product? The best customer service? Fastest delivery? Lowest price? Something else?
· What sets your company apart? For example, does your company source ethically manufactured products? Does your product use all-natural ingredients? This is something you can often identify by re-visiting your company’s vision and objectivities.
Your key messages should be able to be communicated in small bite-sized chunks that anyone can read and take in. Don’t spend time putting messages that are too detailed because your audience will find it an immediate turn-off if they have to decode what you are trying to say. If you have a few key messages that you wish to share, remember that you can spread them out over the course of your pre-event marketing campaign.
Once you have come up with your key messages, you need to be able to communicate them with your intended audience. If you have booked your place at the event very early, it will probably be too soon to begin marketing your exhibit. There isn’t any reason, however, that you can’t begin to prepare your marketing materials so that they are ready to go when the time comes.
Look to begin your marketing campaign around two to three months before the event. This will give people enough time to warm to the idea while being close enough so your marketing is relevant.
There are quite a few ways to get the word out there, and they should form the main part of your marketing campaign in the run-up to the event.
· Personal email invitations: By simply adding the recipient’s name to an email, you can turn an impersonal advertorial email into something that carries more exclusive value.
· Telemarketing: Telemarketing is a useful method of speaking directly to potential event attendees that may have missed your other marketing activities. You won’t be selling them anything, just informing them of the event.
· Direct mail: Direct mail can often be used to contact people who are technophobic or just don’t look at their inbox regularly. Unlike emailing, sending direct mail will carry postage costs, so if you are working to a budget it may be best to be selective when targeting people.
· Advertising: While it may not be worth your while taking out adverts purely dedicated to your exhibition at the trade show, you may consider adding the details to any planned adverts for your company.
· Public relations: You can use any influence you have in the media to try to get a mention of your presence at the event into press or broadcasting channels. This could be as simple as a brief mention when the event itself is being marketed, or you could create your own opportunity that directs people towards your stand at the show.
· Social media: Use any channels that you have on social media to promote the event. Social networks are a great place to get your key messages out in front of a lot of people, get shares, likes, and to be able to answer people’s questions about your exhibit.
· Company website: You should use your website as a base for all your digital marketing activities. It can be the place that you link back to in your email and social media marketing, so you don’t have to cram all of the event details into your adverts and messages. You should use your website to provide directions to your stand, travel and accommodation recommendations, and any pre-event promotions. You should also prominently market the event on the front page of your website to ensure maximum visibility.
After confirming your exhibit at the event, you should endeavour to get hold of the pre-event registration list to give yourself a head start on being able to market towards people that will be attending. You can then combine this with any databases or mailing lists your company has already, as well as any other lists of potential customers from other sources, to create a large pool of recipients that you can market to.
Depending on the level of information that you have about these people, you could go on to categorise them so that you can tailor your marketing towards different groups. For example, you might know that a particular batch of potential customers have bought products or services from one of your rivals, so you could create marketing content that focused on why your brand is superior.
The exhibit stand is where you will be showcasing your company to all of the attendees of the trade show, so it is essential that you get it right. You will need to put on exhibit that is eye-catching while being practically designed to allow your staff to speak to as many people as possible.
Stand space is often priced per square metre, so you will have to have some idea of how large or small your stand will be when you book and pay for your attendance at the show. Remember, if you plan on demonstrating machinery or large products, these will have a bearing on how big your exhibition area needs to be.
Stands near locations with high foot traffic are desirable, as are corner stands that can seem more open with two entrances than those confined between others. It isn’t always possible to reserve one of these areas, so don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get one — you can make up for it with an attractive stand and excellent products and services.
If the trade show has an exhibitor’s manual, make sure that you read it. It is likely to contain most of the vital information that you need to know, including prices and deadlines for on-site services, regulations for exhibiting, show dates, and event opening and closing times.
There are a number of aspects to consider when it comes to choosing the layout and branding for your exhibition stand:
· Make sure your entrance/exit is clear: Unless you have a corner stand with two entrances/exits, you will need to make sure there is plenty of space for people to get into and get out of your stand at the same time. Although you want people to spend their time at your stand, ideally it shouldn’t be when they are waiting to get in or out.
