After we recently created and shared an online calculator to help exhibitors work out their return on investment from a show it seemed like a natural progression to follow up with some insight to help anyone looking to improve that return. So we turned to The Closer and asked her to gather a selection of the best tips and advice from exhibitors that have already made Business Vision LIVE a success.
I have seen some real horrors at exhibitions over the years. Among the worst is the stand laid bare with nothing more than a conveniently opened box of literature placed squarely in the middle of the floor.
More common is the stand carefully arranged with a table at the front so the team can sit behind it, safe in the knowledge that the visitors can’t get to them.
I’ve seen numerous exhibitors deeply engrossed in checking their emails, making sure nobody disturbs them. And plenty of stand teams huddled in a group with their backs to the aisle, proudly showing off their company branding on the backs of their t-shirts. Not to mention the staff devouring a greasy sandwich with an interrupt me if you dare look on their face
One thing I can be sure of is that in each of these examples, the team will have reported that the show wasn’t very good—probably blaming the quantity or quality of delegates.
This may all sound amusing, but for a marketing team who have invested their time and energy into an exhibition presence, or a business owner who is being misled into thinking they have wasted their money, it is far from funny.
OK, I am being a little unfair. While I see these examples more than I’d like to, they are not that common. Plenty of organisations, big and small, do a great job of exhibiting. And guess what, they are not the ones complaining about a bad show.
What do the successful exhibitors do?
Before I share some tips from other Kent Vision LIVE exhibitors, I wanted to highlight some valuable points made by Apprentice star and sales guru, Ruth Badger, at our recent exhibitor masterclass.
Ruth’s key message was that people buy people.
This is something that is fundamental to sales particularly in a face-to-face environment like an exhibition. It means the people on your stand need to be up to the task and they need to be properly equipped.
Ask yourself, do they want to be there and are you happy to put them in front of potential customers? You also need to assess whether they can clearly and confidently communicate who your organisation is, what you provide and why the delegates should buy from you. If you are not 100% confident that your team can do this, then you should bring them together before the event to carry out a briefing.
The importance of making the best use of your time was another point Ruth pressed home.
At every exhibition in the land, there will be two types of visitor— those with genuine intent and those without it. Your time at a show is limited, spend it talking to delegates without intent, and it’s wasted. So fact-finding to identify intent is crucial.
Start by asking questions that help you understand if the person you are talking to fits your customer profile. Are they in the right industry, role, location etc. It doesn’t have to be an inquisition, ‘hi, what do you do’, will get the information flowing. If they don’t match your customer profile, then move on.
If they do fit the profile, you can explore further to identify if they can afford your products or services. You could ask if they ever buy-in your service. If the answer is ‘no, we do it ourselves’ you may want to find out if that works for them, but it could be because they can’t afford you and again you can move on.
Then the final step is to establish if there is a need. ‘When will you next be looking for..?’ If the answer is ‘we are looking now,’ you have identified a hot lead. But even if they say it will be six months, you have a qualified lead.
There is plenty more you can do to give yourself the edge.
For Drew Selman, from the award-winning design agency, Lemon Creative, making the most of your presence is essential. “Your stand is a reflection of your business, so do invest in it or you could create the wrong impression. That investment can be your time and creativity as much as cash,” he explained.
Drew also recommends making the most of the opportunities the event offers. “Don’t skip the build-up day, it’s a great time to engage with other exhibitors. You may not have time on the day of the event, but lots of exhibitors are there on the build-up day, they are more relaxed and are often easier to chat to.”
Duncan Simmons, Area Director for Metro Bank, agrees with Ruth’s point about the people you put on your stand.”Obviously, some organisations have greater potential for choice than others. But if you can, select team members that are happy to talk to others, are positive and able to engage. Somebody who doesn’t want to be on your stand will do more harm than good.”
“Invest what you can in your presence,” is another of Duncan’s tips. “Take the largest space you can afford, but make sure you also allow a budget to promote your presence beforehand and for dressing your stand. It is a reflection of your business and your brand, so make sure you don’t create the wrong impression in an attempt to save a few pounds.”
Sarah Hawes of Izzy PR advocates promoting your presence at an event. “Promote your involvement across your network and other marketing channels. Don’t worry about your customers coming along and meeting your competitors. What if they came anyway, saw your competitors and didn’t realise you were there?”
Effective follow-up is something else Sarah sees many companies failing to do well. “You have spent time and money making connections and generating leads. Not following up those opportunities in a timely and effective way is a complete waste.” Sadly, this is something else we see all too often.
Sarah also agrees with Ruth on the importance of preparation. “Make sure you are clear about your offer, your pitch and how you answer the questions you can preempt ahead of the event. It will make you more effective on the day.”
Our final tip comes from Will Barnes, event lead at Biddenden Vineyards. Like Drew, he recommends setting up your stand the day before, but for a different reason. “There is nothing worse than finding you are missing something, or a vital piece of your stand is broken, 20 minutes before the show opens. Get yourself organised the day before and you have time to deal with the inevitable last-minute hitch.”
All these exhibitors have benefitted from Business Vision LIVE, generating valuable new business. And as you can see, it’s not happened by chance. But it isn’t rocket science either. If you want to make a success of your next exhibition, you need to prepare, make the most of the opportunities and your presence, be effective with your time and follow up every lead.