dms_26nov_081 Exhibition stand at Digital Marketing Show (now Integrated Live)

Event season is upon us, with a number of trade shows set to take place over the upcoming months. As a business owner, you probably realise a trade shows importance in your overall marketing strategy - if your target audience and competitors are attending; do you really want to miss out? No. But you need to be a bit more convincing with your approach to exhibiting at trade shows if you’re really going to make them work for your business.

You may be used to the faceless interactions we’ve all become accustomed to in our digital lives, but trade shows give you the opportunity to meet customers face to face and engage with them in a ‘back-to-basics’ way.It’s time to rethink your exhibition strategy, and take the good old-fashioned sales pitch to the sales floor.

Set Your GoalsThere’s no point in attending an exhibition if you have no idea why you’re attending in the first place.

You’ve established that your audience and competitors are going to be there. But, what is it that you want to get out of the experience? Is your goal to generate leads? Gain investment? Or get your product in front of the right people? Set clear goals from the start, then build up how your event is going to plan out from there.

Analyse what you did previously at similar trade shows. What worked and what didn’t? Data is there for you to use to your advantage. Don’t ignore the numbers, use them to aid your strategy and create a winning exhibition formula.

Create an ExperienceSay goodbye to trestle tables, because quite frankly they aren’t going to do anything for your business. If your stand looks boring, then you aren’t going to attract anyone to it. And an empty stand, raises suspicions.

Everyone is going to be trying to outdo each other, it’s part of the trade show game. However, it’s no good wasting your event budget on a gimmicky stand if it’s not going to drive results. Stay true to your brand, and remember the goals that you set will help you to define the kind of experience you want event attendees to get when they visit your stand. Do you want to close sales there and then? Or do you want a stand which creates a long lasting impression and creates opportunities for your business later down the line?

Audiences no longer attend events because there’s something they necessarily need, it’s often about seeing what’s out there. We live in an instant world where anything can be attained. Your role is to convince attendees that they need your services and products to enhance their own offering or lives.

Provide Useful TakeawaysExhibitions are freebie central. If you’re going to be offering leaflets and pens at your even it isn’t going to make your business memorable, as you’ll simply be thrown onto the pile with the rest of the useless takeaways.

Provide useful takeaways for those who visit you. What can you provide them with that they’ll actually use and allows you to get your key contact details across? Items such as tote bags can be used to carry around event extras whilst they’re there, and afterwards too. Branded with your logo and contact details, you’re instantly reaching a much wider audience as the bag travels around.

Think outside of the box as to what you can offer as a takeaway – the more unique the better.

Influence Your AudienceMany event goers will be attending trade shows because they want to learn more and hear from the experts. You are the industry expert – so, share your knowledge and make your influence in the industry known.

Attend events where you have the opportunity to be a speaker or panellist. If you’ve got a story to tell, or tips to share, then get out there and start sharing.

People want to hear helpful advice and consume useful content. Don’t go out there with the intention of making a sales pitch, your goals should be to inform in an educational way. If event attendees see your business as one of - if not - the most knowledgeable businesses there, then you’re far more likely to see results.

By Richard LeCount, managing director, USB Makers