Thursday 9 July 2009

Guide to exhibiting in a recession

There can be no denying that attendance levels at Exhibitions all over the world have dropped but contrary to first impressions this news is actually a good thing! There are still a large amount of visitors who are still taking the time out and those that do turn up are of a very high calibre. Believe it or not financial climates like these are actually a very good time for companies to exhibit.

More and more company owners and managers are breaking the tradition of sending groups of non-enthusiastic researchers and low ranked employees to events, favouring instead to attend themselves and get face to face with their existing and potential suppliers.
Exhibition providers are seeing a significant increase in the amount of key decision makers striding their way onto the delegate lists. This new breed of super-delegates consisting of eager and interested individuals means more quality leads and enquiries, and is great news for the exhibitor looking for new business.

To make it even better, the short-sighted companies who have decided to cancel their stand this year are just creating more business for those clever clogs who see these difficult times as an opportunity not a hindrance.

Of course there is the unavoidable fact that within these downturns there is less marketing budget and less marketing budget means the higher cost slices of the marketing pie, like exhibiting, are left with their heads placed firmly on the chopping block. Some companies take the view that if there is not enough money in the marketing kitty to facilitate the same size stand as last year then perhaps it is a better idea not to attend at all. That way ‘at least we don’t look bad in front of our competitors right’ ?,


The problem with not exhibiting
By not exhibiting you are not only missing out on the obvious things like the new leads and contacts that you would inevitably pick up at the show but the damage your absence does to your brand and your companies perception in your existing customers eyes is substantial.
When a customer is expecting to see you at an event and you are nowhere to be seen this conjures up a lot of questions in their mind and every single one of them is negative.
In difficult times it is more important than ever to get face to face with your existing clients and inviting them to meet with you on your stand for a catch up is a great way of doing this and reaffirming your market position in their eyes while your at it.

The solution:

Budgets are reduced…but that doesn’t mean your impact should be.

This is a list of tips on how to exhibit on a reduced spend without compromising your presence at events:

1.) Book a smaller stand: A downsized stand is not a bad thing. A smaller stand that has been cleverly designed with a good use of space and a well thought out message can be 10 times more effective than a larger one that just contains the same old tired graphics as last year with no real thought about how to engage with prospects. And remember to negotiate hard on the price of your stand space.

2.) Hire your stand: Renting your exhibition stand is a great way of keeping your costs down. It also gets rid of any storage costs and allows you to change the look of your stand each time you exhibit. Of course, if you are attending a lot of exhibitions then it works out cheaper in the long run to purchase your stand but if you are toying with the idea of purchasing then hiring is probably the best option at the moment.

3.) Use emails for pre and post show information: Instead of sending printed flyers out to inform customers of your presence at the show or thank them for attending, send them info by emails instead. Just make sure you make them personal so that the customer feels valued. In addition to emailing, do something really revolutionary…pick up the phone! Personally inviting your customers to visit your stand will prove a great use of time and effort and dramatically increase the chances of seeing them at the show.

4.) Make sure stand staff are trained: This is one of the most common mistakes that companies who exhibit make. Time after time you will see staff on an exhibition stand chomping down on their lunch or loudly joking with their colleagues to the exclusion of the person who is hovering around the edge of the stand, quietly waiting to be talked to. Your stand staff are the top priority when it comes to the success of your event and so many companies make the costly mistake of overlooking this. Choose the staff carefully and make sure they receive training or if not, at the very least make sure that they have been briefed on what the exact objectives are for the show.

5) Don’t waste your time on costly give-ways: A lot of the time they should be called ‘Throw-aways’ as that is what invariably happens to them. Unless you have something that is extremely useful then there is little point in spending out on these gimmicky additions.

6) Don’t miss your chance for free advertising: Members of the Press on both the trade and consumer sides of the event will be looking for any good news stories they can get their hands on….don’t disappoint them. Get together a press kit that is handed out. Include interesting information on new products or services and any company news that is interesting and relevant to the event.

7) Quick and enthusiastic follow up: You’ve followed all of the tips above and the show was a great success. Then you go and spoil all of that hard work by not following up on those hot leads quickly enough or with the correct amount of effort. A quick call by an order-hungry and pushy sales person can put the new prospect off and turn a hot lead cold. Try and keep the momentum from the show flowing and ask for a meeting where you can talk about how you can help them and hopefully start working together.

Exhibitions really are a unique opportunity. Can you think of anywhere else that brings the whole of an industry, from the suppliers and experts to the purchasers, decision-makers, consultants and even the press, together in one place to see everything that sector has to offer including news, product launches and invaluable information on the future direction of the industry.

With the talk of a possible double dip to this downturn, we may have some distance to go before things start looking up again, but those companies who are smart with their marketing spend and don’t buy into the ‘panic! and stop everything’ mentality that times like these can bring on, will find that they come out the other end stronger and in a better position in their marketplace.

Toby Davis is the sales and marketing director at Cannell Exhibitions. Suppliers of exhibitions and displays. visit website

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