· Don’t clog your stand up with too many fixtures: If you have a large exhibition area, you may be able to fit a lot of literature stands, displays, and surfaces full of promotional products. If you don’t have a lot of room to work with, keep the middle of your stand clear to avoid bottlenecks. You can still use extra fixtures, just try to keep them around the edges.
· Consider seats and tables: If your business offers a product or service that requires your staff to explain a lot of material to potential customers or to take their details, it may be wise to equip your stand with some seats and tables to make this easier. Bar-style stools are useful because they don’t take up a lot of space.
· Use original images for your branding graphics: The last thing you want is your stand to look the same as everyone else’s, so avoid using images that you have purchased from stock photo libraries and instead try to use your own original images.
· Communicate your key messages clearly: Your key messages should be communicated clearly through your branding — potential customers should know immediately what you are offering and how you can assist them.
· Make sure you have a strong call to action: Throughout the day you will likely have more visitors to your stand than you can speak to one-to-one. If someone is interested in your product or services, you should communicate what the next step for them would be through your stand graphics.
· Use clearly visible contact information: Some people will not have enough time or will be too shy to come and speak to you at your exhibit. They might take some of your literature, but you should also prominently display your company’s contact details so that they can get in touch at a later date.
If you are aiming to attend exhibitions in the future, it might be a good idea to invest in a high-quality stand or fixtures that have the potential to be used again in the future. Banners that can be folded up and stored away and roller banners that can be compacted back into themselves are two great fixture products that have a strong re-usability factor.
At Custom Planet, we stock a range of conference supplies, including banners that can be completely customised to your business’s branding requirements. These banners are portable and can be used for as many events as you need, making them a great investment for your company.
While putting together a great stand is very important, so is making sure your exhibiting staff are ready to push your brand to new levels. There are two main areas that need considering with regards to the staff you have chosen to attend the exhibit: whether they will need training and what they will wear during the show.
The people that you select to run your exhibition stand will be the ambassadors for your brand throughout the event. Therefore, it is essential that they know how to represent your brand in the best possible manner.
You should choose staff you know are outgoing and are quite comfortable when talking to people about your services and products. When you have settled on a team, you should brief them beforehand, making sure that they know exactly why you have chosen to exhibit at this particular event, what you want them to exhibit, and the high standards that you expect from them.
Consult each and every one of the team and find out if they need any specific product or service training. They may also feel that they need more specialist training in sales, which is an important consideration as you don’t want them overselling and putting potential customers off your brand.
They also need to be aware that, as much as they want to, they should not spend too much time with one visitor, as there may be five more left waiting to be approached. Any extra sales training should also cover closing, as they should aim to finish every positive exchange with a commitment to follow up the interaction.
Staff who are dressed smartly in uniform will portray your brand in a professional light to any visitors to your stand. Visitors will also be able to tell immediately who they should speak to when all of your stand staff are wearing your brand. Uniforms don’t have to be seen as stuffy or unfashionable: you can invest in clothing that is both flattering and comfortable while still carrying your branding.
At Custom Planet, we specialise in providing customised clothing that will reflect well on your exhibiting staff. Our range of clothing is suitable for many kinds of event, and we can cater for any level of formality. If you are looking for a more casual look for your staff, our T-shirts and hoodies are perfect for a dress-down uniform — ideal for events like careers fairs or university showcases. We also stock polo shirts and shirts that are perfect if you are looking for something a little more smart-casual. These are just some of the examples of our wider range of custom clothing, all of which can be branded with your company’s name and logo.
Our expert staff will be happy to help you out with your event uniform needs, and you can take advantage of our digital printing, screen printing, embroidery, and garment finishing services to ensure your staff uniforms look the part.
Once the event is underway, all of your hard work towards preparing can finally begin to pay off. If you are attending the event yourself, don’t be afraid to hang around your exhibit early on to check that your staff are doing a great job — it’s easier to point out any adjustments to the stand or your staff’s style at the earliest opportunity to prevent them from getting into a bad routine.
