Time and again we come across similar complaints from exhibitors after events: “Exhibitions and trade shows aren’t worth it, they cost too much and we never get a good ROI.”
There’s no doubting that the costs can be high, but too often companies waste the incredible opportunities an exhibition or trade show offers, committing a number of ‘exhibition evils’ that I’d like to expose in this blog post.
Here are a collection of the biggest crimes that we’ve seen committed before a big trade event:
Evil #1: Choosing The Wrong Event
Make sure you always assess the usefulness of each event by recording the amount of business you generate after you attend. After you’ve done this, re-evaluate the list before the next round of exhibitions so you can be sure you’re using your resources effectively.
Following your competitors isn’t always the best option either, targeting new markets and attending new shows could be the way to get the edge on them. Make sure to check your local chamber of commerce for upcoming exhibitions and networking events which can be a great way to meet local business people.
Evil #2: Using the Same Tactics as the Previous Year
It is always tempting to think that replicating the same tactics as you used for a previous event will bring similar levels of success. However, this is not always the case. For example, if you are going to a show which you also attended the previous year, you would assume some of the same attendees will be returning and won’t feel motivated to visit the same exhibition stands.
What’s more, you need to be aware of current trends in the industry and adapt your stand for those particular needs. Staying static in any market is as good as going backwards, so make sure you put a large focus on promoting new, innovative products, displaying them prominently at the front of your stand.
Some products don’t change much by their nature, but don’t let this lead to you using the same exhibiting materials and tactics. It is said that you can’t re-invent the wheel, and this is certainly true for some products, but what’s certain is you can always put a new spin on it.
Even if your product or service is the same as last year, or if it is similar to your competitors’, use engaging competitions, games and unique giveaways to help you stand apart from the rest.
Evil #3: Choosing the Wrong Team
It’s always tempting to simply go with your best sales people, but remember trade show selling is very different from other types of sales, and certainly “hard sell” tactics should never be used.
Unlike communicating over the phone, body language is of the upmost importance at any networking event, so make sure all of your sales people have excellent face-to-face communication skills.
And, I’m sorry to say this – but just being good-looking is not always the best
characteristic for a rep: attractive sales reps may well get people into your stand, but if they are not equipped with the necessary in-depth knowledge of your product they will usually be fairly useless in securing confidence and sustainable leads for your business.
As long as your staff are friendly, knowledgeable and suitably-dressed you are sure to be a hit at any event.
The final piece of advice I have regarding staff might be an unpopular one as it involves the social activities the night before. Staying in a hotel; business expenses; away from home with all your workmates…..sounds like the perfect recipe for a big night out, right? Well, I suppose it does, and no-one is saying a few drinks and team bonding the night before is a bad thing, but on the day of an event the hungover staff really start to show.
It becomes clear in the afternoon when people naturally start to tire, and those who’ve been burning the candle at both ends start to stick out like a boozy sore thumb. Restraint is key, save your big night out for after the event if possible.
Evil #4: Thinking that your networking starts when you get there
There used to be a time when, like the whistle blowing at the start of a big match, the networking would begin once the doors had opened on the first day of exhibiting. Now, this certainly isn’t the case.
Innovative ideas are always appreciated in business to attract clientele: we have even heard of one businessman slipping complimentary bottles of wine into the hotel rooms of his biggest prospects the night before a show!
Furthermore, with email and social media as your channels, before the show try to increase your stand’s visibility and organise one-on-one meetings for people to visit your stand. Using discounts or special offers for individual shows is a great way to make sure people visit you at this particular event. Tweeting, “We’re going to be on X stand” is useful to know, but try and be a bit more unique, giving specific incentives such as an hourly prize giveaway for why you stand will be unmissable.
Always plan ahead, giving yourself plenty of time to know what prospective clients want from the particular show. In this useful resource from Face Time you can structure your pre-show planning with a single glance; it suggests you should start driving traffic to your stand 3 weeks before an event, arranging specific times to meet prospects being a key component.
Evil #5: Being Negative About Your Prospects
Too often exhibitors get downbeat about their performance even before an event has begun. Forget about your last event and focus on the one you can control. The fate of this show is ultimately in your hands, it will be as good or bad as you make it, so try and treat each show as a fresh slate for new success.
Avoiding these pre-show ‘evils’ will undoubtedly help you feel more relaxed when your show begins, helping you to make the most of your event and maximise your ROI. Good luck!