Trade shows and exhibitions
Trade exhibitions and local shows are an important part of many small firms' marketing efforts. At one leap you can be in a major selling arena alongside giants of your industry. The visitors may have set out to meet their customers, but it is your job to make the best of that opportunity to lure them onto your stand as well. The exhibition calendar splits into a number of different sectors. There are the well-known public (consumer) shows such as Ideal Home, The Motor Show, Boat Show, etc, that can run for weeks. But by far the biggest number of exhibitions is in the trade show sector where the public is generally not admitted, but where serious selling is done within that trade sector. So for the motor trade there are such shows as Commercial Vehicles and Automotive Trade, Vehicle Dynamics and Automotive Electronics, and International Commercial Vehicle Bodywork Show. Lastly there are the local agricultural, balloon festival, steam rally and craft shows held in every county, where the biggest (The Royal at Stoneleigh) attracts some 300,000 people.
Before booking space, there are a number of questions to be answered.
1. What is the audience? Trade only, consumer, general or specialist?
2. Venue. Can you visit beforehand?
3. What is provided by the organiser.
4. Cost, length of show.
5. Why are you going to exhibit?
If you do your homework properly a high proportion of the right audience will have been selected for you. Choose the wrong show and you may waste a few thousand pounds (if you exhibit at the National Exhibition Centre or other major venue) as well as all your time.
It should be obvious that the main reason to exhibit is to meet a large number of buyers under one roof within the space of a few days. The average salesperson will be lucky to see more than six prospects a day. An exhibitor can manage a couple of hundred in the usual four- or five-day show.
You should appreciate that the psychology has subtly shifted. From being the wooer calling at the purchaser's door, and wheedling past the protective personal assistant, you are setting out your stall to lure the punter onto your stand. But make no mistake: taking a stand at a show is a significant and expensive step that needs considerable planning to make the most of the opportunity.
Here's a quick summary
- Find an exhibition for your specialty and research whether it represents effective use of your time and money.
- Ideally attend the show first as an observant visitor, or failing that go to the hall and get an idea of the layout.
- Decide on your objectives. Do a budget, and add 10 per cent for contingencies.
- Book the stand and local accommodation if necessary.
- Design a stand from mock-ups.
- How are you going to get visitors to stop? Get some life and excitement into the stand.
- Organise your literature.
- Make use of the organiser's publicity machine, early and often. Train all your staff.
- Allow ample time to set up.
- Get a good night's sleep beforehand - leave the junketing (if any) to the end.
- During the show keep the stand pristine and keep the staff alert by sending them off at regular intervals to explore, spy and learn.
- Record all your visitors.Keep a tight eye on security, especially at break down.
- Follow up all enquiries promptly and hold a post-mortem.
The best sources to find what's on is for trade and consumer shows:
Exhibition Bulletin (www.expoabc.com), while for outdoor events – agricultural and family shows – see
The Showman's Directory (www.showmans-directory.co.uk).