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Trade Fair Marketing: 10 tips for more success as an exhibitor

Thursday, 19. October 2017 | by: Gabriele Schulze | Exhibit Marketing

Trade fairs have not lost any attractiveness. We mustn’t make mistakes anymore, because trade fair shows are not one of the cheapest promotional measures. Therefore, in addition to a well-organized trade fair stand, which is suitable for the brand and the message, a lot more needs to be taken into account in order to achieve a real "return on marketing investments".

1. Finding the right target group, choosing the right measure

Of course, there are very complex selection procedures on how to find the right fairs. They are available in numerous books and are destined for the companies who think about 400 sqm or more stand space to a large trade and consumer trade fair. But even for smaller trade fair presences one should take a few basic considerations, which are related to the general objectives of trade fairs. Ask the following questions about each trade fair where you want to participate as an exhibitor:

  • Will I meet existing customers at this fair?
  • Will I meet potential customers at this fair (my target group, which I also use for other marketing instruments)?
  • Is the fair established – or is it still unclear whether it will be a success?
  • Are my competitors (the real ones) present?
  • Can I have a stand, the pre-and post-production, which fits my status in the market and the professionalism of my offer and company?
  • Does the trade fair organiser offer professional help to prepare for the trade fair presentation?
  • Does the trade fair organiser provide detailed information on the expected visitors?
  • (number, type, wishes/expectations of visitors...)
  • Do I have sufficiently trained staff for a well-occupied stand?
  • Can I learn something myself at the fair? (about the market or the competition, but also my industry itself. Many fairs offer excellent lectures and workshops, not only for trade visitors).
  • Do my existing customers and sales partners expect us to be there, perhaps because we have been a regular exhibitor for years?

If you say "yes" more than 5-6 times, then you should consider the fair. If this is not the case, you either simply need more information or the fair is not the right one for your trade fair goals.

2. Good preparation leads to success

More than 80% of trade visitors are preparing for the trade fair Day intensively. They study the contents of the exhibition catalogue, search the exhibitor pages on the Internet, networks in the various Xing or Facebook groups and search in so-called "private exhibition or Congress communities" like-minded and specialists who attend the same events. In addition to the classical instruments to optimally prepare a trade show, these tools are the best ways to meet the following goals:

  • To find existing or former customers and to target them specifically for scheduling.
  • Identify new contacts that may be eligible as future business partners.
  • To draw attention to yourself, through sympathetic information, what you can experience and what competence will be found at the fair.

Ask the organiser of the trade fairs, in which you want to participate as an exhibitor, what possibilities are offered, in order to draw attention to the trade visitors in advance of a trade fair and use these instruments consistently. What is not to be missed is the marketing work in advance. The measures are: 

  • Information by letter, telephone, e-mail, invoice forms, own website, or other communication channels, at which fairs you are to be found. Very clever is a so-called "landing page", i.e. an extra page on your website, which reports in detail about this trade fair and its embassies there, team presents and simplifies the appointment agreement. If this site is also optimized for the search engines, you may be found by visitors who Google the show in advance. You can also refer to your Trade show page from Facebook pages, trade fair blogs or press releases.
  • Short press information on specialist media, which is your special message or staging at a trade fair.
  • Use of social network tools, such as Facebook, Xing, LinkedIn or others, to inform your own communities and even to see specific guest lists.
  • General rules and objectives: If in the run-up to a trade fair (B2B) approximately 30% of the available talk time can be terminated (with existing customers or prospects of your company), then there can be no failure.

3. Attract attention at any price – use any contact opportunity

Like almost always in marketing, a single measure is never as successful as a bundle of parallel measures. This is true before, during and after the fair. Consider which contact or contact points a consumer or trade fair has to offer next to the stand. During the fair, they consider their stand best as "runway" and the accompanying measures as pilot services, which allow as many professional pilots as possible to land with them. Promotions, sweepstakes, sponsorship and many communication opportunities are offered by almost every trade fair. Use them! The more emotionally you stage your message, the more successful you will be. A small (but witty) present, distributed at the entrance to the fair (of which the other half is only to be obtained at the stand), often works better than a contest that is obviously only on address capture. Tip: Coordinate each measure in advance with the trade fair organizer. At almost all fairs it is not allowed to send unregistered (and paid) promotion teams through the halls and aisles.

4. Offer news, bring special promotions

Fairs are also called "market places for the News". Why should you (or your stand) give someone time if you have nothing new to offer? If you give someone time, then the expected return is at least a pleasant, interesting conversation. And even better: the added value of a novelty that is of relevance to the visitor. Most companies find it difficult to formulate their own news, since they assume that something that has been published on their website for three months is already known to everyone. This is usually a misinterpretation. Try to focus on a new message, rather than placating a huge mountain of self-evident things. News is also:

  • A new, highly competent specialist that you have hired and who can now advise as an expert.
  • In the area of hotels or Congress halls: The last renovations, additions, conversions or the latest service ideas.
  • Clearly: all new products and services that are relevant to the target group of the Fair (your New Year's Eve programme is likely to be less interested in the customers of a MICE show).

