Exhibition marketing has become increasingly popular in recent years, taking up a far greater percentage of average marketing budgets than ever before, and it is easy to see why. According to research from Exhibit Surveys, 67 percent of all trade show attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer for the exhibiting businesses.
However, in order to take full advantage of this opportunity to reach new business targets, the pre-event planning process is paramount. So what are the main things you need to prepare before exhibiting at trade shows?
The first step is to establish a concrete budget for the exhibition project. Although there are many factors that go into this, you will ultimately need to look at how much you can afford to spend and how much it is sensible to spend so that you generate a strong return on investment.
Research from the Trade Show Institute has found that UK businesses spend 40 percent of their trade show budget on renting exhibition space and designing exhibition stands, so it makes sense to allocate just under half of your planed budget to the exhibition itself, with the rest going on things like travel, marketing and services.
2. Measurable Goals and Objectives
Setting clear and measurable goals and objectives allow you to focus your exhibition, while also providing the means to evaluate performance. Examples of the types of goals you may set are generating a certain amount of leads, or making a certain number of sales. The important thing is that these goals are quantifiable.
"Having a budget and knowing your goals means you can calculate a measurable return on investment," Kelly Edwards, assistant e-marketing manager at Nimlok Portable, writes for MarketingProfs. "Measure the overall cost of the exhibition against realistic goals you expect to achieve. If that figure is too low...go back to the drawing board."
3. Location / Venue
Once you have established a budget and set objectives, it is important to think about the location and specific venue for your exhibition. You may already have a venue in mind, but you should still give it some thought again at this stage, in order to make sure your choice is the best one available.
Think about the people you want to attract to your exhibition and whether they are likely to be at your chosen trade show. You also need to give some thought to any project partners. For instance, an international exhibition company may be able to assist you if you are venturing far, but a local business may struggle to provide that support.
4. Promotional Materials
Around three quarters of trade show attendees make the decision to register for a trade show off the back of invitations, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Moreover, figures published by Incomm Research show that 76 percent of attendees leave their home with a clear idea of which exhibitions they want to see.
These two statistics really highlight the importance of marketing and promotion. You need to put significant effort into letting people know that you will be at the exhibition, and you need to be in direct contact with people, in order to get them to attend. This type of pre-event marketing needs to be planned carefully, then carried out quickly.
5. The Exhibition Team
Finally, you need to make sure that your exhibition stand is being manned by competent, reliable people, who are able to make a good first impression. Establish what you expect them to dress like, ensure all members of the team are knowledgeable about your products and services and try to pick a team with strong 'people skills'.
In addition to getting the team right, you also need to make sure they know what they are doing. How will they capture leads? What information do you need them to collect from visitors to the exhibition? How should they record this information? Encourage teamwork and consider offering incentives to inspire a great performance.
Reno is a founder and director of the UK based exhibition company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in exhibition services, retail designs, graphic productions, signage systems, exhibition display stands , event branding, conference set design and much more. He specialises in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.