Real one-to-one marketing
Exhibitions are about developing relationships, trust and loyalty to the people you do business with. Meeting the marketplace face-to-face enables us to size-up our potential business partners, assess their ability and develop a dialogue leading to a mutually beneficial deal. If world events force us into our metaphorical (or indeed actual) bombshelters, then the need for real, personal dialogue becomes even greater.
Face-to-face dealings imply a level of trust between both parties. The exhibitor, in footballer parlance “sets out his stall”, openly displaying his wares, not hiding behind the electronic wizardry of a flashy website. What’s more the passing visitors at an exhibition, by the fact that they have elected to spend their valuable time at an event will be in the exhibitor’s target market. Both parties know they are there because they want to do business, not because a ranking on a search engine has sent them there.
What marketers want
Ask marketers what they need from their marketing spend most will suggest some or all of the following:
- Brand awareness
- Delivery of product knowledge to potential purchasers
- A method of overcoming objections to purchase
- Market research for product development
- Sales or identification of sales leads
- Promotion of loyalty to the brand/product
- A method to launch a new product
- A means of generating positive media coverage
Where can you demonstrate products, answer questions, overcome objections and build face-to-face relationships with your customers and prospects? Where can your sales director get to meet ten of his key customers in one day?
Before the Event
- Make sure you choose the right exhibition – check the visitor profile matches your customer profile.
- Avoid the ‘me too’ reasons for attending a show (i.e.”My competitors are there so I had better go too’), but rather make attendance part of your overall marketing strategy.
- Crucially, set objectives for your attendance at the event be it sales, market research, demonstrations, account management etc.
- Make sure your objectives are measurable, realistic and have a time frame. For example ‘Meet new sales leads’ is not a measurable objective, but ‘Meet a minimum of ten new sales leads that result in orders being placed within three months of the show’ is an objective you can measure.
- Design and staff your stand to meet the objectives you have set. If you are planning to close deals on the stand, then make sure you have the right quality of properly trained staff with the ability and authority to negotiate with buyers.
- Make the most of pre-show PR and advertising. The show’s organiser can help you promote your business, provided you tell them what you are doing!
- Be aware of sponsorship opportunities – again your show organiser can help you raise your profile through sponsorship opportunities
- Arrange for the show website to be linked to yours and put your stand details on your website.
- Let your existing customers and other visitors know you will be attending the show, and tell them what you are exhibiting.
- Train you stand staff (the aeo can assist here) so they know what is expected of them.
During the show
- Hold daily briefings with your stand staff so they are clear what the objectives of the day are.
- Spend the optimum time you can with visitors. Make appointments with the right ones and politely filter away the wrong people.
- Speak ‘fluent’ body language – be welcoming, out-going and inviting.
- Classify all leads at the time you take them. You need to define for each lead the relative size of the company, the relative likelihood they have of buying from you and the long-term value of the business.
- Ask open questions of passing visitors such as ‘What are you looking for at the show?’ Never ask: ‘Can I help you?’ It may seem polite, but is guaranteed to end the conversation with ‘No thanks, I’m just looking.’
- Use the show press office to promote your message and invite the press to your stand.
- Keep the stand business focused. Don’t use it as a means to meet your friends in the industry.
- De-brief the team – understand what did and did not work.
- Measure your immediate results against your objectives.
- Track your leads and results over time to understand the real value of the business gained – this may be done over weeks, months and sometimes years.
- Follow up all contacts made at the show – you would be amazed how many companies fail to do this!
- Send a mailing to all show visitors whether they came on your stand or not. They may have missed you or not had time to visit your stand… that doesn’t mean they won’t buy your products. Many organisers provide the visitors list free of charge for one mailing.
- If you have had a successful show because you have made the effort to get it right – book for next year!
As a general guide make sure your stand and the posters, products and literature on it make it clear exactly who you are and what you have to offer. You won’t have long to capture your visitors’ attention – help them out, make it obvious!
Finally, help is a phone call or email away. Many exhibitors are unaware of just how much assistance the organisers behind the show can provide. Use their services, after all they have plenty of experience!