Moving Your Small Business Forward: Exhibitions and Trade Fairs

If you own a small business and you think it’s time start boosting your sales as well as your profit margins, then look no further than business exhibitions. In today’s competitive market, it’s vital that you make the effort to get your brand name out there. This guide will tell you exactly how business exhibitions can transform your small business and its future, helping you move towards those profits and sales you always dreamed about.

Of course before you read on it’s important you know there are a few setbacks to exhibitions, all of which are expenses based.

Trade fair
Image by US Mission Canada / Flickr

The first of these is the cost of entering your stand into the exhibition, which is generally a fair amount (however it should come within your marketing budget). Secondly, you may be charged for overheads such as electricity, Internet and phone lines, as well as expenses like shipping products and display material to the convention centre. Don’t let these costs intimidate you though, exhibitions are great for small businesses, and here’s why:

Sample and promote a new product/service

If you’re entering a new product or service onto the market, sampling is of a high priority. Finding out what people think about it, what’s good? What’s bad? How can it be improved? Whilst you are asking people to sample your products, you are also marketing your product and your business which is why it is so important to make a good first impression.

Discover new leads

Business is all about communication, and communication can come through many different mediums. With exhibitions you have the opportunity to communicate with many new potential customers/clients, and creating these contacts for your company is vital. This is true especially when searching for new customers, as well as to aid growth and expansion. It is also important to replace those customers that over time have drifted away from your business, helping you to keep a strong customer base.

Chase after your new leads

It’s all well and good talking to people and taking business cards at these exhibitions, but what’s more important is the following up process. In this sense, exhibitions will provide you with an assist towards your main goal of making long-term contacts. With these new relations you can build further links “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”. But you MUST follow up; don’t leave those business cards gathering dust. You need to know from these new leads which ones are likely to buy soon, and which ones may buy in the future. Qualify them, and follow up, tailoring your approach for each one accordingly.

Meet powerful people

Sometimes everyone needs a little dose of inspiration and incentive; try achieving this by talking to influential figures at exhibitions. This will help you to gain some perspective and insight towards your outlook – a few words of wisdom can go a long way. So push aside any feelings of nervousness, feel confident and put the success of your future first! Plus you never know when you might need some powerful contacts in your industry…

Receive media coverage

The media has become such a prolific part of today’s society that most media attention you can get is (normally) good marketing. With the current rise in just Social Media alone, you will find plenty of opportunities to receive media coverage for your small business at numerous commerce exhibitions. But remember, you need to contribute to this – use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on to publicise your presence at an exhibition. And have a press kit handy, in case you get a chance to speak to any journalists.

Practice makes perfect

As your company grows, you as a boss will need to do a fair bit of public speaking to important people such as investors or new clientele. Whilst you have the opportunity to do so, carry out some pitches at exhibitions to build your poise and self-belief in talking to powerful people. It’s a much smaller audience, but they’ve most likely come over to your stand because they’re interested in what you do, so it’s an excellent opportunity to practise. Another thing to remember is you may do some paid speaking in the near future, so get some free training in early whilst the chance is on the table!

About the Author: Astro Exhibitions are a firm of exhibition stand designers based just outside Manchester. They have built custom exhibition display stands for companies from all round the world for events across Europe.


Tips for Choosing the Right Trade Show Signage

Getting your booth noticed at a trade show can be a difficult task. You can only grab the attention of potential clients for a few brief seconds, but those seconds are paramount in selling your products and services. The best way to ensure sales is to set your booth apart with eye-catching signage that is both relevant and communicative. Custom signage is the best way to attract new customers and secure profits for your business.

Your Message Must Speak to Your Ideal Customer

The first thing to keep in mind when planning your display is the audience that you are attempting to reach. Your display should communicate the message and mission of your company in a clear, concise and appealing manner. Considering basic demographics such as age and gender of potential clientele will go a long way toward achieving a successful trade show for your business. Your message must grab the interest of your prospect quickly and effectively in order to draw him or her toward your booth.

