Pete Allen, Managing & Creative Director at 4D Design, writes the latest guest article for Taylor Alden
Acquiring new clients and finding relevant customer channels can often be a challenge whatever the size or nature of your business. Exhibitions provide an extremely effective platform to connect with new audiences and engage new customers.
As a start-up or small organisation, the thought of exhibiting for the first time can be daunting, but the opportunities should not be missed; create awareness of your brand, valuable brand growth and stand out from the crowd as an industry leader.
- Setting show objectives and goals
Whether your goal is to raise awareness of your brand, launch new products or increase customer reach it’s important to set quantifiable objectives at the start of the project. This will ensure that when it comes to the evaluation stages you have a benchmark in place to measure success. An effective way of goal setting would be to use the SMART approach ensuring goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. How many stand visitors would you like to have? How many stand meetings would be feasible? How many follow up meetings would prove the exercise as a success?
- Designing a memorable experience
Memorable experiences allow visitors to feel and build an emotional connection with your brand. Positive experiences fuel a means for loyalty and brand ambassadors. When designing your show booth, outlining how you intend to engage and interact with stand visitors is vital in ensuring brand communications are effectively received.
- Getting your brand on the map
Utilising digital and creating awareness campaigns around your attendance at the show, at least a few months in advance, is important in ensuring the right people plan on attending your stand and don’t miss you. Objectives for your first time exhibiting will more than likely be to create awareness around your brand, products and services; so supporting activities that achieve this prior and during the show are vital. So, what you can do to get your brand noticed and on the map?
- Run a competition
Hardly out of the ordinary, but competitions work! The chance to win a brand-new iPad or a free trial for your product/service can be effective for attracting prospects to your stand. After all, everybody loves a freebie.
- Bring your brand to life
Investing in bringing your brand to life will assist in sustainable growth and providing a memorable brand that provokes positive feeling. Go the extra mile, make sure show visitors remember you beyond the show for days and weeks after.
- Invite show visitors to a hosted lunch or party
Hosting your very own lunch or stand party can be a great way to draw attention and footfall to your stand. It can also be a great exercise to create awareness around your brand in a less formal and more inviting setting, as well as gaining industry insight. Find out what your target customers’ needs and wants are and use this primary research to fuel future business and growth strategies.
- Creating a presence through storytelling
Storytelling is an art, it activates our brains and for years has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. Whether that be one-to-one information conversations or business communications. Like when a close friend tells you an amazing story and weeks later you tell them the same story as if it was your idea? That’s due to storytelling being one of the only ways to activate parts in the brain so that the listener turns the story into their own experience. A powerful way to get people on board with your brand ideas, thoughts and beliefs and to create your desired brand presence.
- Engaging and converting stand visitors
At exhibitions you can obtain leads which are of much higher quality than anywhere else as, you are amongst individuals who are attending the show because they have a real genuine interest in the industry. Engaging with your stand visitors on a personal level increases the chances of you building long lasting relationships that convert into valuable business opportunities. Think about what truly engages your target audience beyond business motives and instead on a personal level. Consider what innovative technology will cater to these motives, such as interactive demo screens, virtual reality, video content on a large scale and so on.
- Gaining industry insight- Listen to your target audience
Listening to your target customers rather than just hearing them can provide great business value. What are their requirements, how much value does your brand, products and services add and do they meet their basic requirements, what are their expectations? Customer demands change constantly and due to the rapid development of digital, customers expect services and products to be delivered in real-time. So, by just listening to them and their industry opinions you can gain insight into how you can meet and exceed expectations for these demands. Use this insight to form the basis of successful future growth strategies.
As well as listening to prospective clients for industry insight, you should keep an eye on what competitors are up to at the show. Take time out to walk the show with a colleague, see what competitors are offering compared to what you currently offer and visualise how you want to position yourself in the future within the industry.
- Measuring ROI- How to identify brand growth through post show evaluation
Measuring brand growth can be a challenging task but there are few steps you can implement to ensure you can identify return on investment at the show:
- Utilise tech that can measure stand results
Innovative technology provides so many opportunities, especially for data capturing and measurement. An example would be installing heat sensors in the flooring of the stand to log exactly how many stand visits you receive. You could also map out the journey stand visitors take and how long they spend at each area of the stand for a more detailed insight into visitor journey.
- Log stand meetings
Being proactive in logging all stand meetings (including more informal meetings) where genuine interest in the brand is expressed will be beneficial for following up prospects after the show. This is where most conversions usually take place, so it is vital that key data is captured. By measuring stand meetings and footfall you can grasp how much brand engagement you have generated and what return this will provide for the business.
- Monitor social conversations and brand engagement
Monitoring social conversations around the show will allow you to find the prospects you didn’t quite manage to catch email addresses for. Thank them for visiting the stand and ask them to follow your business page to keep in-touch. Keeping an eye on social activities will allow you to see what perspective clients and prospective clients have of your brand, your stand elements will have affected this and if positive will therefore have contributed to providing a return on your investment.
- Allow for long-term results
Brand awareness and engagement occur over a long-term basis and are not instant. You should allow for long-term results, although hopefully you might have some show visitors sign-up to your product or service on the day. Depending on the nature of your business (as you will most likely already know) the buyer’s journey may be a long process involving many decision makers, so don’t be disheartened if you do not see drastic changes straight after the show. Instead, look at how the show has got your brand on the map and has positioned you within the industry.