Making A Profit At Exhibitions

For small business (and big business!) retailers, exhibiting their products at events, fairs, and exhibitions is a very popular and potentially lucrative way of making sales.
Why only ‘potentially lucrative’ you may ask? Well although this method of marketing products is recommended by many as effective, this isn’t always the case and when the cost of exhibiting is particularly high, which it can be at the big events, unless you are armed with the right knowledge and a good plan, the results and profitability of exhibiting can be a bit hit and miss.

Therefore here are my 10 top tips for making the most out of your exhibition dates:

1. Aims & Budget

Decide what it is you want to gain from the event; set clear goals and be very specific. Don’t try to accomplish too much in one day.

One of the benefits of exhibiting is the potential for new sales leads from actively interested visitors, and so ensure that one of your aims for the day is to quickly and efficiently gather customer data. Find a way to make them want to give you their details and make it quick and easy for them to do so.

Prepare your budget for the event carefully and be sure to factor in the following if applicable;

  • Cost of your exhibition space
  • Design costs for displays/banners and marketing literature
  • Print costs for displays/banners and marketing literature
  • The cost of any electricity, water/waste connections you may need
  • Staffing costs
  • Furniture hire or purchase (may be more cost effective to purchase if many events are planned)
  • Transport costs
  • Cost of any freebies or samples provided.

2. Location, Location, Location

Before you book your space conduct some research. Speak to past exhibitors and find out which are the best and which are the worst spots. You may hear useful comments such as “Hall 1 was busier because they had the fashion shows in there”.

Find out for your show where the big attractions will be, it makes sense to attempt to position yourself where traffic will be heaviest.

3. The Fine Print:

Carefully read your contract, including small print, for the event. Make a clear note of;

  • Dates and restrictions
  • What are your responsibilities and legal liabilities?
  • What happens in the event of disruptions such as weather (for outdoor events), fire and so on?
  • What happens if major attractions fail to attend such as speakers or large shows?
  • Transport; will you be compensated if there is reduced attendance if people cannot get to the event?
  • Do they insure you? Or do you insure yourself? Consider insurance for visitors to your stand, your staff, your hired/purchased furniture and equipment

4. Stand Out

You have just three seconds to attract a potential customer before they walk past you and onto someone else’s stand, here are some ideas to help you stand out in the crowd;

  • Bold decor and graphics with a strong visual impact (less text, and more images is the order of the day).
  • Consider an interesting theme, your staff can dress the part also and become part of the stand appeal.
  • You can use lighting, videos, and music to attract attention.
  • Demonstrations always go down well. Will the organisers let you use a microphone?
  • Freebies …competitions, refreshments, giveaways (balloons go down well with kids, don’t forget to put your branding on them though) and samples.

5. Be Proactive

You don’t need to rely on the organisers only to attract visitors to the event. Spend some time in the months leading up to the event conducting your own marketing campaign for your stall.

  • Invite the people that you want to meet.
  • Send out invitations and event promotions to your existing customer base.
  • Send out invitations and event promotions to your business network.
  • Do some PR. Local press will write about the event, can you score a mention?
  • Be sure to advertise the event on your website.
  • Also advertise on any online forums or social online networking groups you may belong to.

6. Are You Ready

Exhibiting can be a long and tiring day for the exhibitor, I’d recommend that you wear comfortable shoes, keep fresh breath mints on hand and don’t drink coffee (for the odour and because it’s a diuretic). Keep hydrated with water or herbal teas instead.

7. Design

The overall design, layout and graphics of your stand are of great importance. You have only about three seconds to convince passersby to pause at your stand and look more closely.

Keep graphics simple and bold, avoid cluttering the area with too many sales messages …keep to one or two very specific aims and ensure your graphics/banners/stand decor work towards these aims.

It’s easy to get carried away with displaying your products, however to encourage customers two things must be considered about the stand layout;

  • Being Open: Avoid putting a physical barrier between yourself and visitors, appear to be ‘open to communication/approach’ – this means don’t ‘close off’ the stand, make it a more open space instead. Be inviting.
  • Space: Make sure you leave space (depending on how small your stand is of course!) to move visitors to the side within the stand and discuss their needs. If they can’t come into the stand and consult with you and ask questions, they are less likely to purchase.
  • Think of your stand as a shop.

8. Planning Ahead

We’re all guilty of leaving things until the last minute, and I’ve more than once been at the mercy of last minute request for exhibition display designs.

Try to start the design and print of vital items required for your exhibition around six months in advance to ensure that print items arrive in plenty of time for your dates.

Leaving things until the last minute results in;

  • Rushing your designer (a rushed designer isn’t likely to creatively design at their very best).
  • Errors in your print proofs that you were too rushed and stressed to notice, and then have to put up with at the actual exhibition because you didn’t have the time or money to reprint.
  • A very stressed business owner…I’m sure you’ll attract lots of visitors to your stand with a pinched look to your fake smile as you stress about whether they will notice the typo in your banner text.
  • At the very worst some print items may fail to arrive in time. Imagine spending thousands on your exhibition space and not having any brochures to hand out to would be customers. The last thing you want to do is make a loss.

9. Visitor Research

Who will attend the event? What sort of buyers are they?

Find out from the organisers and do your own research as well. This way you are better armed to ensure your stand and your display messages are appealing to the sort of customers that will be walking past it.

10. Follow Up

Don’t be the sort of company that doesn’t do anything with the information you gather from your show – half of the benefits from the show come after the event.

Whatever it is you gathered from the show, whether that be sales leads, research or feedback, make sure you use this information to its greatest effect as soon as the show has finished – whilst you are still fresh in the minds of potential customers.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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