Be careful not to be too overbearing though, as there is nothing worse than having to perform under pressure then to be harangued at every spare moment by your boss. Have faith in your staff; if you have made sure they have had the proper training they won’t let you down.
Get all of your team to practise a lead ranking system, where they assign a letter or number to indicate a category of follow-up priority that they fall into. For example, a number 1 could represent someone who has expressed a firm interest in your product or service and requires following up immediately after the event with a personal sales call. You might be able to make a slightly more complex system, but be wary of making it too difficult for your team to remember on the fly.
If they are demonstrating some of your electronic products to visitors, remember that no matter how much preparation you did back at the office, there is always a chance that things will go wrong with technology in the environment of the trade show. Always make sure you have a backup plan to take care of any technical hiccups you suffer.
Give someone on the team responsibility for capturing the event with engaging social media. Encourage them to take pictures of the stand and your team in action, and seize on any Twitter hashtags for the event to get more exposure for your stand. You can also use networks like Facebook and Instagram to share the location of your stand with any potential visitors.
Be sure to keep up to date with any events going on within the show to retweet or share, and don’t be afraid to target any high-profile industry figures or influencers who are attending with your social media — the chance of your update being liked or shared by them could increase your exposure.
Use the opportunity of attending the show to wander around and take a look
look at the way other companies have set up their stalls, especially your rivals. If this is your first time exhibiting, you may want to carry a notepad to jot down some essential observations for next time, or you can even snap a few pictures if you see something that you think is very effective.
Use the event to network with partners or other industry contemporaries. Trade shows are useful opportunities to see what the rest of the sector is up to. Likewise, if you have the time, don’t be afraid to step onto the stand for a while yourself — the opportunity to speak to one of the senior figures in a brand can often make a positive impression, showing your company is down to earth and willing to have a conversation about your products and services.
A day spent exhibiting can be long and tiresome, so you should also make sure that your staff stay motivated throughout the show’s open hours. Ensure that they regularly take breaks, as a moment to regroup and collect their thoughts can be a welcome refresher during an intense day of selling.
If you have a balance of staff that are great at sales and staff that are adept at explaining the technical side of things, consider splitting them into small teams or pairs so that one can always rely on the other for assistance if they find themselves in a tough spot. Encouraging a bit of healthy competition is also an option — offer a prize or other incentive for the team member that secures the most leads or makes the most sales.
Once the stand is packed up and you’ve headed back to the office, it’s time to follow up your leads and evaluate the importance of the exhibit. Use the ranking system that you had your staff use to prioritise your best leads and have them work through each category with a measured response that matches the person’s level of interest in your company.
While you may employ firmer sales tactics with higher-category leads, people who provided you with details just to enter a giveaway contest should not be followed up with the same level of attention. This level of interest probably only warrants being added to your company’s database or mailing list for marketing materials.
After you have had time to get some feedback on the leads that you gained at the event, you should get everyone who took part in into a debriefing and evaluation meeting to decide whether the show could be considered a success. Consider the following discussion points:
Refer back to the goals that you set out in your first planning meeting for the event. Do you and your team feel like they were met?
What setbacks or challenges did you run into in the planning and on the day of the show? How did you overcome them?
Did the layout and graphics of your stand prove to be effective? Can you suggest any improvements that could be made for any future exhibitions?
Did the event team perform effectively? What could be done to improve performance?
Was the right type of visitor attracted to your stand during the show?
How many of your leads have proven to be solid? Have you had many conversions so far?
Did the show meet your needs as a company? Were you left wanting in any department during the event by event staff?
Is it worth exhibiting at the event next time? If not, can you suggest another alternative?
After considering all of these points, you may want to sit down with your financial team a week or so later to evaluate the ROI that the show has given you. This will give you a solid indicator on whether the exhibit has been useful for increasing sales or not.
Custom Planet are here to help with your exhibiting needs
At Custom Planet, we can take care of many of your business’s essential requirements in planning your show, from promotional products for giveaways to staff uniforms and stand graphics. Our expert team are on hand to discuss any exhibits that you are thinking of putting together, so get in touch through our website or give us a call on 0191 270 8181.