Taking your business out into the world and exhibiting at a trade show can feel like a big step – no matter your turnover, or how many countries around the world your customers cover, an exhibition is a whole different experience that can require a whole different skillset.
But just about any business can benefit from getting in front of potential customers for a real-world conversation. All you need is an exhibition stand and a passion for your products or your service that you can share with other people.
As exhibition and events experts ourselves, here are the main four reasons we think businesses really benefit from exhibitions and trade shows:
Competing for space online or in traditional media can be an uphill struggle – particularly for smaller brands. Exhibitions offer a more level playing field to get your brand in front of a lot of different people.
Of course, some large exhibition stands from the biggest names in your field will often attempt to steal the show, but even a smaller event booth made from a modular system can have a big impact if the design is right. Stand lighting and product displays play a large role – as do the right people on the stand.
What’s more, visitors to your stand have also pre-qualified themselves as the right audience for your brand to an extent, purely through the act of attending an event for your industry. These people are on the lookout for a brand like yours – they might never see you if you were battling a larger competitor for space online, but they’re definitely going to find you on the trade show floor.
Sales and/or lead generation
An exhibition shouldn’t be solely about leads and sales – and coming back with less than expected doesn’t mean that the event has been a failure. Particularly if it’s the first one you’ve ever attended – brand visibility is an essential stepping stone for success at future events.
But trade shows are an excellent opportunity for both sales and lead gen, whether you’re selling products or merchandise directly, filling out your email lists, or booking in meetings. As we mentioned above, trade show and exhibition attendees are essentially qualified leads – or at the very least much warmer than your average passer-by. The very fact that they are at an event for your industry or service means that they are far, far more likely to be looking for a solution that you can provide, and that they’re taking steps to pay someone some money for it!
You should aim to keep your stand well-staffed at all times, with people ready to have the conversations needed to capture leads from the event. However, if you’ve brought enough people, there’s nothing wrong with going around and having a peek at some of the other booths when you get the chance.
Exhibitions are an amazing opportunity to get a closer look at your competitors – see their products up close, learn more about what they’re doing and how they’re positioning themselves in the market, or even ask some questions and get the full sales spiel.
It’s also a great opportunity to get some ideas for your next event, and to learn what works. Pay attention to which stands are busy and try and work out if it’s because they’re actually engaging people in meaningful conversations or just handing out the best freebies.
Business relationships are made at trade shows. Going beyond simple lead generation, an exhibition may lead you to find a new supplier, or to start building a new partnership. Trade shows provide an opportunity to become part of a wider business community outside of your local area.
Tips for your first trade show
The first thing to do is find the right show. Different trade shows may be industry-specific, or more focused on businesses from a particular area of the UK. Some may be too broad for you to find the right audience – although a broader range of businesses also means you have a greater opportunity to stand out in your own industry on the day.
Think carefully about your budgets, too. While it may be tempting to try and create a big splash with a huge and ambitious exhibition stand idea for your first show, it may be a better idea to test the waters with something smaller – a rental exhibition stand may be a better option than buying one outright for your first show.