Stand and Deliver!

by: Marketing Team on

A Guide to Trade Shows and Exhibitions

By any measure, the Events Industry is big, with a 2015 estimate of £42.3 billion being spent by event delegates, attendees and organisers and the sector is growing at an annual rate of 8% year-on-year. Organisations are spending a lot of money, but could they be getting better results from their significant investment?

In this article, we will concentrate on Tradeshows and Exhibitions, which collectively are worth more than £11 billion, and are where most companies are likely to be involved in promoting their business and attempting to generate business. It’s in this sector where they invest money, time and resources rather than simply being an attendee at a conference. This is the area where significant amounts of money can be made and lost, where relationships can be improved or ruined and where new business can be generated or gifted to the competition. The stakes are high, but the possible rewards are even greater, providing you get a few rules right.

Perhaps the most important fundamental, and forgive the pun, your exhibition or trade stand must stand out. Your stand is your portable shop-window, an in-your-face invitation to ‘come and talk’. Whether it’s poor design, weak signage or confusing branding, the effects negatively affect how people see your company and that perception can last a very long time. It costs no more to have a well-designed, strongly-branded stand with consistent signage, including supporting sales and marketing collateral, rather than a cobbled together stand, so why do so many choose the latter? No matter how large or compact your stand (and budget) you need to make an impact and look professional. It can often make economic sense to have a stand of your own, rather than hiring the usual ‘white-space’ from the organiser. Over-time this solution can often pay for itself many times over, but more importantly it gives you control over design, branding and the general look and feel of your stand. 

Modern printing techniques, including large-format and digital methods allow for an infinite number of design solutions to be created to suit the most discriminating of organisations. We show an example below, which we designed and produced for our client Prepaid Financial Services and which demonstrates what is possible for relatively modest investment. Whether it’s getting just the right shade of carpet, creating space on the stand for client meetings or showing your products off in a dramatic way, anything is possible with your own well designed and re-useable stand.

A key challenge for any company looking to exhibit is keeping the brand consistent across all your marketing materials including website, company brochure, stationery and promotional goods. You need to provide your visitors with one common look and feel and reinforce your message so it stands out from the hundreds of other stands your prospects will see at the exhibition. From business cards that your staff will hand out to product and promotional brochures and flyers on the day, excellent design and consistency integrated with your stand is vital.

This was one aspect that our client Prepaid Financial Services wanted to focus on when commissioning us to design and project manage their recent conference in Copenhagen.

"AlphaGraphics were instrumental in helping pull together our marketing collateral for our recent Money 2020 event in Copenhagen including shell scheme concepts and liaising with the exhibition company regarding all elements of the event. It was important that all aspects of our branding were consistent as well as having a professional look and feel. The event was a great success for the company and I would have no hesitation in recommending AlphaGraphics for this type of project". Marketing Manager, Prepaid Financial Services.

So you’ve got your stand design sorted, your marketing and business material is printed and looks fantastic and you’ve clearly worked out why you’re attending this particular event; now what? Well, here are some ideas that might help you achieve your best exhibition return on investment ever;

  • Ensure everyone who is working the stand clearly understands what the business objectives of attending the show are, what standards of behaviour are required of them and are fully focussed whenever they’re ‘at work’ on the stand. How many times have you seen staff, effectively, avoiding visitors, chatting and ‘messing-around’, making calls or other irrelevant activity? Not only is this very un-professional but it actively puts prospects off from visiting your stand.

  • Ensure your literature and marketing material is professionally produced, available in sufficient quantities and is memorable. Give responsibility for ensuring it’s tidy and always available to specific individuals.

  • Although your main reason for exhibiting may be to generate and capture new leads, don’t forget your existing clients in the area. Why not invite them to a timed meeting, meet senior members of the company or show a new range of products or services. One area we’ve recently been involved with is providing ‘personalised’ packs for just such occasions, complete with the visitor’s name printed on useful material (desk calendars, to-do pads or desk blocks). In addition, consider how you could promote your attendance generally through PR, trade press, show programme, email marketing, website blog etc.

  • When prospects do visit, ensure you have a robust and professional method to capture the lead. Scraps of note paper or random note pads just aren’t good enough anymore. Could you use tablets or laptops to capture data? Do you have a process for collecting business cards? Could you bring in temporary or non-sales staff to do the job rather than tying up your sales team?

  • Are you generating leads or simply collecting business cards? There’s nothing more disappointing than following up a lead from the show only to find that they “only left a card for the prize draw”. Most visitors aren’t there specifically to visit your stand, they might not even know your company. It’s vital that you uncover their business needs and issues and match your offering to make it relevant to them. Finally ensure you agree a ‘clear-next-step’ to follow up.

  • Follow up immediately. We’ve seen the difference a simple, automated email response can make to the success of converting leads to real business. Having gone to the expense of exhibiting, it’s nothing short of a crime not to follow up those leads that are generated.

  • Follow up again. If you didn’t get through first time, be sure those leads don’t fall though a ‘prospecting crack’ because you’re busy with other leads. Just because they say ‘no’ now, it doesn’t mean it’s ‘no’ forever. Keep in touch. Have you thought about an ‘auto-responding’ email follow up? We find it’s helped with our client’s close-rates and works very well for us.

  • Finally, follow up again. Plan to keep in touch for the following twelve months, including email, personalised marketing, content via social media and your web blog. Again, automation can help significantly here and the returns for little extra effort can be significant. Remember, you’ve already invested in the exhibition, why not continue to maximise your return on investment?

Exhibitions can be excellent business generators or a catastrophic business flop. In many regards, which result you get depends on the choices you make as described above.

Which solution will you choose for your next event?

For further advice and information to ensure your next exhibition is a success, call us on 01642 525100 or email

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