7 ways to ensure maximum ROI from trade fair participation
Most companies receive invitations and offers to participate in international trade fairs and in exhibitions around the region and around the globe. These same companies are often reluctant to participate at such events, partly because budgets for marketing and outreach strategies are made before the financial year gets under way. Many find themselves struggling to find spare money to pay for a booth at these important events, or alternatively turn down the opportunity as they feel it will not bring them any solid deals. Both assumptions are, to some extent, short sighted.
Paying for a booth at a trade fair has lots of advantages for a company. A stand is a springboard to the export market and the most suitable place to undertake research into existing and potential new markets.
If you are one these companies, reluctant to participate in trade fairs and exhibitions, this is the right article for you to read, and if you are a company that participates but only out of obligation or habit, this might help you take maximum advantage of such events.
1. Stand out in the crowd
Prepare an attractive stand with brand-appropriate colours and imagery. You can consult with professionals to create stands that can be used at many industry- or consumer-facing events; that not only stand out from the crowd (no pun intended) but also shows your professionalism and brand values.
2. Take the chance to visit other stands
It is a good idea not to be alone at your stand. This will allow you to take full advantage of the event, allowing you to visit competitors’ stands, discussion panels or industry specific seminars taking place at the fair. Speak with visiting customers and ask them about their experience of dealing with your company, services or products. This is a golden opportunity for direct contact, time to get real feedback and meet the people who are your business.
Some CEOs shy away from appearing on their stand at trade fairs or exhibitions. However, the right thing to do is to get yourself there, join your team (it will be noticed) and hear their thoughts about your business directly from them – as well as your customers. This will certainly save you money on focus groups. You might even pick up some good ideas at your competitors’ stand, and decide to apply it yourself as some micro level.
3. Access to new export customers
The most important attraction of exhibitions and trade shows is the gathering of all sectors and sub-sectors and the chance to meet so many potential contacts for export from all over the world, under the same roof.
Prepare your company with the suitable visual material, not too much, but elegant enough to attract people. Make sure it is well designed, the language is correct (if you are creating it in English, make sure a native speaker/English editor checks it over) and it is clearly printed. No need to go over the top with heavy papers or extensive company profiles – you need it to look smart, elegant, memorable and says what you need to succinctly. Study who is attending, both as an exhibitor and visitor so you know who might be a potential customer or potential partner. Have a copy in one hand, the exhibitors list in the other. Now you are all set to go and take advantage of this fair you’ve invested in for your business.
4. Showcase innovations and new products
This is the right place, right time to present new services and products. Planning a media kit would be beneficial; talking to the media by inviting them to your stand makes a good impression. It’s important to take full advantage of the occasion so make sure someone in your team can record statistics to be analysed by your marketing department. If you are launching a new product or service, do your homework and make sure any publicity spend is in the most appropriate publication, or billboard in the place with highest footfall/visibility. Don’t forget to let attendees know where they can find you at the trade fair.
5. Prove your dynamism
Being present at a trade show is always positive as it demonstrates how dynamic your company can be. To be present ‘in numbers’ (ie with a number of knowledgeable colleagues on your stand) enhances your brand image in the eyes of customers, suppliers, competitors and the media.
6. Motivate your staff
Attending international trade fairs represents a milestone for some companies. It is a time when the entire sales force can be called in and trained prior to the trade fair, especially if the trade fair is taking place overseas. Some companies prepare a budget and invite their best clients and wholesellers/partners to join the trip.
7. Network at all times – even when you are ‘off duty’
Don’t miss opportunities to meet new customers and take their business card. Make notes on each card immediately after you say goodbye, reminding you of what was discussed, and especially if you’ve promised to send any further details or proposal for business. Never direct a potential new client who asks about your company or what you can do for them to your website – this is lazy and they will lose interest. Make it your personal mission to make them want to do business with you, and train your staff and sales people to do the same. Make sure you have array of business cards – in your native language and also the language of the fair’s location (or English for an international audience – again, make sure it is perfect). Avoid resorting to writing on a piece of paper – it looks unprofessional. Best idea is to take their card and email your details as soon as you can.
Finally keep your camera to hand, fully charged, and if possible get one of your team to document the event using a movie camera. You can then show what you’re up to via social media to ensure maximum brand exposure.