By now, your marketing and events calendar should be in full swing for the year ahead.
If not, that’s ok too. It’s never too late to start shouting about your business from the rooftops – if only it were that easy, I’d go grab a ladder now. Ha ha!
An excellent forum for sharing your brand with a niched and targeted audience is either an exhibition, expo or trade fair.
Have you already committed to, or have been thinking about exhibiting your business at a expo or trade fair. Yes?
Well now is the time to start planning.
“With attention to the details, a focused approach to generating interest and most importantly a clear follow up plan, you will likely have a great expo.”
What is an exhibition or expo vs a trade show?
An exhibition, exposition (known as an expo) or trade fair is where a specific business sector will expose and market their own products.
A trade show is similar to a trade fair, however you are also able to trade and sell your items via your stand.
Why is exhibiting a good idea for your business?
Exhibitions and trade shows are an excellent forum for introducing your business to your target audience and if appropriate, selling direct to them.
Normally they are industry or ‘theme’ specific, which helps ensure that your desired audience is well targeted and likely to be in attendance. Naturally this is dependent on the organisers and their marketing effort and reach. Visiting a trade fair and requesting previous year’s attendance from the organisers can be a good indicator whether an event will be suitable for you. Be sure to do your homework, as it can be a costly exercise and you want to ensure ROMI (return on marketing investment) for your efforts.
Depending on whether you are in the B2C or B2B space, there are many benefits of attending an exhibition or trade show event:
- Relationship building
- Uncovering potential collaborations
- Writing orders
- Lead generation
- Exposure to targeted niche audiences
- Develop brand strength & awareness
- Market testing
- New product launch forum
- Increase mailing list subscribers
- Identifying industry trends
- Competitor research
How to prepare for an expo?
So you have selected your exhibit, booked your stand and the event is later in the year or a few months away. What now?
You start planning. Now.
We recommend planning a minimum of 3 months in advance, ideally longer if you have the time. Any shorter than this, and you are rushing decisions, suppliers and won’t have the time to properly plan out and implement your pre, during and post event strategies.
Step 1) Set a budget
Knowing what you have to spend on your presence at the event will help determine how far you can go with stand design and other marketing activities.
Step 2) Create a detailed event plan or hire an event organiser
You can hire an event organiser who will mostly handle the below activities for you, with your support.
However if you or your team will manage it yourselves, start by listing all the related activities and items relating to the exhibition, timeframes, budgeted & actual cost and who is responsible. Get as detailed as possible. This might include:
- Establishing a theme for the event (could be in line with a product launch, a re-brand*, a core message etc)
- All expo stand related costs including audio visual, lighting and high chair hire
- Positioning of your stand – ensure you are not tucked away & close to larger ‘big name’ stands
- All delegate related registration activities and costs
- Merchandise related activities
- Separate events / client dinners alongside the expo itself (invitations / rsvps etc)
- Accomodation (if you need to travel)
- If there are presentation of white papers and industry specific talks, is there an appropriate team member who can present for further brand presence during the event
- Staffing (who are the best team members to manage your stand and achieve your objectives)
- Pre-event marketing activities
- Marketing / Social media / Photography during the event including running a competition or another point of interest to entice engagement at your stand
- Post-event marketing activities & lead follow up
- ROMI post event review
- Create separate running sheets for the event by day to ensure all staff are aware of required activities
*You can read a previous blog on the top reasons to refresh your logo and rebrand here
Step 3) Design a professional exhibition stand that is reflective of your brand
Depending on your preference and available budget, you may wish to consider engaging a graphic designer to professionally design the following for your stand:
Step 4) Develop marketing & promotional material suitable to hand to your target audience
If you want to promote a new product, introduce your business capabilities, promote sign ups to your mailing list, give away promotional items that will be remembered by your visitors and similar, you will need to create and order these items in advance.
Every business is different, and every market is different, so the options are endless and should be tailored to your particular needs. I’ve tried to highlight some initial ideas you might consider developing below:
- Capability brochure – this is more general information that outlines your company history, values, experience, overview of your products & services and geographical locations.
- Product guide – this is a comprehensive guide or manual to all the products in your range. It’s not an item given to all visitors, but rather select prospects you feel are ‘warm’ and very interested in a wide number of products in your range.
- Product brochures – these are more detailed and go into the specifics about a particular product line. (link:)
- Service brochures – these are more detailed and go into the specifics about a particular service offering.
