Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

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Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

How to Make Exhibitions Work For Businesses

PR: Crowds at ChelseaBusiness Exhibitions & Visitor Events Are Huge Business. But Exhibitors Often Don’t Understand How to Make Exhibitions Work For Businesses & Fail to Get Good Results & ROI on Their Exhibition Spend.




What Do Successful Exhibitors Do Well?

The event I went to was a catering trade show. It had a large number of stands and there was a lot of competition from others selling the same products or services. So standing out was vital.

How to Make Exhibitions and Exhibiting Work For BusinessesOne stand I visited was quite big, had one staff member and was very clearly about cheese. The words Local Farmhouse Cheese was emblazoned across the back wall, there were samples of four cheeses and the guy on the stand both knew his stuff and was very engaging.

To support the stand they had a limited amount of good quality literature and a small recipe book featuring their cheeses. It’s the sort of thing people take home and keep .. and so keep being reminded of the product and the producer.

Remember: most giveaways on trade stands get carried home, never looked at and eventually binned. So producing something people might keep for years is ideal. In fact, it’s essential.


What Exhibitors Do Badly at Exhibitions

The worse thing to do at an exhibition is to have a non-descript stand that isn’t staffed or where the staff ignores visitors.

A Lack of Staff

Several stands had no staff on them at 10.30 am. Deserted, no one to answer questions then or when I passed by an hour later.  There were a thousand visitors passing this stand and they probably paid several £thousand for the space. All wasted.


No Clarity About Products or Services

Other stands were non-descript. Several didn’t make it clear what they did. I stood looking at one and was approached and asked if I wanted to try a sample. My reply was a sample of what, what do you do?

The guy was quite surprised and said they produced organic tea. I then pointed out to him that the words organic and tea were nowhere on the display. He expressed surprise that they could miss such an obvious error but did point to a graphic of a large teapot. The fact that it was largely obscured by a table and a pile boxes seem to go over his head.

The thing is signs and graphics that are obscured have no value.  Pop up stands are a prime example of where it goes wrong with information being obscured. A popup almost always has the contact details at the bottom. So putting it behind a table means it fails to work.

Remember it takes the average person a few seconds to walk past your stand. You need to grab their attention in 2-3 seconds. That’s impossible if you obscure your purpose, product or service.


Lack of Information 

There were several stands full of fruit and veg. I’m not sure why. Were they a click and collect operation? Did they deliver? Were they a wholesale market stall? What geographic area did they serve?

One made it very clear though. They had some great produce and a big sign saying they delivered six days a week in X area. You could order online, change orders up to midnight and their payment terms were clear. They were busier than the other produce stands. I think the reason is clear.


Staff Ignore Visitors  

We went onto one stand twice.

On each occasion there were two staff members chatting and despite standing there reading their leaflets and discussing the virtues of their products between ourselves they ignored us. Perhaps they didn’t see us. Two adults are perhaps hard to see when eight foot away!!!

This was a stand where I was actually a potentially serious buyer. They had something I wanted amd I would have placed an order if they had answered a few queries I had. But they ignored me.

Of course I could have butted in to their conversation about something trivial. But part of what I wanted to query was their responsiveness and customer care.  By ignoring me they demonstrated everything I needed to know and I’ve now placed an order elsewhere.


Exhibition Experience

For many years I was responsible for a team that exhibited at in excess of 100 events a year. Most were in the UK with some in Europe. They ranged from very small events where only a few hundred people visited to huge events that attracted 200,000 visitors over three days. So I learnt a lot about what worked and what didn’t. It was how I made my living for years. For many years the events included exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show (and winning a Gold Medal), exhibiting at Burghley, Gatcombe and Badminton Horse Trials, Exhibiting at the Higher Education Fair at the RDS in Dublin, stands at Crufts, Careers Fairs in many counties, lots of Agricultural Shows and much more.  So my advice comes from extensive experience.

Before exhibiting for the first I always recommend attending an event and experiencing it from a visitor perspective. What worked for you? What didn’t?

Of course you aren’t your customer so you need to be careful of running a stand to satisfy your own quirks and foibles. But this is still a good exercise.


There’s a lot more about Exhibitions and Exhibiting on this page

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