Reno Macri is a founder and director of UK based leading exhibition company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in exhibition design, event branding, interior design and retail branding. He specialises in experiential marketing and event productions.
Ensure Your Next International Trade Show is a Success with 7 Simple Steps
International trade shows offer a unique opportunity for brands to expand their market share and reach out to an audience they might otherwise have difficulty connecting with. However, actually achieving success at an international exhibition requires careful planning, especially given the costs involved.
From choosing between custom or modular exhibition stands, through to selecting the exhibition services you are going to offer attendees, there are a number of crucial decisions that must be taken. Here are seven simple steps that can help you achieve your objectives and improve your chances of success.
1. Start Planning Early
All trade shows require careful planning but the logistics mean that an international exhibition company needs to start planning significantly earlier to cover all bases. In particular, it is crucial to select the specific trade show wisely, based on the nature of your business, the nature of the attendees and its location.
You need to be clear on why you are exhibiting and what you are hoping to achieve, specifying some clear, measurable goals. During the planning process, speak with the finance department, establish how much money is available for trade show purposes, set a firm budget and make sure you don’t exceed it.
2. Promote Your Appearance
It is estimated that around 70 percent of trade show attendees plan a list of the expo booths they want to visit before attending, which highlights the importance of promoting your appearance beforehand. You can do this via social media, through email marketing campaigns, as part of your content marketing and through press releases.
“A press release can be a great way to promote yourself online,” says Benjamin Liu, writing for Business.com. “Discuss the accomplishments achieved by your business along with your plans for participation in the event.”
Liu also recommends using sites like PRweb.com and PRnewswire.com to promote press releases.
3. Select the Right Team
No international exhibition company can achieve success without a solid team working on its trade show strategy. You need top performers from your sales team – especially those with experience of face-to-face sales – but you may also need input from the marketing department, the finance department and customer services.
Again, there are logistical aspects when it comes to international trade shows, as you will need to make travel arrangements, ensure everyone has a passport and so on. You also need to make a decision about whether you want the staff at your booth to be wearing a uniform or whether you want to enforce any kind of dress code at all.
4. Make a Good First Impression
Next, you need to make sure that your brand makes a good first impression at the show. Generally, the first things attendees notice are the exhibition booths, so investment in this area should be a top priority. In particular, your booth should be eye-catching, convey your brand values and make people want to visit.
While custom exhibition booths are the most expensive option and offer the greatest range of possibilities in terms of customization, modular booths work, too, and are great for those on a tighter budget. Ideally, you want to avoid overly cramped designs, as these are less inviting. Use familiar brand colors to boost recognition.
“Studies show that your first impression has a high correlation with the actual long-term status of your relationship,” says James C. Gibson, writing for Huffington Post. “Our first opinion of someone forms in only one-tenth of a second. Not surprisingly, we see similar results when someone’s first impression is of a brand.”
5. Offer Incentives for Contact Information
Ultimately, gaining contact information from potential customers and business partners is one of the main incentives for carrying out a trade show marketing strategy but you may need to offer incentives to acquire this information. This may mean offering freebies, samples of products or some kind of promotional discount.
You may even be able to trade contact information with other exhibiting businesses. Generally, you will want to avoid trading this kind of information with direct rivals, so the trick is to network with companies that have a different product but a similar target demographic. You can also team up with other companies before the trade show actually begins. Why not promise to send attendees their way in exchange for the same from them?
6. Prioritize the Experience
Millennials are now the dominant generation in terms of numbers and research shows that 72 percent of them prefer to spend money on experiences rather than on “stuff.” This means that trade shows and exhibitions should have a natural appeal to them but only if brands focus on the experience rather than selling “things.”
From technology-driven experiences like virtual reality or digital photo booths to more traditional experiences such as games and quizzes, companies need to prioritize giving attendees something memorable to take away from the show and connect back to them in the future.
The pay-off for this might not be immediate and may be difficult to measure but it will make those attendees feel an affinity for your brand, which makes them more likely to do business with you in the future.
7. Formalize Your Follow Up Plan
Finally, according to statistics compiled by EXHIBITOR Magazine, lead generation is the top exhibiting priority for 68 percent of marketers, while 98 percent of exhibitors in total collect leads at trade show events. Yet, despite this, only 34 percent of respondents have a formal lead-scoring or lead-ranking process.
This means most exhibitors do not effectively prioritize leads so that high-value leads are pursued more strongly than low-probability leads. Indeed, without a formalized process for following up with leads, it is difficult to guarantee that some of the best leads will even receive follow up communications at all.
Making a success of any trade show is no mean feat, however, following these simple guidelines will steer you in the right direction. Plan ahead, pool your resources, think outside of the box, always follow up and remember, practice makes perfect!