Lee Ali is Managing Director of global exhibition engagement company Expo Stars.
Making the Most of Your Trade Show
Taking part in exhibitions and other events is key for businesses to create new leads, nurture relationships and promote their products or services.
Nowadays, there are trade shows for most industries, providing great opportunities to reach new audiences. But with some of the biggest exhibitions attracting thousands of exhibitors, how do you ensure you not only stand out from your competitors, but also achieve a good return on investment?
Planning is one of the top priorities when it comes to maximizing your results at exhibitions, so make sure you have a clear strategy in place.
Check that the exhibition is the right fit for your business, products or services, and target audience. Have clear objectives, outlining what you want to achieve as a result of exhibiting and understand how you’re going to measure this.
Schedule meetings with prospects in advance of the exhibition, research the prospects you’re due to meet, and tailor your engagement strategy and messaging for when you meet them.
Qualify your leads
Launching into product explanations rather than natural conversations will repel, not attract prospects. Use open questions such as, “What brings you to the show?”
Use these questions to filter for high-value prospects:
- Determine their buying authority: “Are you a part of the buying team?”
- Identify their key buying reasons: “What is the main objective are you trying to achieve?”
- Discover their buying time frame: “When do you need a solution by?”
- Find out what their budgets are: “What budget do you have allocated for the project?”
It’s important, however, to not spend too much time talking to unqualified leads. Aim to give no more than two minutes to unqualified visitors and make sure you dismiss them politely to stay professional.
Choose your staff wisely
Your exhibition team is the face of your company at every event, acting as the first point of contact to greet and nurture potential leads, so it’s important to choose the right people. To do this, think about your audience. Your managing director may be experienced and passionate about the business, but if you’re targeting millennials and the managing director isn’t natural in engaging in conversation with them, they may not be the best person to form those all-important early connections.
Check your tech
Exhibitors are getting more creative with their use of technology to engage with attendees. But don’t use technology for the sake of it if it doesn’t add to your offering and help you communicate your desired messages.
Remember that using tech doesn’t mean you don’t need as many professional booth staff to speak to attendees. Tech should complement – not replace – people.
Shift your mindset
If you’re planning exhibitions with the aim to secure lots of new contracts there and then, think again. Depending on your product or service, you might make some sales at the event, but to get the best return on investment you need to think about the long game. Use the opportunity to start building and nurturing relationships with prospects.
Stay in touch
The months that follow an exhibition are the time to warm up your leads and demonstrate how you can help them. Start during the event by encouraging prospects to commit to an action after the exhibition, for example, booking a demo or scheduling a conference call.
Ultimately, unless you plan ahead and have a clear strategy in place for the events in which you exhibit, you’ll struggle to achieve a return on investment. By focusing on creating a memorable experience and educating your prospective customers, you can engage with them at the exhibition in an authentic and genuine way, have a clear plan for following up and turn those contacts into profitable, long-term business relationships.