Nine ways to make the most of sales exhibitions

Make a good impression at an exhibition and your business can enjoy a fruitful year with many new customers. Get things wrong and you face having to rebuild your reputation as sales prospects look elsewhere.

Exhibition success rests on great preparation, a busy and interesting stand and first-class follow up. Working well with your service providers and utilising their expertise can boost each of these factors before and after the show.

In advance of this year’s Convergence Summit South and IP Expo Europe, here are our top tips for exhibition excellence:

 

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Before the show

1 – Speak to your service providers

Many service providers will offer their channel partners a range of exhibition support opportunities. These can include funding (even if it’s only to get to the event), branded collateral and representatives or technology on the stand. Gather ideas early on in the process to see how you can give the best experience of your company to attendees.

2 – Promote your presence

Your sales prospects will arrive at an exhibition with some idea of who they want to see and which seminars or workshops they want to attend. Give your company the best chance of being part of their plans by making sure they know you are there.

Almost all exhibitions have a hashtag that will enable you to become a part of important social media conversations before the event (make sure you reply, interact and comment in order to gain relevant followers). And many will also offer direct mailing opportunities to promote exhibitors’ content and events.

3 – Get meetings in the diary

The secret to a successful show is having a diary full of meetings before the stand even goes up, with existing customers and new prospects. Get your sales team to set up as many appointments as possible. Remember that a busy stand is more likely to attract passing trade on the day.

During the show

4 – Be social

Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to interact with prospects, but remember what the word ‘social’ used to mean. Exhibitions are great places to get to know customers away from the meeting room. An invitation for an end of day drink on the stand can be a great way to bond with the people you want to work with. IP Expo, for example, runs the Oktoberfest networking event, with participating exhibitors offering free beer and pretzels as visitors browse their stands.

5 – Create some buzz

Think about what you can do to make sure your stand is buzzing and interesting. Competitions, giveaways and scheduled technical product demonstrations are all great ways to stand out from the crowd, and you can add a social media element to any of them.

6 – Make the most of your space

A plot at an exhibition is not cheap so you need to make it work as hard as it can for you. Put yourself in the mind of the attendee. Dull stands and unapproachable or unavailable staff scream ‘walk on by’. You can work with your vendors here to generate quality sales leads. Think about moving prospects on from quality initial conversations to a product specialist by having a representative on the stand. Expert speakers and product branding will also make your space stand out.

7 – Think outside the exhibition

Social media and digital communication means that the exhibition experience continues far beyond the conference centre. Shareable end of day blog posts, a ‘Tweet of the Day’ campaign and share the knowledge emails to prospects are all good ways to bring the outside world in.

8 – Be prepared

You will meet hundreds of people at an exhibition and will need to keep a record of every prospect you speak to. Most events will have badge scanners, which enable exhibitors to get a record of the name and details of each visitor to their stand (usually delivered in an Excel file in the days following the show). To maximise the potential of each lead, agree a ‘hot, warm, cold’ system in advance and maybe jot down which category a prospect falls into on the back of their business card. This will make follow-up much easier to manage.

After the show

9 – Focused follow up

Post-exhibition contact is crucial, as this is when many buyers will be thinking about big purchasing decisions. Bear in mind that every exhibitor you shared the event hall with will be doing the same, at the same time. This is when your ‘hot, warm, cold’ system will come into its own. Prioritise the hot, make your follow-up personal, and nurture leads that fall into the cold category. Also be sure to track the campaign so you can feed back and demonstrate a financial return – whether it’s from your own budget or funding provided by your vendors.

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7 October 2015 | Justin Coombes

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.