Categorised | Business & Finance

Making The Most of Exhibitions

Business owners tend to invest a huge amount of money to attend trade shows, yet with such heavy competition it can be hard to attract, engage and close customers to make the sales you might be hoping for.

As with most things in business, and particularly in marketing, it often comes down to return on investment and unfortunately with the high price of attending a trade show there is a lot of pressure to get an amble return.

Some business owners have the understandable yet somewhat displaced view that as a result of attending a trade show they will naturally have stream of engaged prospects wanting to do business with them.

The truth is that a trade show is akin to a retail shop on a busy high street – in that, there is a lot of footfall, but there’s also a lot of competition and all sorts of distractions vying for the audience’s attention.

Given the amount of investment required, it’s imperative you take the time to plan an effective marketing strategy for the event so that you are able to squeeze the most from the exhibition in terms of profitability.

The thing to remember is that just because you have a pitch, does not mean that people will be drawn to you – in fact, you’ll have likely seen a few stands at exhibitions where people are sat deflated, having had no interest in their stand.

In this article, we’re going to look at a number of ways to help you be more effective at trade shows in order to attract, engage and convert visitors into customers.

1. ATTRACT

The first thing you need to do is to attract people to your stand, this is where visual displays and promotions come into place.  Having something to giveaway to prospects is useful in terms of attracting their interest, as almost everyone likes the idea of coming away from trade shows with something free – particularly if it’s valuable.  

In a similar way, a lot of people offer incentives such as a free prize draw if you leave your business card with them.  The key point, is that unless you attract people to your stand, you’re not going to be in the position to engage with them and convert their interest to a sale.  Therefore, the “attract” stage is one of the most important.

That said, it’s not just about having a beautiful stand, as one of the most effective ways of attracting attention is to speak on stage at the event and give a presentation about a problem your target audience faces that you can solve.  This way, you are positioning yourself as an expert within your category and people will be drawn to your stand, afterwards, as a result – because they will want to get more advice on a problem they face.

The thing to understand is that everyone is looking for advice, about something, and people love “free advice”, therefore, hooking them in on stage – then leaving some unanswered questions that you encourage them to ask you in person, after the talk, is the most effective strategy to attracting people to visit your stand.

If you are doing such a talk the best advice is to make sure the content is 90% value-added (i.e. it provides real value to the audience in terms of talking about their needs, problems and what they can do to solve them – rather than how you can specifically help them).  

You want to keep the promotion aspect to around 10%, as this isn’t your opportunity to pitch and sell, it’s your opportunity to attract and engage – to position yourself as an authority on the subject area you are speaking about and is not a sales presentation all about how great your company is.  

In truth, nobody really cares about your company or product, they only care about finding a solution to their problem – and that’s where your content comes in.

By providing an in-depth and insightful talk you are positioning yourself as an expert in your category, meaning people will be naturally drawn toward you, and seek you out – rather than having to fight for their attention with a fancy stand.  

In contrast, if you stand on stage promoting your product most people will close off and you won’t attract the attention you seek… after all, not many people enjoy sitting through a sales presentation, at the best of times, and in a tradeshow where there are so many other things to do – don’t be surprised if people get up and leave, if you are sales focused, rather than value focused.

2. ENGAGE

The second step is to engage.  We’ve covered the speaking aspect, which can be a very engaging way to attract attention but at the fundamental core of engaging people is providing value.  For instance, this could be through offering information within a keynote presentation, or a free sample, prize draw, or even a free massage at your stand.

Indeed, one of the best strategies when selling beauty products, for instance, is to offer a free hand massage or facial using the products in question – this way you are creating a sense of reciprocation, in that when you give something away for free most people feel the emotional need to give something back (even if this is their attention).

The best way to engage is to provide something of value, rather than a sales pitch; most people will respond much better to this, as they can engage in content, but most people aren’t willing or able to engage with something that’s purely promotional… therefore, whether you’re giving advice in person or offering something for them to take away, such as USB, make sure the content is focused 90% on creating value with only 10% about your business.

3. CONVERT

The final step of convert comes down to your ability to turn prospects into customers, yet at a trade show, the majority of people focus too much on selling – and less attention is given to actually engaging and adding value to your audience.  When you engage your audience the process of converting them to buy becomes much more effortless and can be a simple question, rather than a heavy handed sales patter.

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