If, like us, you’re a small company that is looking to expand its business, participating in an exhibition is a decision that you don’t take lightly.
As a creative and marketing agency, we’ve been involved in numerous stand designs for our clients past and present, but organising your own first exhibition is a different story entirely. Below are 6 tips on what to think about if you’re starting out.
- Find the right exhibition
Firstly, you need to make sure you find the right exhibition for you. This is a combination of the right audience, visitor numbers, stand price/availability, the participants and, in our case, the quality of content on offer.
And that’s just the start. In working with our clients on exhibitions, we were quite aware of some of the pitfalls and jargon that makes organising an exhibition stand more complicated and costly, but we still didn’t get away scot-free.
So, what else is there to watch out for?
- Make a budget
Exhibitions are expensive. You need to know – and keep an eye on – what your likely expenditure is going to be. The space is just the start. After that, you have to think about your exhibition stand, the furniture that goes in your stand, the lights and other electricity required and not least, your internet. You should also consider the time it might take you to man the stand, this too is an expenditure along with accommodation and travel! It comes back to your objectives. For what purpose are you going to exhibit? What impression do you want to give to visitors? Is it in line with your brand? What budget do you have?
- Think about your stand
Your stand is your shop window and shop at the same time. What style of stand are you going to use? For your first exhibition, a shell scheme is the cheapest option. It usually includes the stand walls and carpet. You yourself have to provide artwork of the design that you want to feature on your stand. Ensure the carpet colour(s) available match with the colour(s) of your brand. Also think about the fascia, the narrow panels above your stand that show your company name. What is the standard colour? All these colours need to work together.
If you opt for a bespoke stand, the cost increases substantially because you’re not only providing the design, but also the structure and the build.
Think about where you (and your colleagues) are going to be on the stand. You don’t want to stand in front of the key information. Creative agencies such as The Wonderland design your stand with this in mind. Anything below waist height shouldn’t be important.
Same applies to the lighting? Do you want to light a particular area up, or will general lighting do? Think about it.
Do you want to take visitors through materials on-screen or in paper format? This will inform what furniture you need. What impression does it give if you’re sitting down when people walk past?
If you use phones, screens and laptops on the stand, you will need somewhere to charge them. We often recommend some form of storage built into a stand or a cupboard that can be utilised for charging and keeping valuables locked away. You may want to take valuables with you, or store them at the end of each day. All these things should be considered.
- What’s the hook for getting visitors to stop?
How are you going to attract exhibition visitors to your stand? Caught up in the organisation of an exhibition, you wouldn’t be the first to forget the objective is to get new customers.
Many people walk by, but you want to make them stop and take notice long enough so you can engage them in conversation. Do you have a special offer? A ‘goody’ bag? A prize draw? An eye-catching statistic? Vibrant colours? It all works. You’re not going to get all visitors to stop; not all visitors will be in the market for your services so if someone doesn’t stop, you haven’t lost a sale.
- Elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a very short synopsis of what you have to offer and what makes you/your company special alongside competitors. You have to be able to explain it in the time it takes to ride an elevator up to the 5th floor, hence elevator pitch. Remember, exhibition visitors are seeing lots of people over the course of a few hours, or a day, depending on the size of the exhibition. You want to stand out for the right reasons and be memorable.
Part of your ‘pitch’ is to find out what your potential customer is doing at the exhibition. Finding that out, and whether you’re able to add value here, is just as important and giving them your ‘spiel’.
- Data capture
Especially now that GDPR is around the corner, companies really have to think about all those names and email addresses they capture during an exhibition. Most exhibitions have a scanner available, with which it’s very easy to collect all of someone’s data. Does that give the ‘giver of data’ a good enough overview on what they’re signing up for? Not after May 2018.
As the data controller, for the legal processing of data you need to have explicit consent, which you can store and demonstrate as proof. Are visitors participating in a prize draw? Only use the data for this, unless visitors are clear about what else their data will be used for.
- Follow up
This is arguably the most important step in your exhibition journey. You’ve successfully completed the exhibition, now you need to turn your new contacts into customers. This is where a lot of companies fall down. There is no dedicated staff, or the number of follow ups is simply too high. This part requires planning, both in advance as well as afterwards. At The Wonderland, we are currently going through this process. Firstly, get your data into a manageable format. If you don’t have a sales or lead generation system, use Excel so that you’ve got an overview and can sort the data as appropriate.
You’re trying to build a relationship with your potential customers, so it makes sense to continue the conversation assigning the same people with whom they spoke at the exhibition.
Not all ‘leads’ are immediately ready to engage with you, or give you work. Keep up the communication with sharing content via email, encouraging them to start following you on LinkedIn, or another channel if appropriate. Don’t have the budget for a designed email? The personal touch will help, although it does take a little longer to write, or you can use an email tool like MailChimp to help you send more out. Remember first impressions count so check the content of your personal email carefully, drop in any things you remember from your conversation on the stand. Your prospect will feel a little more ‘loved’.
Keep the content fresh, but relevant to what your lead wanted back at the exhibition. It shouldn’t be about your business all the time either, don’t be afraid to share industry news, research. Just keep it fresh. It means you’re closer to the top of the list when it comes to purchasing products, or new services.
Good luck with your exhibition!
Written by Inge