Make your exhibition stand a success
As the third Lancashire Business Expo comes to an end, we look back at what made it a success for us and what lessons we can learn to improve our exhibition stand for next year. The Lancashire Business Expo is a great opportunity for businesses to show off their talents to local companies. Over 150 exhibitors manned stands at the Preston Guild Hall and there were more than 2,000 visitors attending on the day. The Twitter hashtag #LBE2018 achieved a unique reach volume of over 3 million!
Right Direction Marketing had a very successful event, discussing with potential Lancashire-based clients how SEO and digital marketing can help get more business from websites. But a successful exhibition doesn’t just happen by accident so we’ve created this 8-point checklist to help anyone be successful at an exhibition.
1. Plan your exhibition
Bleedin’ obvious of course but it’s surprising how time catches up with you when an exhibition is on the horizon. Promotional items such as keyrings and pens need time to design and organise. We offered free magnifying glasses (search – get it?) which only took two weeks to arrive from Germany, so other more ‘exotic’ promotional items may well take somewhat longer to source.
Tip: If you’re really into planning, create a timeline in Excel; alternatively, enter key dates in your calendar so you don’t forget.
2. Define objectives
How do you define what makes the exhibition a success? Is it a brand awareness exercise where you’re looking to increase your visibility, maybe through better interaction on social media? Or are you looking to speak with just one or two major decision-makers for a potentially large contract? Only by setting your objectives will you know whether it’s been a successful exhibition or not. Right Direction Marketing set an objective of speaking with ten new businesses genuinely interested in getting more from their website – and we smashed that handsomely!
3. Ensure your exhibition stand has a clear message
“Chuck enough rubbish at the wall and some of it will stick” is sometimes a mistake that exhibitors make. With so many exhibitors in the hall, a clear message is vital to stand out from the crowd. As an SEO consultancy, we focussed on a promotion around the UK’s dominant search engine (Google) and offered the chance to win a Google hat and glasses. We distributed over 70 images of business people wearing the Google hat and glasses on Twitter, using the hashtag #winterkit. Our message was therefore aimed at creating an association between ourselves and Google.
Tip: One good way to measure the clarity of your message is simply by noting how many people ask “so, what do you do?”. The less the better!
4. Be realistic with your exhibition budget
Just because a major competitor offered free i-pads and trips to Disney last year, doesn’t mean that you need to do the same (or more) this year. Set your budget and stick to it. You can always increase your budget next year if the exhibition worked well for you.
5. Set up your stand in time
Never underestimate the amount of time it takes to actually set up your stand. Even a regular trestle table stand takes time to get right. Plus, most exhibitors will be setting up the day before, so access to lifts and use of trolleys can be at a premium. Check all your electrical connections – the last thing a digital marketer wants to hear on the morning of an exhibition is “my laptop isn’t working ..”.
Tip: when you’ve set up your stand, take a look at it from the visitors side; does it stand out? Can visitors pick up leaflets and business cards easily?
6. Collect visitor data
No matter how you do it, make sure you physically collect contact details from anyone you speak to. Prize Draws are very popular with visitors chucking their cards into every box or vase with the word “FREE” on it – but make sure you note who were the important contacts that you actually spoke with and what actions are required. And under the new GDPR rules, make sure you explain exactly how you plan to use the data you collect, with the ability to opt-out if they want.
Tip: Use a notebook to jot down salient and personal points from conversations with potential clients – you don’t want to congratulate the wrong client on the birth of their new son!!
7. Visit other stands
Take time to take a look around the exhibition whilst it’s in progress. You’ll not only see who else is there but you’ll also pick up some good ideas from other stands; why are so many people swarming around the stand giving free chocolate bars away? Also, you’ll be surprised by how much business is done between exhibitors. It’s a real chance to talk about your business in a friendly, networking manner.
Tip: take a few pictures of stands you find interesting before the exhibition opens
8. Follow up after the exhibiton
Last but far from least, don’t forget to follow up. However you do it, whether by Linkedin, email, other social media, keep in touch with those who bothered to stop by your stand. Deals are rarely done on the day of an exhibition, so just follow up on the conversation you started, you never know where it might lead. Of course, if you are interested in how SEO can help your website, you can still always get in touch anytime!
Tip: The follow-up doesn’t need to be the day after the exhibition but certainly send something within a week otherwise the opportunity is often lost.
These are our immediate thoughts from the Lancashire Exhibition – please do add your thoughts below to help us create a useful checklist so we can all have a successful exhibition next time!TEST