Attending trade shows can help you gauge the level of interest in your products and services, develop leads and make sales.
As with all elements of market entry, you should have a strategy for trade show attendance. Each show involves a significant investment, both in terms of the money and time spent.
Regularity pays off
Other businesses in the industry (including potential customers) may read regular attendance as an indicator of your credibility, stability and long-term intention.
It may take several years of attendance at the same show before these businesses start to develop stronger interest in your company.
Defining your objectives
Having clear and realistic objectives is a critical starting point, as you need to know and understand what you want to achieve, and whether it’s increasing market share or new prospects. Before attending a trade show you should be able to answer the following questions.
- Why are you attending?
- Who is your target audience?
- What messages are you trying to communicate?
- How does this trade show fit into your overall marketing strategy?
Choosing the right trade show
Once you are clear about your audience and your objectives, it's time to research to select an appropriate trade show. The first step is to identify a list of relevant shows and conventions.
The key defining characteristic for show attractiveness is the audience. Are the attendees the target audience for your solution?
The following methods are useful for sourcing this information.
- Examine show material and ensure that it is directed at your target consumer.
- Ask for a prospectus from the show organiser that has statistics for past shows and the demographics of attendees.
- Take a look through trade journals to identify the nuances of different shows.
- Another choice to be made is whether to attend international, national or regional shows. International shows are larger but regional shows might result in more in-depth interaction despite fewer potential customers.
- Here are some pointers if you are new to the country where will you be exhibiting.
- Conduct basic research on the country (culture, economy, business environment, language, etiquette). Use our Export Markets map to find out more about doing business in key markets internationally.
- Investigate freighting and Customs clearance for the country. Are you permitted to take the product? How much processing time should you allow? Visit www.mfat.govt.nz for up to date security and travel advice.
- What is the main language? Should you translate your collateral and have a translator?
- Think about how New Zealand is perceived. Depending on the country, it may be best to wither emphasise this, or downplay it.
Planning your stand
What will make potential customers visit your stand over those of your competitors? As well as having an open, welcoming and friendly stand, you need to have a focal point and a strong key message that communicates a significant benefit to your prospect.
Tactics that help attract people to a stand:
- Bold visuals / sounds
- Freebies / giveaways
- Local ambassador / celebrity
- Your location within the exhibit hall is another important success factor. Many trade show floors start to fill up a year or more in advance, so unless the trade show is some time away, only limited space may remain.
Increase your stand's impact
Showing as part of a group of companies helps to increase the impact of your stand, especially when compared with large multinationals that might also be showing.
Co-ordinating your stand with other companies from New Zealand can help to cut back on costs e.g. there might be discounts for group bookings.
When selecting an exhibit location
- The most frequented area of the floor is a triangular shape, with the apex at the main entrance
- Corner locations tend to be better as they have more access and visibility
- It may (or may not) be best to locate next to competitors.
There are several locations to avoid:
- Front and centre (immediately in front of a main entrance), as attendees tend to walk into a show floor and immediately past the first exhibitor in order to get away from the entrance
- Near columns, stairs, and other obstacles, as these will be obstacles to traffic flow.
Preparing for a trade show
- Set your objectives.
- Be in-the-know before you go - research the show, and the country where it is being held (keep cultural considerations in mind).
- Make sure you have plenty of marketing collateral.
- Set a budget - is the show viable?
- Plan your stand - make it stand out from others.
- Fully brief staff on the stand about what they are required to sell and communicate.
- Promote your company and products before the show to generate interest.
Trade show budget
When budgeting for a show exhibit, be sure to include the additional charges that are added in. Most shows in the United States, for example, have relatively high unavoidable charges for installation and dismantling work done on the show floor.
Success is likely to develop with regular year-on-year attendance at the same shows. Other businesses in the industry (including potential customers) may read regular attendance as an indicator of your credibility, stability and long-term intention. It may take several years of attendance at the same show before these businesses start to develop stronger interest in your company.
Taking part in overseas shows and exhibitions can be expensive. Target those with attendees who could potentially become customers. Joining complementary exporters can be a cost-effective way for smaller exporters to exhibit at trade events.
Costs to consider
- Stand rental (in most cases only accounting for 10-20 percent of total costs)
- Stand structure and utility services
- Exhibition costs
- Marketing collateral (advertising, public relations, company website, business cards)
- Personnel costs (accommodation, meals, transport, insurance).
Once you're there...
During the event
Ensure staff arrive in plenty of time to recover from jet lag, set up the stand, adjust plans and address any last-minute issues.
Walk around the show, observe competitors and possible partners, take photos and meet with prospects.
Use good booth behaviour
Stand near the front of the booth, make eye contact, and start up conversations. Never hide behind your displays and try not to block them either.
The best booth personnel:
- have excellent appearance and personal hygiene
- speak the language of the country well enough to be understood or to understand questions
- engage with people at the booth in a friendly and professional way
- do not bad-mouth competitors
- do not sit at the booth playing on phone or mobile devices.
Everyone must know how to qualify and get information from prospects. Ask for specifics e.g. “Why are you here today?” Write down their questions, concerns, and interests – plus anything personal that will help jog their memory (and yours) later about the conversation.
Practice good communication - Listen more than you talk. Anticipate typical questions and practice answers, including questions to ask in return. Rehearse demonstrations in advance. Hand out materials only at the end of presentations, to help you keep their attention meanwhile. Make sure your materials are up to date.
Learn how to disengage from unqualified prospects politely – thank them, show them you have noted their concerns, ask how they prefer to be contacted and move on.
After the event
Have a plan in place for following up on leads as soon as you get home from the show. Don't wait a month or two to get around to sending information to those who stopped by your booth. By then, the hot prospects are likely to have become good customers for one of your competitors. Read more about how to follow up leads and deals.
Prepare a final report measuring achievements against objectives, effectiveness and performance, costs and sales, and recommendations on future attendance.
Don’t forget – trade shows are about putting your brand, products and services into tangible form for customers and prospects. Keep everything consistent, professional and on track with your show objectives!