Use Professionally-Designed Banner Stands and Pop-up Displays

Once your audience has been determined, it is time to begin considering the physical aesthetic of your booth. Custom built banner stands are an effective way to attract passersby. Although custom banner stands may seem expensive, they make all the difference in attracting new customers.

A common sight at trade shows are businesses that have obviously cut corners in constructing their displays. If your display appears shabby or cheap, the chances of you attracting new clients or maintaining a good relationship with those you have previously established. Implementing professionally constructed banner stands and pop-up displays in your booth will help you achieve success at your trade show event.

Make Your Signage Visually Appealing

When designing your trade show signage, be sure to choose images that are large, clear, and bright. Potential clients aren’t going to squint to see your banner stands when your neighbors have large, beautifully-constructed images on display.

Besides the graphical elements of the signage, it is also important to be selective in the type of banner stands and pop-up displays that you choose to represent your business. One model that is becoming increasingly popular is the green banner stand. This approach is obviously most successful at trade shows that promote an eco-friendly lifestyle and culture. If your company prides itself on its environmentalism, you should make sure that the displays you choose are environmentally friendly in order to stay in line with your company’s ideals.

Retractable Banner Stands Make Takedown Easier

You might want to consider retractable banner stands. These stands can be erected and taken down in a matter of seconds and they sacrifice none of the aesthetic appeal of your booth. Used together with pop-up displays, they create an appealing display that can be easily moved from one show to another and re-used throughout the year.

When choosing an event to attend, communicate with colleagues in the field who have had successful trade show experiences. They will have excellent advice about the best events for your company and will be able to provide additional tips to help you have a successful trade show experience.

Exhibiting at Trade Shows: How to Prepare

Trade shows and exhibitions have some of the highest ROI of any form of marketing. Aside from providing a great arena to meet qualified leads they also offer great opportunities to catch up with the latest developments in your industry. Check out competitors and maybe get a bit of inspiration for your next ground breaking product.

The problem is that trade shows require a large initial investment to get those opportunities and leads, so preparation is vital to ensure you aren’t throwing money away.

trade show
How to prepare a trade show?

Objectives: Why are you going to this event? (hint: the answer isn’t because we can, or everyone else is doing it) Make sure you and your staff know what you want to achieve and plan accordingly, whether it’s to get a record number of qualified leads, great press coverage or an inside look at another industry, create a metric and make sure you have a way to track it. Preferably you should do this stage before you have even chosen an event. You can then pick the event which best fits your objectives rather than tying your objectives to the event.

Training: Staff surely don’t need to be trained just to talk to people? Well, actually yes they do. Good exhibition communication is often a mixt of counselling and acting. Your exhibitors need to be able to listen to the problems of the visitors coming to the stand so that they can offer them solutions, not products. They need to be able to listen sympathetically while hiding the fact they are tired and have been on message nearly all day. Much of the literature around trade shows suggests reps should spend 80% of their time listening and 20% talking.

Training your staff is vital to achieving this mix, and hopefully creating enthusiastic representatives. Depending upon what your budget is you can either hire outside experts to coach your staff on the finer points of exhibiting techniques alternatives a more affordable approach would be set aside an afternoon (at least) before the event to brief your staff. The briefing needs to include any products or services they need to be aware off, proper data capture methods and some practice of talking to visitors.

Consistent messaging: Having a consistent message is a vital part of any marketing and branding effort. Events are no different, and you should make sure that you are using your brand colours and logo’s on marketing literature, display stands and even clothing at a minimum. If there is any time when you are representing your company then sales meetings and trade shows are it.

Clothes are particularly vital when it comes to the message you want your brand to convey. A professional consulting company will probably want to wear suits, with any branding confined to lanyards and maybe ties in the company colours. In contrast a tech start up might prefer the branding opportunities available in a more relaxed approach such as adopting branded polo shirts. Similarly you need to think carefully about any promotional products you offer. For example if you want to promote your green credentials a pile of plastic tchotchkes will look hypocritical at best. A far better approach would be to create a report that can be downloaded from your website using a code only available at your stand. This will make you look both more professional and greener.