- Market brochures – these are more detailed and go into the specifics about a particular market you operate within.
- Expo specific flyers – this giveaway flyer contains a special ‘expo only offer’ usually valid at the expo itself, or within a limited time thereafter.
- Product samples – if you have a product that can be trialled in a mini format, consider developing packaging for the sample product to sit within. It’s a great way of getting new prospects to give your products a try.
- Competition sign up forms – this form is usually in the form of a printed notepad, and encourages visitors to provide their contact details, especially email address for future marketing, with the opportunity to win a voucher / prize or similar.
- Promotional items – ideally you want to give away everyday functional and / or fun promotional items that are memorable and not dust collectors. Items such as branded pens, caps, microfibre cloths, notepads, t-shirts, woven bags, drink bottles are a few great options. Find something that relates to your client base and make it relevant and the graphic fun and engaging.
Step 5) Marketing ideas before, during and after your event.
It’s not enough to set up your stand, have a few brochures and wait for visitors to stroll on by.
We recommend having a clear marketing plan in the lead up to your event, whilst you are there, and following the conclusion of the expo.
Here are some activities you might like to consider:
- Ask your graphic designer to professional design an email for your database 2-3 times in the months prior, sharing the event’s details, advising them of your presence and inviting them to your stand.
- Use social media to generate interest about your attendance. Mention any competitions you will be running for expo attendees only. Use personal videos to show your preparation process. Entice them to come along and be sure to mention your stand number.
- At times you will receive free tickets (or you can purchase some at a discount) – use these strategically by giving them to warm prospects, or run a competition prior using social media or email marketing to give them away.
- Ensure you use the social media platforms relevant to your event, and post regularly. Photos of your stand, of your team, of your products..make it personal! Use hashtags specific to the event to gain more eyeballs on your posts. Ask your visitors to take a photo at your stand and post it by displaying hashtags to use. Get them interacting.
- During the expo, you should have a notebook / notepad made up with ‘leads / enquiries’ fields pre-printed. Normally you only have a few minutes to grab as much information as possible, and having such a ‘lead book’, gives you trigger questions to ask and note down. Be sure to leave a space to staple the prospects business card also.
- Run a customer event such as a dinner alongside your expo attendance to maximise the ‘mood’ and ‘social availability’ of your clients and prospects. Normally, there will be a few clients who will travel specifically to attend an expo, so hosting a dinner is a great way to spend relaxed time building relationships, connection and hopefully creating and uncovering opportunities.
- Expos are quite a bit of work. Don’t leave an expo without having a clear follow up plan in place. This might mean having an email sequence pre-prepared for your database to go out shortly thereafter (within 1-2 weeks). This is important for retention, especially if the expo is big, you don’t want to be forgotten otherwise your opt-out rate will be higher than usual.
- If you are selling direct at an event, be sure to process orders in a timely manner within a few weeks. Nothing worse than having customers chasing their orders. You might like to include a small expo specific thank you gift / freebie as part of their order, to further enhance their purchase experience.
- If you are not selling direct at the event, your ‘lead book’ should be filled with potential clients with a variety of enquiries. I can’t tell you how often we have visited an expo and placed an enquiry, only to never hear from the representative again. Don’t waste your time or that of your prospect. Your sales team or sales administrator (or you) should be personally following up by email, phone or an in-person visit pending what the prospect has asked for, and the value of the opportunity noted. Remember the sale is in the follow up. Don’t wait too long though.
- Keep in touch. Sometimes your prospects won’t be ready to buy straight away. Ensure they are kept on your database and receive regular email updates, at least monthly so that you stay front of mind when they are ready.
It’s all in the planning. Without a plan, you may have a good expo, but with attention to the details, a focused approach to generating interest and most importantly a clear follow up plan, you will likely have a great expo.
We hope these suggestions help you run a super successful expo event.
“Success doesn’t just happen. It’s planned for” – anonymous
Feeling overwhelmed or time poor to manage all the above suggestions and want some help? If you would like to chat about how we can help with event management, graphic design, printing or have any questions expo related, be sure to get in touch with our team.
Creatively Yours, Rosie & Anthony @ IDEAPRO
P.S – Did you enjoy reading our marketing tips for a successful expo? We would love to hear what you think about our recommendations, and if you have any others, be sure to leave them in the comments below.
P.S.S – Know someone who manages expos and trade shows? Please forward them this article and share on your social media (click links below) if you think it might be helpful. Thank you.