November 10, 2009
Not producing a written exhibition plan.
Ensure your plan relates to your overall marketing plan and defines the objective of attending the event. It should also clearly indicate how you will measure success.
Failing to promote your attendance adequately.
Again you should have a written plan, which should include pre-event, event and post-event promotional elements. Decide on the budget you will allocate to this and keep to it. Avoid being pressured by the event organisers into placing adverts in the exhibition brochure and other promotional products such as the event website. They will tell you that these products are designed to inform potential visitors…… but they are also an income stream for the organisers and you should ask yourself if their advice is unbiased and accurate before committing yourself.
Your promotional message will of course depend on the theme or product range you are promoting (you did decide on this when writing your exhibition marketing plan didn’t you?). The means of promoting your presence will depend on a number of factors and will guide you in choosing the mix used. Consider direct mail, fax, email, advertising, your website etc as possible mans of promotion.
Failing to attract an audience.
Event organisers arrange countless mailings and emails to last year’s attendees and those who have preregistered this year. Potential attendees will receive a deluge of information so you have to stand out if you are to compete for attention. Think laterally. Can you raise your profile in some novel way? Preferably without a massive outlay…. And definitely within the budget you set. If you go for a mailing ensure yours is benefit based. Remember buyers buy benefits not features. Whatever you do ensure the promotion happens before the event …. Several times a year I receive information about events after they have taken place … what an unbelievable waste.
Looking the same as every other stand.
Why would anyone visit you if you were just a clone of every other stand? Many years ago I arranged for an education client to promote their Animal Care courses at Crufts. No other college had ever attended and it was a fantastic success. The next year ten other colleges attended and based on my advice my clients avoided Crufts and found another event where there was no competition and they would not look like others.
Not giving people an incentive to visit your stand.
If you must compete with others from your sector then ensure you give visitors an incentive to visit your stand and not your competitors. You don’t want to be a “me to” exhibitor. People are eager to see new technologies or products or new applications of established technologies. They also like to see something that will make their life easier or save the money. What can you do to stand out?
Failing to inform the press about your presence and offer.
If they don’t know they cannot write a preview about you and are unlikely to write a followup feature. Some years ago I organised a stand at Gardeners World Live for a client. Our “product” was much the same as everyone else’s but we starting feeding information to the press six months before the event, followed up with a personal invite to our stand to every gardening journalist in the country – (do you know how many write columns, do local radio broadcasts and appear on TV? Hundreds). The outcome was articles in the press before and after the event with a four minute slot with Alan Titchmarsh on Gardeners World. Now that’s getting your promo to work well!
Not capitalising on your investment.
Over 95% of stands fail to capitalise adequately. Having spent all that money on paying for the stand and hotel accommodation for the staff they then fail to ensure the staff understand what is expected of them. The result is staff not familiar with the products, unsure of how to record enquiries or how they will be followed up etc. One of my potential clients even confessed that they had lost all the business cards collected at their last event because no one had been designated to deal with them! Did they need help! Stands are often cluttered with promotional material spilling out from undertable storage and often lack clear access and exit. A badly laid out stand doesn’t allow people to enter and leave easily and a perception of claustrophobia will prevent visitors coming onto your stand.
I organised an event some years ago that was being attended by a member of the Royal Family. One exhibitor decided that with a little promotion theirs would be the stand that TV would choose to film HRH’s visit. What they hadn’t considered was the opinion of the Royal Protection Squad. The stand was so full of equipment that the RPS took one look and decided that in an emergency that could not get HRH to safety. The MD had planned the whole event on him being televised with HRH and failed dismally.
Other reasons for failing to capitalise include:
Poorly briefed staff, unaware of products and not sure who to pass enquiries to. One of my potential clients once explained that they hadn’t followed up enquires last year because no one had been delegated to bring the enquiry pad back to the office. Needless to say once they became clients this never happened again.
Running out of promotional material and leaflets never being delivered in time for the event.
Leaving the follow up of potential clients until the office isn’t too busy. Surprise, surprise, your competitors will have approached these propsects first.
Failing to use the event as a marketing tool.
So many companies fail to tie the event in with their marketing strategy, don’t follow enquiries through or use the event to gather business cards. Business cards do not mean business and those companies that reward the member of staff that collect most business cards are on a hiding to nothing!
Ensure your stand conveys one key message in goodsized bold text. Avoid reams of copy and miniscule photos that confuse your prospect. A good picture can say a thousand words …. but poor pictures paint another picture – they say you are confused, muddled and to be avoided.
Remember most punters will never read the copy on your stand. Your finely honed copy will be lost on them if it consists of more than a few words.
Not setting up on time.
The greatest sin, for me, is the exhibitor that is still putting their stand together 30 minutes after opening time ….. closely followed by the staff that fail to turn up on time.
I once attended an event at the Royal Dublin Society in Dublin where the three staff from one of our competitos turned up on the first morning and left an enquiry book on the stand. The next time they appeared was on day four when they collected it. There weren’t many enquiries in it.
Number 10 is your opportunity to add your own thoughts.
Write down just one example of bad practice you have seen and you will be on the way to success.
The above give a flavour of what is needed to capitalise on exhibitions. If you need more advice on how to exhibitions can make your business a stunning success give me a call.