Getting the most from exhibiting
1/ What process do you employ when planning your displays and stands?
It’s imperative that planning is carried out thoroughly, in accordance with the show that you are attending and that it is started well in advance of that show. We consider many variables, including the type of show, the size, the message we’re communicating, the target audience and the stand area we’ve been allocated. Armed with this knowledge we can develop a process accordingly.
2/ How do you ensure that your stand reflects your company in the best possible light?
There are several factors involved here. The stand design itself is crucial in this process. Exhibitors need to remember that communication with the visitor starts 20 feet from the stand and that they have less than 5 seconds to attract the attention of a passing visitor. Therefore not only does the design of the stand, the use of lighting, movement and graphics need to work in synergy reflecting the right message to the audience but also the manner, attitude and behaviour of the stand staff. Achieving all this comes down to thorough planning and promotion as well as serious training of the stand staffers.
3/ How do you judge how much time and money to invest in your exhibitions stands?
With reference to question 1, aspects such as the reason for exhibiting at the show, the message that is being conveyed. Think brand, think audience, think objectives. And think how the show fits into your overall marketing strategy. This should be a good enough starting point to judge the time and money to invest in the stand.
4/ Should you use design professionals or is it a process you can do yourself? In both cases please gives reasons why.
As an exhibition solution provider, we have all the necessary skills and products in house to carry out the process and therefore it is natural to do the work ourselves.
This could be viewed from two angles in other cases though – some companies may prefer to carry out the work themselves if they are not going to larger exhibitions that require more design input, or if they do not have the budget to outsource the work. The evident advantage to using design professionals is that they are experienced in this line of work and can therefore give advice on how best to communicate to your audience, design your stand etc.
5/ How do you ensure your investment pays back?
We have our targets and objectives carefully worked out before we get to the show, we train our stand staffers so that there is a clear understanding of why we are exhibiting and what we expect to achieve from both them and the show. We choose carefully the shows at which we exhibit and we measure the ROI every time from lead generation, PR coverage, appointments made, brand awareness and ultimately sales achieved.
6/ How do you measure whether your investment is paying back in terms of visitor response?
We conduct pre-show promotion and are able to track response to this through the visitor. The lead capture system we use is specific to the show and enables us to trap specific and valuable information from visitors. In addition we arrive at each show knowing our target lead generation number and then can measure this against the actual number of leads generated. Within this we classify the type of leads. This level of information allows us to measure effectively the ROI.
7/ Is it really necessary to spend vast sums of money on stands? If so why, if not why not?
Not necessarily – it depends on many variables including the company, the show, the budget and how the show fits into the overall marketing strategy. It can be fairly typical for a company to invest differently across a number of shows depending on the factors above. Some shows will necessitate a higher spend on stands, whilst others may not. It also depends on the situation of the company.
8/ Is it too easy to get caught up with ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in terms of stand design?
This can largely depend on the approach adopted by the company. Some like to be extravagant and outdo others, whereas others like to stay simple yet equally as informative. The point here is to understand why you are going to the show, your objectives and your budget. Understand that your stand communicates a message and try to achieve this as creatively as you can.
9/ Could the money be better spent elsewhere, in terms of marketing yourself at events?
That depends on why you’re exhibiting and the objectives you set. Exhibiting provides the perfect opportunity to conduct face-to-face marketing with clients and potential clients that we may not otherwise reach and as lead generation, pr coverage and brand awareness are key objectives then it’s an important part of our strategy. But it comes down to the show. There are also opportunities to sponsor and advertise within events generally and we would choose these carefully again in light of our overall marketing strategy, objectives and target audiences. It’s all about getting the balance and exposure right for each opportunity and being able to measure a return.
10/ What advice would you give people doing this for the first time?
Use the 4 P’s – Planning, Promotion, People and Productivity. Think about it. If you don’t plan for it you’re bound to miss something critical. If you don’t promote your participation, visitors won’t know to come to your stand. If you don’t train your people in why you’re exhibiting and what you expect, visitors will most likely get the wrong impression of your company. And if you’re not productive with a lead capture and follow up plan, there’s no point in exhibiting!
Emma Swales, Marketing Manager, Nimlok Ltd
The above article was prepared for and part-published in Marketing Week, August 2005