This is the second in a short series of blogs giving support and advice to those who are thinking about attending a trade show, exhibition or fair. Most of the advice here is particularly relevant to those attending Business to Business events, however, I hope that there will be information here of relevance to those attending Business to Consumer fairs and shows as well.
If you find this series useful, please do share it and let me know what you think!
So, let’s assume you’ve done all the homework suggested in the last blog, and have now identified your ideal event. What now? Most people launch in to thinking about how they are going to make the stand look, how they are going to attract visitors and what they’re going to give away. But, let’s go back to the reason for exhibiting or taking a stand at the event in the first place. If your aim is to sell a product there and then, you’re focussing on the right things, and we’ll pick up those threads later in the blog. But, if your aim is to generate leads, to raise awareness of your product, or pretty much anything that involves anything other than direct product sales there and then, there’s one thing you need to plan before anything else – your follow up strategy.
Follow up I hear you cry, surely you worry about that after the event?! Um, no, not if you want to maximise your investment and make sure that you act on leads generated before they go cold… Remember, attending this exhibition isn’t an ego exercise; it needs to generate a return on investment, whatever your reason for attending. So, working out what leads you want to capture and how you are going to follow these leads up should be the first thing you plan, not the last.
One of the things I have done with great effect is to have a follow up email written and saved as a draft on a mobile device. A simple thank you, with links to your website, products, case studies etc and a call to action will suffice in most cases. Then, during a quiet moment on the stand, I’ll sit and go through the pile of business cards collected, and send an individual ‘topped and tailed’ email out to those who have visited. With so many people now carrying smartphones which receive mobile email, the power of receiving a ‘thank you’ before even leaving the show can’t be underestimated.
When planning your follow up strategy, allocate time immediately on return from the show, know who will follow up which leads and how, and make sure this happens. Keep track, and if the follow up is being done by someone other than you, get regular reports on progress. Attending a show or exhibition is a huge investment of time, funds and energy and if the follow up isn’t done correctly then you might as well have just opened the lid…
The next important thing to plan is how you are going to advertise your presence and how to maximise the opportunities for maximum engagement at the event. This can involve looking for PR opportunities around your attendance – even if just by writing a news article for your website and lodging this with free on line PR hubs such as http://www.onlineprnews.com/. Ask the organisers what PR they are organising around the event and try to get mentioned in this – but don’t get drawn into paying for it!
Make sure you promote your presence at the event through your own Social Media channels – not an overt ‘buy my stuff’ campaign but talking about your preparations, your excitement at attending – all the lovely soft stuff. Use Social Media to connect to others attending the event – if there is a Twitter ‘hashtag’ for the event, use it in your own tweets and check out who else is using it too – then connect with them! Use Social Media to break the ice and start the engagement early.
Check out the other exhibitors at the event, and prioritise the ones you want to target to meet and network with. Use social media to connect with them and start networking early if you can, but if not, try the old fashioned ways of email or picking up the phone to set up a time to buy them a coffee and have a chat. Be open to overtures from other exhibitors too – there may be synergy in the most unexpected places…
And finally for now, make sure that you invite key people who may be interested in the show or exhibition as a whole to attend – it may be that you have a number of free passes or can get them priority booking in to seminar sessions – but promote to your existing prospect base that you are going to be at this exhibition and that you’d love to see them there.
The next blog will deal with the stand itself – from design, layout and what to take, to how to man the stand and promote engagement.
I do hope you’re finding this blog series useful, I would love to have your feedback and hear your ideas!