Tip: If you don't have an exciting message, you may want to check your company's product development. Without a convincing message, a successful trade fair performance can hardly be achieved.

5. Your stand team is experienced, prepared and well-humoured and motivated in the toes.

You thing this is an obviousness? Not even close. Take the following test three or four weeks before the fair: ask each member of your team the following and give them 30 seconds to answer the question: "Why should I buy from you and not at the neighbour’s stand?" The answers will examine the following contents:

  • Was the response to the target group that will attend this fair?
  • Were the most important USP (unique selling propositions) mentioned without detours?
  • Does the answer show that your team is fully convinced of your company's performance?

Indifference, ignorance and the lack of ability to radiate enthusiasm are the most important ' fair success-inhibitors!

6. The stand is at least as professional and quality as your offer in real life

If a hotel chain with brand and wide market coverage appears like a hotel pension, you don't have to wonder about the lack of success. If a 5-star house on 4 square meters and with a shaky display and a crooked city poster goes to Customer Fang, then it is clear that the message does not arrive. If you exhibit at a trade fair, your stand design will bear the quality and image of your company. Quite honestly: Stand design is a thing for professionals. Also for a strong presence. And who is great, must not present themselves small. In order to optimise the stand costs and create an exciting stand message, a merger with other exhibitors can be useful. But there is also caution here: Collection stands rarely have a clear message. And if a visitor has to stare at the many detailed messages on their stand for minutes, the chance is already wasted.

7. Full focus on the conversation partner through task sharing

No matter how big your stand is, a person must play the "Fair Butler". He or she stands "at the door" and makes sure that all interested trade fair visitors are addressed. If all members of the stand are focused on their respective interlocutors (you have to, you must not look nervously, whether someone is browsing undetected in their brochures), then even at peak times someone must have the time, the undecided, interested in looking cheerfully to address. And please forget the phrase "can I help you?" (No, I'm not helping). Better: In my horoscope, I was just meeting nice people today. Looks like it's true. Or: What a good choice check out this stand. We are probably the reason why you are visiting this fair today. Or: You don't have to buy something here, try this delicious praline (flame cake, mulled wine, champagne, gummy bear... whatever suits your message) – it says a lot about our quality consciousness. Are you kidding me? Just try a wide smile! The danger is that they not only find customers with such ideas, but perhaps friends (some work out the best trade fair slogans before a fair).

8. Giving is better than taking ...

Yes, yes... many people are still hunters, but especially collectors. But be careful. A fair day is long. More and more people have back problems. And: A handed-out information is a lost opportunity for a post-contact from the Exhibitor's point of view. The best offer is: May we send you the information? If the visitor wants to take the information, however, the choice should be between printed or digital transfer (e.g. on a USB stick).

9. Plan the follow-up of the trade fair appearance before the Fair

Tired and with labouring feet, your team has now arrived back home. A small short break would be just right now. But stop: Most of the faults of the trade show appearance are made in the pre-and post-production. Very important: Make sure that you agree with your interlocutor during each trade fair conversation as you remain. Collecting business cards and sending a loveless standard mail after the fair is often the opposite of your objective. The potential customer now knows he's not important to you. But if you have specifically agreed: "I call you at the beginning of the next quarter to pick up the dates for your purchase planning", then for this contact the follow-up for example from these three actions:

  • Record this contact in your own database with the status "prospect" and the source "Messe xyz Year" (immediately)
  • Write a personal postcard with the following text: Thank you for visiting our booth at the exhibition XYZ ". We are very pleased to be able to call you at the beginning of September to participate in your invitation to tender (at the latest three working days after the interview or the Fair).
  • Make a call at the agreed date or by e-mail or Xing to arrange a telephone appointment so that the contact can prepare for the interview.

Also in the follow-up is: the more professional, personal and suitable for your message are your actions, the better you will remember the talks at a trade fair and your new contact will also thank you.

10. Do not forget the conclusion and the evaluation

Depending on the nature of the offer and the usual lead time, before a customer becomes a prospect in your business segment, a specific date should be set when a success assessment is made. The following questions should be answered, because "gut feeling" is a bad trade fair consultant.

  • How many existing customers we have met (a Field service visit to customer care costs between 300 and €1,000). If you know the value for your business, you can multiply the number of stock-based conversations with the cost of a (now disappearing) field Service visit, thus laying a basis for the "return on Invest".
  • How many of your new customers have you met for the first time at the fair? And what sales are realistic with these customers over the next 24 months?
  • What innovations and news have you taken from this fair? Do you dare to quantify a value?
  • Did you have press contacts, resulting in a publication?

provided by Marketing4Results

Conversation techniques Establishing contacts Exhibition appearance Exhibition planning Marketing Sales team
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About Gabriele Schulze

Since 2010, Gabriele Schulze has been an independent consultant, trainer and speaker. She gained her profound practical knowledge in more than 20 years of top management experience in marketing and sales in the national and international hotels as well as in the event industry. Today, she advises leading companies and organizations on the design and implementation of high-sales booking platforms and the introduction of content management and distribution systems.

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