For small businesses, exhibitions and conferences can be a great way of building up contacts. How do you decide whether to make the considerable investment that is usually required?
Ask yourself these questions first…
- Is this a well known and well attended event in my industry?
- Does it have a good reputation?
- Will my customers be there?
- Will my competitors be there?
- Will the cost of attendance be potentially covered by the resulting business?
And a very important question:
- Would I really benefit from having a stand, or are there other opportunities to network or make contacts at the exhibition? e.g. seminars or workshops
If you’re not sure, do some advance research. Take time out to visit the event before booking your stand for the following year.
Talk to the organisers about who attends, who exhibits, what information will be available to you, what advertising and promotion THEY are doing to promote their own event.
Also talk to those on the stands. Find out from them how useful it is – what is their objective for being there, do they feel it’s achieving that.
Many exhibitions now run a series of seminars, workshops and discussion groups that you could get involved in for little or no cost. Are you an expert on a relevant topic? Could you offer your services as a speaker? (This needs to be done well in advance so think ahead)
If you decide to exhibit, publicise your attendance at every opportunity. Let your customers and prospects know you’re going to be there, and what they will gain from visiting you.
- For example, if you’re launching a new product, tell them what it can do for them.
- Put it in your email signature, together with your stand number.
- Drip feed it on social media in the weeks leading up to the event – but don’t just say you’re going to be there. Give them reasons to visit you.
- Make extra efforts on social media to connect with potential new customers.
- Look for discussion groups or hashtags discussing the event to see who else is going or interested.
- See if there are opportunities to appear on the organisers website or the event website with a link to your own website.
- Use email to communicate with your potential customers – if you can access a database (e.g. from the organisers) so much the better.
A bit of preparation will go a long way. These are comments from a client that recently completed all the steps above and had a very successful exhibition experience:
“We met some of the people that opened the newsletter and web page – it was so useful to have that information”
“One lady came straight to the stand and said ‘you emailed me last week so I came to see what you were all about'”