Attending exhibitions and trade shows is one of the best ways to show off your product or your business to the world while connecting with vendors, suppliers and major buyers, and that’s why it’s essential that you make a good impression. We often tend to focus on the human element like training the right sales reps and presenter, but we frequently neglect all the little aspects that make exhibitions a success. Here are 8 exhibition mistakes you should avoid at all costs.
Ignoring the Exhibition Manual
When you sign up for an exhibition, you need to read – and follow – the exhibitor’s manual. Understand all of their requirements or else you’ll have to make unplanned, last minute changes to your exhibit. You may have to take down signs, squeeze into a smaller space or have to alter your professional exhibit in ways that make it appear amateurish. This saves you from mistakes like bringing light boxes that can’t be plugged into the power outlets you have or aren’t allowed on the exhibition room floor at all. Know the rules before you have exhibition flooring made.
Not Having an Appealing Exhibition
It is a major mistake to have an unappealing exhibition stand. A poorly-designed exhibition stand will repel the people you want to attract. A generic looking exhibition stand will blend into the background the same way a sign in a garden the color of grass and rocks will be ignored. This is why an exhibition stand made of beige, brown, grey and black standing walls is a waste of your time and money to set up.
Eye-catching presentations and aggressive product giveaways can only partially make up for a bad exhibition stand. The solution is to secure well-designed exhibition display stands that will stand out from the crowd and attract one at the same time. You could check out a website like discountdisplays.co.uk if you’re looking for attractive exhibition stands. Companies like Discount Displays can provide banner stands, popup stands, modular furniture, display panels and display stands as well.
There are times where a poor layout makes a booth useless even though all of the right design elements are present. For example, branded furniture with a sales rep sitting behind it needs to be readily accessible to the public, not sitting behind half a dozen flags and a popup stand. The literature likewise needs to be where passers-by can literally grab one as they go along, not behind your representatives. This is almost as bad as not providing take-home information to your visitors. You need to provide take-home information since this significantly increases the odds they’ll return to your stand that day or contact you after the event.
Making the Exhibition Too Busy
You should aim for a balanced set of marketing materials. For example, you should have banners showing your product and a literature stand that lets the public take the materials they’re interested in. An exhibition spot surrounded by flags, displays and bric-a-brac could turn off potential customers since it can be seen as a living commercial.
Attending the Wrong Exhibitions
Your exhibitions need to be at events where your ideal audience is in attendance. If you’re selling a commercial product, you want to set up an exhibition where customers for that product are attending. An industry exhibition is only beneficial in this case if it is either open to the public or attended by distributors that would buy your product to sell in their stores. If you’re selling a product or service to other businesses, you should be at exhibitions dominated by your audience.
Failing to Define Your Goals
Why are you going to the exhibit? Have more of a plan than “marketing”. Are you going there to increase brand awareness? Then you need to be handing out branded memorabilia people will keep and remember you by. Are you going there to promote a particular product? Then your exhibition needs to focus on working models or videos of the product in use and staff prepared to explain the technical specifications of the product.
Or are you there to promote a key person? Then the exhibition booth needs to be designed to promote that person’s individual brand and any materials they have like books and CDs. If you’re there to meet with vendors and potential customers, ensure that the booth facilitates product demonstrations as well as private discussions on placing orders.
You also need to know your goals and end results so that can measure your success. How many orders do you expect to collect? How many books did you sell? How many people signed up for your email marketing list?
Sending the Wrong People
A great looking exhibition booth with the right marketing materials will still flop if you have the wrong people manning it. Don’t send attractive people who can’t answer questions. It may not be a good idea to send your subject matter experts if they cannot communicate in a confident and friendly manner.
If you’re sending an engineer or programmer, perhaps they’d be better sent to give a technical presentation in one of the auditoriums instead of trying to meet and greet a hundred strangers. Another mistake is sending the cheapest talent on hand. Interns and new hires may be well-versed in the material they memorized, but they may not know how to answer questions from serious customers short of suggesting that the person look it up on the company website.
You also have to choose your booth manager wisely. A manager who expects people to remain upbeat and engaging for an entire ten-hour shift is not only wrong but they are hurting your company’s image with customers. Instead, you need a manager who will schedule realistic shifts. They also need to plan realistic schedules for set-up and tear down so that you don’t have people rushing to finish setting up as the first customers come into the exhibition hall.
Setting realistic incentives for performance is a sign of a good manager. Bad managers can actually be the root cause of other mistakes on this list by not training exhibition staff in how to engage with the public or not providing them with the information they need to know.
A good manager will teach them to never leave the booth unattended or get caught up in conversations, ignoring the reasons they are there in the first place. And a good manager will be available when issues arise so that your exhibition staff doesn’t panic when things go wrong.
Not Knowing the Right Information
Even when you send the right people for the job, it doesn’t work unless they’ve been trained. They need to be familiar with their elevator pitch and know the ins and outs of the product or service they’re promoting. Another common mistake occurs when someone won’t discuss price, though that’s critical information for many would-be buyers.
Whether this is because the staffer doesn’t know the current price or thinks it is wrong to discuss it, it doesn’t matter since you’re unable to give someone information they need. If your prices are customizable or subject to change in the future, still give your staff minimum and maximum price ranges that they can quote to potential customers.
Failing to Follow Up with Attendees Appropriately
Exhibitions are sometimes seen as a one-time event. You go every year to the event to connect with clients, vendors and customers. This view is a mistake. You need to follow up with exhibition attendees. If they’ve signed up for your email marketing list, enter their information into your customer relationship management system as soon as possible and send them a thank you for attending. Consider having someone enter the data into the CRM system each evening.
If they’ve asked for free samples or a meeting with a sales rep, act on it as soon as possible. If someone reported an issue with your product or customer service, hand over that information to someone who can contact the customer and resolve the issue.
If you have a sales lead, follow up on it. If exhibition staff doesn’t have the time or skills to do so, have a formal process for handing off leads to someone who can follow up on it in a timely manner.
Another mistake is treating all leads from a particular exhibition as if they are the same. Don’t send the same email to everyone unless it is a simple “thank you for signing up with our email list, here’s the freebie we promised for that” message. Train exhibition staff to identify hot, warm and cold leads as they’re collected, and then have the hot leads followed up on first and foremost. Try to gather specific marketing information such as whether they’re a corporate buyer, small business owner, or general member of the public.
Exhibitions, when handled the right way, can help promote brand awareness and help sell your product or service. By refraining from committing the errors in this article, you’ll avoid wasting time and money and ultimately hurting your brand’s image.
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- 5 Trade Show Marketing Mistakes and How to Prevent Them