Sarah Mehigan, account manager at Freshwater, discusses five top tips you need when it comes to making an ‘exhibition’ of yourself.
Exhibitions offer a unique cocktail of five key benefits, which blend together to deliver a real mix of goodies – from direct sales, through to relationship and database development, and brand building to that all important market research.
Acting as your shop window, sneak a peek at the five factors to have front of mind when it comes to exhibiting:
The high-five checklist
1. Manners matter
Exhibitions are non-intrusive – they fall into what industry bods term as ‘permission marketing’. Visitors are very warm targets as they have qualified themselves as interested in your products and services merely by their attendance. In contrast, many forms of marketing hit prospects on the off-chance that they are interested and in a position to buy.
2. Contacts = contracts
We are social beings. Even against the backdrop of the digital revolution, nothing beats the eye contact and shaking of hands that comes with a face-to-face interaction. After all, who doesn’t fall for the ‘chemistry’ factor?
Sustainable businesses are built on long-term relationships and these can be kick-started as well as strengthened at exhibitions. So, ensure that your exhibiting stand is inviting with people who have the skillset and know-how to approach and engage your target audience.
Plus, a little prep goes a long way – be sure that your team are well-equipped and confident in communicating how your business can add value to the contacts you’re connecting with. By communicating with key targets in advance of the event, you can invite them to your stand and give them the full VIP works.
3. The perfect measure
When you measure, you can manage and fuel informed change.
Exhibitions provide opportunities for quantitative measurement, such as the number of sales leads generated and/or converted. There is also real opportunity to collate rich qualitative data, such as how visitors to your stand are connecting with your brand.
Yes, in many ways, exhibitions are very much networking events. But by structuring your conversations, you can unlock the true power of networking and gain invaluable market research.
Attending exhibitions offers a snapshot of the industry where you can observe trends first-hand, whilst keeping an eye on the competition!
4. A full sensory experience
With a little creativity, an exhibition offers the opportunity to appeal to all five senses and get your target audience fully immersed and engaged with your brand. Experiential marketing is a vital ingredient to effectively bring your brand messages to life.
You can also go beyond just promoting your products and services and deliver a more complete experience of your business – sharing an insight into your philosophy, your people and the thinking behind your offering.
5. Intelligent integration
Exhibitions can act as a real springboard for a product launch. Top of the priority list though is making sure that you do your research to ensure that you are exhibiting at the right exhibition at the right time. Take advantage of the information out there, such as previous exhibitors, visitor numbers and profiles. Activity at the event generates news stories that can reach your target audience beyond the walls of the exhibiting space - via newspapers, magazines, broadcast, digital platforms, as well as social media. So be sure to work all exhibiting activity into your broader PR and marketing plan.
Food for thought
Freshwater was commissioned by the Welsh Government’s Food Division to design an exhibition stand for the International Food Exhibition at ExCel, London in 2013.
The exhibition space needed to house a demonstration kitchen, as well as a dedicated area for food and drink producers to display and showcase their products.
One of the ways in which we ensured that the stand really stood out from the crowd was by creating custom-made circular hanging banners as a way of sign posting visitors to the Wales section and really grabbing attention.
The exhibition was very well received, with exhibitors reporting a significantly higher number of enquiries and orders for Welsh products compared to previous years.
The power of exhibiting in its purest sense
As well as managing exhibitions for clients, attending them is also a vital part of Freshwater’s own networking and intelligence gathering. I recently attended Pure London, the premier fashion event held at London Olympia. This helped inform us on some of the latest industry trends, which only means good things when it comes to serving our client base.
The event also facilitated high-quality networking – we’re always looking to develop new partnerships for the fashion brands we work with, and on the back of Pure London, we’re now engaging with some really valuable new contacts.