"How To" Exhibit


SUCCESSFUL EXHIBIT MARKETING
by Bob Dallmeyer
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Guarantee Results

Step 13: Meeting Your Current Customers
Step 14: Greeting Prospects on the Stand
Step 15: Qualifying Prospects
Step 16: Lead Classification
Step 17: Working Smarter in the Stand
Step 18: Other Exhibit Considerations
Step 19: Final Comments

About the author: Bob Dallmeyer

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Previous Steps 1 to 6: "Getting Started"
Previous Steps 12 to 18: "Making it Work"



Step 13: Meeting Your Current Customers

Research shows that 95 percent of all decision makers meet with their current suppliers at exhibitions. That's why customer appreciation should be an important part of your exhibition marketing strategy. And if you need more motivation, remember that your competition is targeting your customers as prospects to grow their companies. Research also reveals that 77 percent of these decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last exhibition they attended.

Exhibitions bring together many competing companies and visitors can easily compare many products and suppliers in a short time. Therefore, the stand is an excellent platform for your company to let your customers know how important they are. You should know in advance which of your customers is attending and plan to spend quality time with them, not only in the stand, but at social functions in the evenings. Find out if they have specific requirements or product questions, and have the appropriate staff members on hand to answer them. Don't overlook this important customer activity, or your competition could seize the advantage.

This is known as relationship selling. Here are some reasons, based on extensive research, why customers visit your stand:

1. To learn about the latest styles, trends, modifications, improvements, etc. to their existing products and/or services;

2. To see the newest product offerings;

3. To meet with technical representatives regarding equipment updates or problem solving;

4. To meet the management team;

5. To compare and evaluate competitive products;

6. To pay a social visit or attend a hospitality function;

7. To network;

8. To purchase something new.



Step 14: Greeting Prospects on the Stand

It's a general rule that at most exhibitions, 86 percent of the visitors have "buying power" -- that means they either make their company's purchases or directly influence the purchasing decisions. Therefore, it's smart marketing to treat everyone coming into your stand as a potential new customer. Consider this: if someone takes the time to visit with you, there has to be some level of interest in your company or its products. Finding what that interest is and turning it into a positive relationship is the challenge for your exhibit sales team.

Research also shows that 94 percent of the buyers at exhibitions compare similar products, sometimes just for reassurance that they are getting the best products available. Many of these product comparisons involve your staff and their presentations, so remind them about being friendly, knowledgeable, and brief. In fact, more than half the exhibition audience, including your customers, is testing your staff's product and company knowledge, while 19 percent is checking their attitude. Therefore, it is very important that your team understands that, during the show, they are the only representation of your company, so there is just no room for a "bad show day."

Another key point about exhibitions: only fifteen percent of the audience (at most) is comfortable being approached directly by your sales team. Most visitors prefer to approach your staff, in their own manner. In a study by Incomm International of visitors who visited exhibits but did not achieve their objectives found this:

(a) Sixteen percent didn't trust or feel comfortable with the exhibit salesperson. Suggestion: It's a good idea to plan breaks away from the stand to keep your team relaxed and refreshed so they make good eye contact and smile with sincerity. Also remind them to read visitors' facial expressions and not try to greet people while standing in the aisles.

(b) Twenty-eight percent said no one assisted them when they came into the stand. Suggestion: Sometimes the staff is too busy with prospects or customers, and little can to done to accommodate everyone. However, if your sales team spends valuable time talking to each other or on their cell phones, you have a major problem of lost sales time. If translation services are required, there may not be anyone available to assist at a given moment. When not engaged in conversations with prospects, the staff should be standing near the aisles, ready to greet and qualify likely prospects. If you divide your total exhibition costs by the number of hours the show is open, you quickly realize the true value of each moment in the stand.

(c) Forty-two percent felt that the salesperson didn't understand their needs. Suggestion: Be sure the staff listens carefully to what the prospects are saying and responds appropriately. During the exhibition selling process, careful listening often puts the prospect in the role of helping to make the sale.



Step 15: Qualifying Prospects

Research shows that companies with formal staff training significantly increase their ability to convert their stand visitors into qualified leads. Exhibitions are an outstanding opportunity for obtaining qualified sales leads. In one recent study, 76 percent of executive decision makers asked for price quotations at the last exhibition the attended. Equally important, 51 percent requested a sales representative to visit their company.

However, not all visitor prospects can make purchasing decisions at the exhibition - they only want to compare companies, products, services, prices, etc. The exhibit staff should understand this and be able to gather important sales lead information so that any sales contact is facilitated. Pricing information, quotations, and future sales calls can be expedited in this manner. Timing is one of the most important criteria, since all exhibition leads (or new sales opportunities) have a distinct time period within which they can be accomplished.

