For most SMEs, exhibiting at a trade show requires a significant commitment of time, budget and resource. Exhibition space, stand construction, freight, staffing, travel and accommodation expenses, and all the extras, can leave you with little or nothing for PR and marketing. And yet, simply turning up and hoping that your potential customers will find you is not going to maximise the ROI for your company. An integrated approach to PR and marketing is needed.
Here are seven practical tips for maximising ROI, to help you increase the number of visitors to your stand, generate more leads and boost sales.
1. Make full use of the exhibition website
Filling in your company and product information on the trade show organisers’ website may seem like a no-brainer, but it never ceases to amaze me how many exhibitors overlook this free and vital resource. The exhibition site will be visited by buyers, who will be searching by product category (not company name, unless they already know you) in order to find what they are looking for. Some sites, such as the one for MEDICA (the world’s largest medical technology trade fair) will also allow you to post company news on their site for free, and then tweet this to all their followers, giving your news a huge audience. The only caveat here is, make sure your site is up to scratch and up to date if you’re going to encourage more people to visit it!
2. Get a professionally written press release
Unless you have in-house resource with the requisite skills and experience, it is generally better to outsource this to a PR and marketing professional. He/she will know how to get your message across and who to send the release to. Whichever route you take, don’t forget to upload it to the news section of your website!
3. Advertise in the trade show directory or show daily
You will usually be included in the directory as part of your exhibiting fee, but there is always the option to pay for an enhanced listing. Given that this book will be referred to by everyone visiting the show, often at great length (there’s lots of hanging around at exhibitions, after all!) making your company stand out with a listing that allows extra company and product information to be added, could make it the best value ad (or advertorial) you ever take out.
4. Make your promotional material accessible – and light!
It may be nice to have attractive-looking brochures to display and hand out but many of these will end up in the bin as people can only carry so much paper around the halls without getting a hernia.
To keep your content out of the recycling bins, put it on CD Roms, or even better, memory sticks, can be far more effective – and environmentally friendly. If you include your press release, product catalogue, images, and all your company information, it will be useful and informative for all the delegates and you’ll make the journalists’ lives easy which will increase the chance of coverage.
5. Look into speaking opportunities at the show
Having a speaker on the conference programme is a great profile booster. Check out the topic streams well in advance – and find out if speaker opportunities are free or paid (they can be expensive). Assuming there’s a ‘fit’ and you have a good speaker on your team, investigate the options for a speaking slot or workshop.
6. Maximise the social networking opportunities
Most event organisers are social media savvy these days so there should be plenty of opportunities to connect with delegates, speakers and other exhibitors before, during and after the event. Assuming you are up to speed on how to use social networks, here are a few ideas:
- LinkedIn – if there’s a group, join it and monitor/participate in discussion. Use your profile/company page to tell people you’re going to the event
- Facebook – like the trade show page and keep an eye on who is saying what; comment on posts that catch your eye
- Twitter – follow the trade show organisers and monitor the hashtag if there is one – or start one yourself. Retweet the tweets that interest you and engage with people that look interesting
7. Don’t forget to tell your customers you’re going to the event
Your key objective will be to meet new customers but industry events are also a good time to catch up with existing customers. They’ll be reassured to see that you’re there and may help evangelise about your company. If you issue a regular e-newsletter, remember to tell readers that you’re attending x or y event too. If you don’t, include it in an email.