WORDS LUCY NEWSON
HAVING A TRADE STAND at an event can be an excellent form of face-to-face marketing. It will enable you to connect with potential clients and, especially if you’ve taken care to select the right show that relates closely to your business, the room should be crammed full of your ideal clients. It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and to make sales and, if you do your homework in advance, it can be both a profitable experience and a golden opportunity to raise your profile.
Deciding to take a stand at a trade show can be a big deal in terms of the cost and the time it will take up, but Lucy Newson considers that, if you take care to pick the right event, it can be a winner.
Many of those attending a wedding fair or a trade show will be in the mood to make a purchase and, even if they’re not looking to invest on that actual day, these are the kinds of events that will give you the chance to collect some invaluable contact details to add to your database. You can also create a buzz around your stand by displaying photographs from photo shoots with previous clients – make sure you have written permission to use them beforehand, of course – and this will help you to attract footfall and give you a starting point for conversations.
At any show there will be a number of other stands from non-competing businesses in your sector, and this gives you the scope for some useful networking. For example, if you’re exhibiting at a wedding fair there will be the likes of florists, wedding planners and wedding venues who are likewise looking to make connections, so take the opportunity to introduce yourself and to see if there could be any collaborations worth considering. Maybe the venues are looking for an in-house photographer, or perhaps the florists need some fresh imagery. In any case, having a stand at a show will increase brand awareness, strengthen your know-like-trust factor and allow you the opportunity to get instant feedback on your services/products. You’ll also have the chance to develop your selling skill set, so some positive ticks all round!
However, despite these plus points, taking a stand at a show is still a big commitment. Results aren’t guaranteed; there could be a low turnout to the event or there could perhaps be factors that affect your stand’s footfall, such as other photographer competitors in the same room. There’s also a risk that your businesses’ reputation could be affected if your stand isn’t up to standard. You’re putting yourself in the public eye, so it’s important to put your best foot forward.
Choosing The Right Show
If you’ve decided to take a stand at a show this year then, before investing, it’s vital to complete some comprehensive research. Consider as many potential shows as possible, and don’t discount smaller local events, especially if you’re just starting out. Think about the risk vs reward; would the high-risk event you’re considering signing up for result in a potentially low or high reward? Many factors can contribute to this, such as whether your ideal client is likely to be attending, the number of competitors who will have a stand there, how well publicised it is and so on.
Take time to consider the audience that you’re likely to encounter at the event. Here, any statistics that you can receive from the organisers is invaluable. What has been the show’s footfall in previous years? Did your target audience attend? Were they investing whilst at the show? The more information you collect, the easier it will be to decide whether to book a stand.
Don’t take on lots of stands within a couple of months of each other. Instead choose one or two; focus on making them the best they can be, and then subsequently evaluate how they performed. This will then give you time to
adapt and change strategy if necessary.
Also, when comparing potential events, consider any extras that are offered by the organisers. For example, will you be advertised on a high-performing website? Are you going to be included in the show brochure? How much general publicity is the show going to receive?
You also need to consider the following:
❚ Monetary Investment
You’ll need to invest in the following; stand, accommodation, travel, insurance (public liability), display items, marketing material and so on. This can very quickly add up into a large sum, so consider what this is likely to be early on, to enable you to estimate your potential return on investment.
❚ Time Investment
Consider the time you have available to dedicate towards an event. You will need to prepare before attending and then spend time on evaluating and subsequently following up leads. Show lengths can also vary, from one day to five or more.
❚ Size of Stand
Different stand sizes are likely to be available, with larger stands obviously representing a bigger investment. Lay out the size of your potential stand with some string in an open space, and this allows you to visualise how it can all work out. Will people be able to easily walk around and browse? How will the overall layout look: might it be overcrowded or, conversely, have too much empty space? How can you incorporate your branding into the overall look? If you really can’t get the layout to work then explore the option of choosing a different size.
LONDON INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW OLYMPIA
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE of attending a show was booking a stand at the London International Horse Show at Olympia in December 2019, a sevenday event that attracts over 80,000 attendees. Lots of preparation went into the stand, including designing how we were going to display all of the frames we had with us, and it was really exciting to see the stand ‘come to life’.
It was an incredible atmosphere and everyone who came to visit us at the stand was so lovely, I really enjoyed hearing stories about their animals, and meeting people I’d been friends with on social media for the very first time. During the show we also ran two prize draws to win photo shoots, which were extremely popular, and we came away with a number of firm photo shoot bookings from new clients, along with numerous gift vouchers purchased, with interest coming from all around the UK.
However, it was also the success after the show that made our ROI strong. Some of the people we met at Olympia subsequently followed us on social media and then booked in at a later date. Word of mouth marketing was also important, and meant that family/friends of those who visited the show also enquired and booked in. The experience has certainly encouraged us to take stands at more shows in the future, although that doesn’t mean that I’ve closed my mind to other marketing methods. I believe a healthy combination of a few different marketing channels is most effective.
When preparing for show day, there are some key tasks you’ll need to focus on. Firstly, the event is likely to send you through an advance information pack with everything you need to know before the show begins. Read this thoroughly to ensure you’ll be complying with all the health & safety regulations and that your insurance is adequate. Create a checklist from the information provided, which will highlight all the tasks you need to complete in the run up to the show.
Make sure to advertise your attendance prior to the event. You’ll want as many potential clients as possible to know that you’re going to be there to encourage them to come along to meet up in person.
It’s the day of the show and your stand looks incredible. Be proactive, and shout about it to all and sundry. You should be presenting your best self at all times so, if it’s a long event, make sure you have others to help you, so you can step out from time to time to take a break.
Consider running a competition during the event, since these can be very popular attention grabbers. Also aim to collect the contact details of those entering ensuring, of course, that you follow all GDPR guidelines. This will subsequently help you to build up your crucial customer database.
Also consider a special show discount offer, to encourage potential clients to purchase on the day. Your main goal throughout should be to build connections. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t inundated with sales during the show, since you could find these will follow soon after the event if leads are handled well.
Within a week of the event ending, follow up the leads and connections you made during the show. This could be a friendly email that’s sent to everybody or, if it was a smaller event, you might wish to drop a quick phone call to each individual. Be sure not to wait too long after the event before doing this, as you want to nurture the bonds you made and to stay in the forefront of their minds.
Also, whilst the event is fresh in your mind, analyse what went well and what perhaps was less successful. Make as many notes as possible, so that you have the fruits of the lessons learned ready for your next event. Review your ROI and make sure to revisit this a couple of months later, since sales might occur after the event.
If a traditional stand isn’t for you, there are virtual trade shows, such as ‘The Virtual Wedding Fair’ by Magpie Wedding – www.magpiewedding.com/the-virtualwedding-fair. Alternatively, you could look at offering sponsorship for an event, or investing in advertising, without the need to physically attend. Although this removes the face-to-face interaction that can be so useful, it’s likely to be a smaller investment and potentially it could have the same benefits for your business.
Also consider other forms of marketing, such as investing more time/money into social media. If you have a method that works for your business it can sometimes be good to double down on this, rather than looking to invest in new ventures. Just check that all of your eggs don’t end up being in the one basket.
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