To summarize, qualifying visitor prospects consists of the following:

1. Be sure there is a need for your product or service;

2. Be sure there is a reasonable buying time period;

3. Be sure there is adequate funding or budget'

4. Be sure the contact has power to make or influence purchases.



Step 16: Lead Classification

Some companies use a "lead classification system" which reflects the two important variables affecting an exhibition lead: Time and Money. The time frame within which a product or service will be purchased by the visitor is the first critical consideration, so that your company's response can be completed on time. The next consideration is the amount of money involved in the possible purchase, since this often dictates the level of your company's effort in the lead follow-up process.

Here's a simple lead classification system that works for many companies around the world:

"A" Lead: Large money value, short purchasing time period

"B" Lead: Small money value, short purchasing time period - or -

Large money value, long purchasing time period

"C" Lead: Small money value, long purchasing time period

"D" Lead: Send literature and/or add name to e-mailing list.

Another reason for this classification process is simply this: when the exhibition is over and everyone is exhausted, the only sales leads that need immediate attention are the "A" and "B" leads. The others can be followed up in the weeks ahead, when the team is more rested.

Many companies use Internet-based lead handling systems to ensure that leads are properly recorded, classified, and followed up. These systems are often used to automatically prepare the prospect's letter, with pricing information, and set the stage for subsequent face-to-face meetings with company representatives.

Finally, and most important, keep track of all your exhibition leads so you can measure your ultimate sales success and overall results. This will also help you justify future exhibition investments, as well as compare results between different shows. It's a proven fact: Companies that measure their results are far more successful at exhibition selling.



Step 17: Working Smarter in the Stand

Research proves that we are at our peak performance level for a maximum of 4 to 6 hours in the stand. After that, we start to become exhausted, both physically and psychologically. It is important to recognize this situation and schedule your staff to work 4 hours maximum, if possible.

Dehydration is another real problem, so it is important to drink lots of fluids while working the stand - in particular water. However, food or other drinks (except water) should not be brought onto of the stand, as these distract from the opportunity to make face-to-face contacts. Speaking of food, encourage the staff to eat healthy meals, particularly a good breakfast, as the body needs fuel for the long day.

The ergonomics of exhibiting, that is the special needs within a stand, are also important. For maximum effectiveness, two people should work in every 9 square meters of exhibit occupied by your company. It's also important to keep clutter to a minimum for both appearances and safety.

The staff should always stand, not sit, during the exhibition. Therefore, comfortable shoes are a necessity. Some exercising is advisable as it helps the staff feel physically better. Cell telephones should not be used in the stand - except for business; every minute of exhibition time is too valuable to waste by talking on the telephone.

Finally, some simple things to make your experience easier: pack extra business cards, pens, spare glasses, and batteries for your electronic gadgets.



Step 18: Other Exhibit Considerations

Literature

Ninety-five percent of visitors ask for sales literature or information from exhibitors. This literature is often expensive, so distributing it at the show is not cost effective. Sadly, 65 percent of all literature collected from exhibits is thrown away almost immediately.

A more cost-effective way to handle literature requests is to get the visitor's name, address and e-mail address, and send them the information via the Internet or post after the show. Keep in mind that a visitor who takes time to make a literature request is likely to be serious about your company, so follow-up is very important. Furthermore, receiving your company's literature in their office creates a better likelihood that it will be read - in fact, studies show that it will get a 20 percent readership rate, which is considered excellent.And you have another quality name for your company's mailing email contact list.

Travel Impact

Because exhibitors and visitors generally travel to participate in exhibitions, the economic impact of this industry is significant. It is very important to make your reservations for airlines, hotels, car rentals and ground transportation, entertainment and dining well in advance of the event. In fact, at larger exhibitions, more than half of the audience travels more than 2400 kilometers (400 miles) to attend. At smaller shows, 43 percent of the visitors live within a 100 kilometer (60 mile) radius.

Your company's targeted marketing involving new product introductions, branding, market penetration, and promotions is generally planned on a geographical basis, and its timing is often strategically linked to exhibitions. Understanding audience composition at regional and smaller national shows, and the appropriate languages, is important when preparing your company's exhibition marketing plan.



Step 19: Final Comments

Successful business is built on relationships. Exhibitions are renowned around the globe for producing positive business-to-business relationships between exhibiting companies and visitors. You can't have a face-to-face relationship with a website or a sales brochure. In the final analysis, your company's exhibition success is directly related to how well your stand personnel interact with the show visitors - your current and future customers!



About the author:

Bob Dallmeyer was a longtime friend of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. He had over four decades of exhibition experience, working as a corporate exhibitor, exhibition organizer, industry supplier, and educator. He had served as chairman of both the International Association for Exhibition Management (IAEM) and the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA). He was a director of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and was named Tradeshow Week's "2004 Showman of the Year". He wrote for Trade Show Executive Magazine, Exhibition World, and TSEA's Web News. He also represented Brussels (Belgium) Exhibition Center in North America and, in 2006, he was inducted into the Convention Industry Council's "Hall of Leaders." He was an instructor for IAEM's "Certified in Exhibition Management" program and lectures at several universities. He consulted, lectured, and provided master training sessions on exhibition marketing around the globe.


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