Pre-event Marketing: So you have trained your staff well, provided branded material and you have a great looking stand. But does anyone know where to find you, or why they should try? This is where pre-event marketing comes in. You need to tell people that you are going to be at the event and why they should care. While this can be as basic as taking advantage of the show organiser’s pre-event publicity, pushing it on your website, social media and offline marketing material can bring in a huge amount of interest. Try to come up with a promotion that will bring relevant people to your booth like a preview on a new product, a workshop or a chance to talk with an industry expert.

Eating and Sleeping: One thing you cannot do is leave your booth unmanned, but you also can’t expect everyone in your staff to spend all day on it. The simplest and most effective thing to do is arrange a schedule beforehand so that everyone will have at least one chance to sit down grab a bite to east. This will help your stand look professional, as there is no bigger turnoff than seeing a messy stand with discarded food wrappers. If it is at all possible then you should have a minimum of two people on the stand at all times. This will means that there is always someone to cover in case of emergencies and that visitors won’t to have to wait too long to find someone to talk to.

Similarly always book hotels and transport as far in advance as possible. This will not only save you money, it will also mean you can get rooms as close as possible to the exhibition centre. A five minute walk beats an hour long commute any day.

Hopefully this guide should help make any exhibits a success and ensure that you come out of the event with lots of great leads.

About the Author: Written by Daniel Frank on behalf of Nimlok Exhibition Stands

Image: Phil Sexton / Flickr

Get Ready For The Trade Show Season

Trade show season is almost upon us!  In fact, for some industries, it’s already begun.  Toy Fair took place last month, Auto Shows are already taking place, and next month will see the Gadget Show Live along with the first of Europe’s major Games Festivals.  If you want to make an impact this year, you’d better start planning your booth, and contacting trailer producers and poster printers now!

trade show tips
Are you ready for 2012 trade show season?

Trade Shows or Festivals?

The state of the economy right now means that many business owners can’t afford to attend several events per year, so they have to plan their events strategy carefully, taking their display trailers only to the events with the biggest impact.  The trick is figuring out what kind of impact you want, and who you’re trying to reach.

Sponsoring festivals and sporting events is a good way to raise brand awareness and generate goodwill.  If your message is a simple one, such as “Come buy your guitars from our music shop”, or “We sell football kits”, then generating awareness in this way is a good start.

If your message is more complicated, or you want to reach a wider range of people than you would at a local event, then you should consider attending a trade show.  Some trade events are industry only – such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.  This event is attended by international press, investors, video game publishers, and buyers for stores from all over the world.  If you’re preparing to launch a product, and want to generate a lot of buzz, this is the place to do it.

Other events are open to the public.  At public events, there are a lot of companies competing for the attention of the visitors, and in many industries there’s an ever-increasing battle to produce the flashiest display trailers, offer the best swag, and pull the biggest publicity stunts.  If you’re on a tight budget, getting into this kind of battle is a bad idea, unless you’re sure that you can create a lasting impression.  People who visit your booth for a free inflatable sword and shield or other crazy gift set won’t buy your product – but people who visit your booth to demo your product and pick up a catalogue might well turn into customers later.

Keeping Costs Down

Trade shows are great for networking.  Ideally, you should try to attend any shows that are local to you, and also try to find room in your budget for a major, highly respected show elsewhere.  The power of being able to say “As seen at the Frankfurt Auto Show” should not be underestimated.

To keep costs down, start negotiating with trailer producers early, and show space as soon as you can to take advantage of early bird discounts.  Try to get bulk discounts for posters, business cards, and other essentials.  While you’re at the show, take advantage of any networking opportunities – get out there and hand out cards to people at other stands, and take the time to see what other people are doing.  Trade shows aren’t just good ways to spread the word about what you’re doing – they’re good ways to find out what’s happening in the rest of your industry too.

Image: Yodel Anecdotal / Flickr