Friday, 6 December 2013

Exhibit with purpose - stand up and follow up

Is your business in the process of planning your sales and marketing activities for the coming year?  If so, there's a possibility that you will be considering exhibiting at conferences and expo's.  It might be that you exhibit every year, at the same events, without much thought.  Whatever your stage in this process, let me ask you to stop and consider these points.

·         If you choose to exhibit, what are your goals? 
I hope you have some, and I would certainly challenge you if you say it's to raise awareness.  Awareness of what? 
·         How will you measure this?
·         Any goals you set should generally be aimed at quality over quantity
o   Remember a bowlful of business cards are not necessarily qualified leads

·         How effective is your messaging going to be? 

Expo visitors and delegates may pass your stand in a few seconds and will rarely stop to read your banner if it has a four line paragraph and 15 products and services listed. 
·         Less is more 
·         Make your banner stand out with an appropriate visual or single line statement
o   And make sure your logo is not hidden down the bottom
·         If you've had a rebrand recently, make sure your materials reflect this and logos and style match
·         Think about your pitch - you've got 20 seconds to capture my attention.  Practice it and keep it consistent
o   A prize draw is a tool for engaging visitors, not the reason for you exhibiting

Who and how
The selection of the people representing your stand is crucial to its success.  All too often I see representatives sat behind a table more engaged with their Smartphone or tablet than the people around them. 
·         If your service/product is likely to attract technical questions, make sure you've a mix of sales people and technical people on stand 
·         Make sure your expectations of behaviours on stand are clear and understood
o   Arrive on stand before delegates enter expo
o   Whilst on stand no sitting down or overtly checking emails
o   Refrain from having personal drinks or food on display
o    If someone needs a break or some refreshments, ask them to go to the refreshment area - who knows they even get talking to a potential customer over a latte

 Extra opportunities
·         If you decide that you are going to exhibit, then plan and book ahead
o   You may get a discount for early booking, or a better choice of available stands
·         There may also be other opportunities that can be useful such as:
o   Speaker slots
o   Being part of a panel discussion
o   Though think carefully about the offer of any sponsorship opportunities, be clear about what you will get from any sponsorship - are you simply funding a drinks reception in a room with your banner in the corner?

Let me ask you a question - has a giveaway ever led you to contact a company or look at their website? 

At a major exhibition recently, it was quite refreshing to see limited giveaways being used - rather than witnessing the 'hello and grab' scenario of the delegate on a free stationary top-up trip. 
·         If you do feel the need to have giveaways, get creative - consider the longevity of the product and its active use/placement by the recipient
·         Pens are cheap, but not when bought in their '000s and they often end up in a desk draw
·         If your prospective companies are large corporates avoid giving away USB sticks, as their IT policies will generally prohibit their use

Be a delegate
·         Make time to visit a similar style expo to observe the various stands and help refine what may work or improve your stand
·         These insights will save you time and money, making your stand all the more successful
·         Speak to the stand representatives and listen to the way they engage you and others - are they asking you open questions (and qualifying you as a potential lead)
o   A good representative will be doing this, and if the stand is busy they will have a technique for politely concluding your conversation so that they can focus on the next visitor - this is where the business card prize draw can be a useful tool

Follow up
Following up potential leads after the exhibition is the most important part of the activity yet so often overlooked. 
·         When you identify your goals you should be planning and agreeing how the follow up process will work and who will do it, and when
·         Follow up communications should happen within a week of the event, and not end with one email for qualified leads
·         Sift qualified leads during or at the end of the exhibition, with additional notes if a more in-depth conversation has happened
o   This is particularly important if the people following up the leads were not at the exhibition or on stand all of the time
·         Prepare your emails and block out time for follow up calling in advance
·         Send an email follow up even to the card in the bucket that you didn't qualify, and may have only been after the bottle of bubbly - you never know, and the 'cost' of the email is inexpensive

In the past year I have attended over 6 expos and my card has been requested by many a stand rep, however I have only ever received a handful of follow up emails, and one phone call. 

In effect many businesses have wasted the biggest opportunity, which was to start a communication thread with me - I may not be their customer today, however......

·         Plan early
o   Challenge yourselves on why you are exhibiting (is it habit)
o   Select a stand location where there will be natural footfall
o   Consider that you may gain more/achieve your goals by attending as a delegate
·         Agree and capture what will be the follow up process
·         Decide who will represent your stand
o   Are they articulate and confident at interacting with strangers?
·         Stand visuals - are they current and fit for purpose?
·         Giveaways - can you be creative or could your money be spent on other things such as a better stand position?
·         Explore add on opportunities
·         Review your results against your goals and have an open discussion about the amount of success of exhibiting
·         And if you lack the resources/skills to exhibit and/or follow up , consider using an outsourced sales provider

      John is the Director, of Vector Resources Limited, who help growing businesses increase sales and improve sales performance.  Find out more about outsourced sales and sales management at

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