Whether it’s a local pamper evening in aid of charity, a regional health and wellbeing show or an international expo, getting your business out and about can raise your profile, build your customer base and bring in lots more lovely sales.
But it can also be stressful, time consuming and potentially costly.
So if you’re a small wellbeing business with a limited budget, you need to be sure that your investment will pay off – whether it’s £50 or £500.
To make sure you get more marketing ‘pow’ for your pound, here are MeMeMe’s expert steps to a successful exhibition.
Seven top tips for preparing for your first trade show:
- Be super clear on your business goals
Before signing up to a show, be crystal clear on why you’re going. Are you looking to attract more customers? Launch a new product or service? Build your mailing list? Expand into a new area or build your brand and business visibility?
There’s no point setting up your stand at a B2B trade show if you’re looking to sell your massage services to the public. Likewise, if you’re looking to widen your professional network and find big buyers for your new range of healthy snacks, then a consumer show is unlikely to bring in the big numbers.
Once you’re absolutely clear on what you want to achieve, research the show to make sure it can deliver.
- Is the show on at the right time of year?
- Is it taking place in the right area (particularly important for bricks and mortar businesses)
- Does the expected audience fit with who you want to target?
- Organise yourself, early!
Do your prep work for a trade show well in advance and you’ll probably save yourself stress, time and money. For example, think about things like:
- How many business cards do you need?
- Will you hand out flyers?
- Do you need product catalogues? How many?
- Do you have enough order forms? Should you take pens too?
- Do you have all the kit you need to attend the show? Do you need posters or pop-up banners?
- Who will man your stand during the show? Do you need to hire extra help and how much will that cost?
- If your aim is to build your list how will you achieve this? A competition?
- Will you be selling products and services or giving them away?
If you need marketing materials, give yourself time to get them designed and printed. Plan ahead and plan well.
- Set up your stand in the right spot
Does it really matter who your trade show neighbours are? Yes! Everyone at that show is a potential competitor but also a draw to your location.
What if you end up slap bang next to your biggest rival? Would you be ok with that or would you spend the entire show comparing your stand to theirs? You can’t concentrate on building your business, selling products and attracting new customers if you’re constantly watching your neighbours.
What if your little stall is set up next to the biggest, most flashy stand at the entire show? A larger than life stand is bound to attract a lot of traffic and with a bit of clever, confident thinking, a large proportion of their passing trade could also be yours. BUT… if you’re a bit shy and not so great at making yourself known, a flashy neighbour could distract potential customers from seeing your branding, messaging and products.
Think about where you might like to be and if you feel strongly about it then drop the show’s organiser a line. There’s no harm in asking right?
- Target the right people
There could be hundreds of attendees at your next event, but do you know which ones are most important to your business? Or how you’re going to get their attention?
Make a list describing WHO you want to reach and WHAT you want from them. Be specific and you’ll be better placed to plan an effective marketing and presentation strategy.
For example: If you’re looking to add loads of names to your mailing list then arm yourself with a pen, a clipboard and a fistful of flyers. Leaflet the masses, walk the floor and offer people a free incentive (e.g. Win a 30-minute treatment/mini-consultation) in return for their email address.
If you’re seeking more qualified leads, then be prepared to take time out to chat about your products and services in more detail and make sure that any extra info a buyer may need is close at hand.
- Give away the right giveaway
Giveaways often seem like an amazing idea, but in reality it’s easy to waste hundreds of pounds on pointless and irrelevant freebies that offer no clear connection to your brand or service. We were once given a branded keyring by a company that made aromatherapy candles… no, we didn’t get it either.
So, what are the best performing freebies*?
- The promotional pen
- Branded bags
- Electronic items (such as branded memory sticks and power banks)
- Branded or personalised mugs
- Promotional clothing such as tee-shirts
- Note pads
- Mints / sweets
- Stress balls
- Mouse mats
The key is to create something that will be used often, but doesn’t compete with a ‘personal’ item. Better yet, think about how you can make a real connection with your customer. For example, our candle maker could have given away a branded box of matches, a scented tea-light or wax melt (essentially a miniature of their product) or perhaps a car air freshener of their most popular fragrance for the drive home.
- Spread the word!
Share your pre-show prep on Facebook, tweet about why people should come find you, post pictures of your marketing materials on Instagram, send a press release to local media, share your pre-show journey on your blog and write about the show in your newsletter.
Sending an e-mail or printed invitation to local journalists and important contacts is a great way to make them aware of your participation ahead of the show and – if you have it – include your stand number so they know exactly where to find you. Give them an incentive to visit you by offering an exclusive free gift or mini service when they arrive.
Ensure you take advantage of any marketing opportunities offered by the show organisers. Many will consider featuring exhibitioners logos in their promotional material. They might also share or retweet messages from attendees across social media so be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter and tag them into your pre-exhibition chatter.
On the day, keep the momentum going by staying active on social media during and after the show. Tweet from the show floor, share key speaker top tips on Facebook and share images from your stand and around the show.
- Follow up afterwards
This final step is SO essential. Once you’re back at the office, follow up all new prospects, potential leads and media opportunities within two to three days. Any longer than that and your window of opportunity will start to shrink. Don’t expect them to contact you, take the initiative whilst you are still fresh in their minds
Of course this doesn’t have to mean three days of solid, hard-core sales calls. If you’ve got a list of emails, load them to your list and send out a welcome e-mail. Introduce your business, remind them where they met you (and how awesome you are) and finish up with an ‘exclusive’ incentive to drive sales (10% off their first order perhaps). If you’ve come away with a handful of good, strong leads, follow up in person via phone or e-mail.
Ready to rock your next show? You are now! If you’ve got more questions about how to prep for an event, drop the MeMeMe Team a line!
*Research by Pellacraft.com