More so than ever, manufacturing companies need to get themselves in front of customers. One of the most tried-and-tested methods for this is exhibiting at relevant trade shows. But these come with the price.
To ensure your best chances for success and ROI at exhibitions, we sat down with the Event Director of Mark Allen Exhibitions, Jason Dante. Mark Allen Exhibitions are responsible for some of the biggest and best engineering and manufacturing trade shows, which see thousands of visitors each year, so we think Jason is the perfect person to give advice on how to get the most out of exhibitions!
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Now let’s get into the top tips for before, during and after an exhibition.
7 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR ATTENDING MANUFACTURING TRADE SHOWS AND EXHIBITIONS IN 2022
This blog covers the seven most important things you should do before, during and after visiting trade shows this year.
READ THE EXHIBITORS MANUAL
USE THE EXHIBITORS PORTAL
SET GOALS AND OBJECTIVES FOR THE EVENT
CREATE AN IMPRESSIVE STAND DESIGN
ENGAGE WITH THE VISITORS
BRING CONVENIENT LITERATURE, SUCH AS BROCHURES AND BUSINESS CARDS
CONTACT YOUR CUSTOMERS DIRECTLY AFTER THE EVENT
Read on to find out more expert advice from Jason Dante. Or, listen to our podcast!
3 TOP THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE EXHIBITION
1. Read the exhibitors manual
When you sign up to exhibit at a trade show, you’re almost always sent a large document with everything you need to know for a successful event. This includes any health and safety or building regulations relating to your stand-build.
Here’s what Jason said about the exhibitor manuals:
“It’s a big document, up to 80 pages long, not all necessary, but it will answer every question you have. We have been running exhibitions for 45 years, and every question that has been asked is answered in the manual. We still get a lot of calls from people asking questions, and we always refer them back to the manual.”
2. Use the Exhibitor portal
The exhibitor portal is an online area that the event organisers set up. When you’re signed up to exhibit, you’re usually prompted to create an account and fill in any necessary information on the portal. This acts as an online stand that the event organisers can use to promote your attendance.
Visitors can also use the online services of the exhibition website to view the floor plan and these “online stands”, so they can plan their day of networking and purchasing!
Here’s what Jason said about the exhibitor portals:
“Use your unique login to upload your essential products, company information, flyers, pictures and videos. This allows the exhibition organisers to promote your business way before the show even begins.”
3. Set objectives
Before you exhibit at an exhibition, consider the reason you’re attending. It’s an expensive event to go to without a plan, so consider making one.
Do you want to raise brand awareness? How will you measure this?
Are you hoping to hit a specific sales target, or make some new international contacts?
Assess your goals and what you wish to achieve from the exhibition. Ask yourself, what needs to happen to make this event successful, or “worth it” in your perspective?
Here’s what Jason said about setting exhibition objectives:
“People come and wing it. They hope to make returns, but they don’t, because they didn’t set objectives. This is a key thing to do to measure the success of any event. You might go to one and take 1,000 leads, then in 6 months, find out they’re not worth anything. At another show, you might take 20 and they all are quality. You need to find out who your target customers are and be able to identify them on site.”
3 THINGS TO CONSIDER DURING YOUR TIME AT THE EXHIBITION
4. Stand out designs
The design of your exhibition stand is a significant element of what could draw visitors and customers to start conversations with your brand, and a good design will leave a lasting impression. Here’s what Rob and Jason discussed in the podcast:
Rob: “People often treat exhibition stands as fixed spaces and try and follow the crowd. What we try and advise people is to just consider: you are hiring a space somewhere. What can you do in that space that will maximise and bring excitement?”
"A recurring theme at engineering and manufacturing trade shows is exhibitor stands with large barriers between them and their prospective customers. This could be a bar or a display cabinet, and for my money, they are very off-putting."
"I'd advise placing large objects such as these at the back of your stand. This encourages visitors to enter the space and start having those all-important conversations. I believe making your prospects feel welcome and comfortable at your stand is as critical as what it's promoting."
Jason: “Stand design is so important and I think an overlooked element of exhibiting. I suggest using masking tape to map it out in the office and moving things around. Understand there is a limited amount of space, so don’t block yourself in and make it unwelcoming. You want to make it as open as possible.”
Rob: “It’s the senses. In marketing, we talk about how we get the senses firing; we try and create an emotional connection and create some sort of feeling. Whereas, at an exhibition you’re bringing that physical world in. People can flick through a brochure, and see and touch your machines and products. It makes such a difference. It’s an experience - as a marketing tool, you want to bring all the things you can to connect on as many levels as possible.”
Jason: “Yes! Interestingly, I had a customer who brought a bread maker to a show. I asked if they created a component of the bread maker - but it was just because the smell attracted people to their stand!”
5. Engage with your visitors
Consider which members of your team you take to exhibitions. Are they best suited to make face-to-face connections, and are they knowledgeable about your products?
Turning up is one thing, but engaging with your visitors is another. Multi-day events can be exciting but also exhausting. Make sure you take regular breaks, or even switch up the team halfway through the week if necessary, so you’ve got a supply of fresh energy to take connections to the next level.
Here’s what Jason had to say:
“Every organiser's nightmare is to have someone sitting on their stand playing Candy Crush, not making eye contact with anyone and then complaining they have no leads after the show! It’s all about engaging. Speak to people as they’re walking past, and ask them open questions. For example, it’s not “Did you find what you were looking for?” Instead, ask them, “What are you looking for?” Or “How can I help?”.
Once you know your customer’s pain points, you can solve them, and you won’t know them unless you talk to them. Just smile and be friendly!
Finally, don’t be afraid to point them in another direction. Being helpful is memorable, and when they do need your services, they will remember your company. It’s much more valuable than saying “No, sorry, I can’t help” or fumbling through and getting it wrong.”
6. Bring convenient literature
Brochures - As mentioned previously, having physical advertising materials with you on the day, such as a brochure, invites people to browse through and initiates an opportunity to start a conversation. They also have something to take with them to remind them of your brand, so it’s always best to include your contact details in any physical literature you bring!
Business cards - There’s been talk about whether business cards are still relevant now, with LinkedIn making it easy to connect instantly. Business cards are still helpful in ensuring people can contact you, follow up after the event, and give them a physical reminder of meeting you.
The show guide - Usually, events will provide a show guide, which is essentially a directory of all exhibitors. Show organisers are usually on top of this, but it can’t hurt to make sure your details are submitted to the show guide! This is especially important for giving those visitors who didn’t get a chance to meet you an opportunity to find your website or connect with you online.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO AT THE END OF THE TRADE SHOW
7. Connect with your customers!
There’s no point holding back when it comes to following up with the prospects and customers you meet during the event. Especially as this year might be the first time you have seen them face-to-face since the start of the pandemic.
There’s no need to rush in with a hard sale; simply drop your key customers and prospects a personalised message, email or phone call just to say thank you for their time and that it was great to catch up with them. This will keep you in the top of their minds and is an excellent way to round-off the event.
Jason said, "The biggest mistake I see my customers making after a trade show is this - following up with leads some two to three months after the event. What are they waiting for? Strike whilst the iron is still hot! Otherwise, someone else will."
There you have it! Seven top tips from an expert on what to do when attending a trade show.
Many thanks to Jason from Mark Allen Exhibitions for his sound advice.
You can catch more of Jason on The Engine Room Podcast, and connect with Jason on LinkedIn to keep up to date with the latest from engineering and manufacturing exhibitions.
Don’t forget to come and visit FINALLY’s Digital Hub for free marketing advice at EDS, Stand D23!