A good exhibition creates something akin to a retail environment, which for many companies working in the business-to-business arena, and especially for service sector firms, is unique. The beauty of an exhibition is that it is a neutral environment in which to do business. The visitor feels, and to some extent is, in control and therefore is more at ease and less pressured. Which is a good attitude for them to have when you open up a business dialogue with them.
Exhibitions give you a substantial opportunity to meet new prospects and sometimes even close a few sales. In most instances of course you will only be at stage one of the buying process – which is all about getting to know your prospect, and them getting to know you and your products, it’s about finding out what they need, what kind of problems they have and need to solve, getting an idea of whether they have money to spend and who else they are talking to – and not necessarily the time to go in for the kill.
Event based marketing gives you an opportunity to make a high impact impression on clients and prospects because you have the opportunity to attack all of their senses and they can engage interactively with you and potentially with your products, through demonstrations and trials.
As an added bonus, through exhibitions you can do some hands on research, see and talk to: competitors, potential suppliers, sector lead bodies and of course talk informally to potential customers themselves. For many businesses with new ideas in the pipeline exhibitions can be a great opportunity to find out what your market is ‘thinking’ at a moment in time.
OK – so now you’re convinced that exhibiting might be a good thing. What next?
The key to success, as you’ll often see me write in Practical Marketing, is thorough planning.
In contrast, if your main purpose is to generate leads you need to think more about the type of lead you want, presumably you need leads to be as well qualified as possible. What does that mean for your business? Should the individual be the budget holder or main decision maker, looking to buy in the next few months, willing to agree to a sales appointment, leave a business card, fill out an enquiry form, take or request a brochure? As you can imagine there will be varying degrees of interest and commitment amongst these different categories of visitor. It’s worth thinking through how you will follow up leads and therefore what type of information you need to gather. Make sure you collect sufficient details to make a meaningful follow up – they may visit and speak to a dozen other suppliers – make sure you have made an impression and that when you call them you can use a simple reminder which enables you to start from where you left off. For example ‘When we met at the Midlands Database Exhibition you mentioned to me how difficult it was to find a customer database system that was cost effective, easy to use and could be shared by 4 salesmen. I wanted to come and see you to explain something we have that I think does all of that and more.’ If you haven’t had a fairly detailed and client centred conversation you won’t have found out about their needs and will be approaching them with a product rather than a solution. So spend time wisely and collect and record valuable information with a view to follow up.
If you want to find out more, or wonder where relevant exhibitions are being held take a look at www.exhibitions.co.uk or you may prefer to try your local Chamber of Commerce or your trade association/trade body. In addition for those thinking of exhibiting abroad you may be able to get funding and support from Trade Partners UK - www.tradepartners.gov.uk.
An exhibition is a real opportunity to display the personality of your business – so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from the experience of exhibiting.
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