Whether you’re breaking into a new market or territory, exhibitions can be an excellent way to launch a new brand, product or service. In this how to guide, we’ll explain how to research, plan and network your way to business success.
Simply purchasing a booth space and setting up shop, will not make your new business launch a success, no matter how incredible your offering may be.
Because while your booth may be the centrepiece of your launch, the hard work that goes on behind the scenes before and after the show is what really pushes the proverbial boat out.
Not to say that a great looking booth won’t get you some good leads. But when you consider the sheer cost of an exhibitors space, you will need to do everything you can to make that a worthwhile investment for your business by achieving an excellent return.
With this in mind, let’s start with the fun part – your exhibit.
Research and Planning
As the saying goes, perfect planning prevents poor performance. You don’t need to plan weeks in advance, you need to plan months in advance! Because time and logistics will be against you.
Which show are you are you going to exhibit at?
Make sure it’s big for maximum footfall and make sure it’s specific to your niche.
Be sure to call the organisers to discuss your options and get an exhibitors pack as soon as possible.
Where on the map do you want to be?
Being close to an entrance, a main walkthrough or big feature will increase your footfall. Alternatively, you may want to choose a specific area for a particular audience. Just make sure you don’t end up with a booth facing the wrong direction in a quiet corner of an exhibition.
What size does your exhibit need to be? And can you afford it?
Sometimes we need to downsize our ambitions because of budget. Exhibitor spaces do not come cheaply, which can mean that your ideal 3ft x 6ft space, instead becomes a 3ft x 3ft corner booth. But that’s ok, so long as you take care of everything else to support your exhibit.
Once you have your space planned, you can begin designing your booth with props, messaging and printed marketing materials.
Designing your Booth
Your designs need to be big, bright and bold with clear, concise messages. How many times have you walked past a great looking booth covered in tiny text and wondered “What do they do?”, then kept on walking?
You need to explain your offering simply with as few words as possible. Because the fewer words you use, the bigger than can be, making them easier to read for more prospects to immediately understand what you’re about and come on over for some marketing materials.
Once you have your key messages, you can design the walls of your booth. From there you can design the artwork for your desk, drawing inspiration from the walls. A pop up banner with key USPs from your messaging can be powerful too. These key messages can then be expanded upon and covered in various marketing materials from flyers and postcards to printed booklets and more. Don’t forget to design some specific business cards to match either.
A visit to your booth needs to be an immersive brand experience for your prospects from your big back wall design to intimate presentations, business cards and beyond. Perhaps an animation played on a monitor that that demonstrates your product too? And consider a landing page for your website as well. But the success of your booth with depend upon clear messaging and bold design.
Meanwhile a plethora of printed marketing materials for prospects to take away with them will keep you in their thoughts and even circulated within their networks.
Finally, make sure you have 2 people manning your booth at all times and a 3rd walking the floor. This will ensure your team is big enough to cope with the busy periods and you’re all able to take comfort breaks, lunch breaks and easily break down at the end of the show.
Now that we’ve established your glamorous exhibition presence, it’s time to focus on the behind-the-scenes work which will drive valuable prospects to your booth and make your business launch a success.
Pre Event Networking
It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know. That goes for any industry or event. So be sure to reach out to prospects who may be attending in advance. If you’re completely new to an industry, consider hiring a consultant to make introductions, bring prospects in and help you to make those important first connections. Due to the nature of their trade, industry consultants seem to know everyone! Especially high value prospects you may never get to speak to or even know about, without being part of a particular membership group.
So rather than trying to put the word out on social media or emailing a cold audience, consultants and their connections can not only bring prospects to your stand, they can help you to move in the right circles. And if your exhibition booth looks fantastic, these prospects will be eager to find out more and talk about you within their networks.
Exhibition organisers also offer PR and awareness services, allowing you to be featured in communications to all exhibition attendees. While this may seem like an appealing way of carpet-bomb-marketing to a cold audience, they may not be the prospects you are looking for.
While many make the mistake of standing at their booth and waiting for prospects to come to them. Be proactive and approach prospects exhibiting at other booths.
Before the event, research who is exhibiting where. You may find that other exhibitors are an ideal audience for your product or service. But also be sure to prowl the exhibition floor, armed with a pocketful of business cards and some flyers under your arm looking for opportunities and interesting people to talk to.
Rehearse your greetings and make sure your conversations are discussions and not a hard sales pitch. While you may not be able to talk to everyone, remember that these interactions with prospects are about quality, not quantity. And that if one person you speak with thinks highly of you and your business, they’re likely to mention you within their networks.
Post Event Follow Up
After spending days conversing with prospects and finding great opportunities for your business, you cannot let relationships go cold. But at the same time, you mustn’t be too pushy. So be sure to follow up with all prospects, big and small, a few days after the event.
Email is the ideal way to reach out. Then agree a call to discuss further. Cold calling right away is too intrusive and a little bit needy.
If they’re trade show attendees, it’s easy to exchange business cards, capture their details with a QR code scanner or look them up online in a pinch. If they’re customers, it can be tricky to get these details. Meanwhile other exhibitors will always have business cards.
Also be sure to follow your prospects on social media. They’ll often follow you back and, providing you have a steady stream of interesting content, this will also help to keep the relationship from going cold.
Creating a landing page for your exhibit was mentioned earlier in the design section. Basically to give prospects access to all of your marketing materials in webpage and/or PDF form, while driving your important key messages home.
Post event, this becomes an excellent page of reference, providing helpful information to prospects seeking out more information about you online and for you to drive prospects to in your conversations over email, phone or social media.
With a lot of patience, planning and great execution, big exhibitions can be a successful way to launch your business. So while everyone’ s focus and budget tends to be on an exhibition booth, the real work is done behind the scenes, before and after the event, to ensure that your investment pays off.
How do you measure the success of exhibiting? From the number of connections you make and their potential for future business. An exhibition provides a strong platform to launch from by creating the opportunity for introductions and starting relationships. It’s then up to you to nurture those relationships to fruition.
Adam Smith is the Marketing Manager at Mixam. Having successfully launched in the US at a trade exhibition in Chicago, the UK printing company is disrupting the online market with fresh ideas, new innovations and a true passion for print.