Exhibitions and trade shows can be an excellent source of leads for you and your business.
In this latest ‘How to’ guide from Business Leader, we reveal some trade secrets from world-leading tech firm Ultrahaptics and explain the most effective tactics to stand out at an exhibition.
Be original and then evolve your idea
Bristol-based Ultrahaptics are pioneers in the advancement of virtual and augmented reality. Haptics is the science of applying a touch sensation through a computer application via bursts of high-frequency sound onto the hand.
This gives the sensation that whatever the person sees in the virtual world is ‘real’ and has many business and gaming applications.
Heather Macdonald Tait, Head of Marketing Communications at Ultrahaptics explains how they have set themselves apart at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas.
CES is the world’s biggest gathering of tech businesses and has been running for more than 50 years. This year’s event in January saw over 184,000 people attend and view over 4,000 exhibiting businesses.
Heather explains: “One of the most important things to stand out at an exhibition is to bring in something original and something that has not been seen before. That is vital. We had the opportunity at CES this year to share haptics to the world – a technology that no one else has.
“We do not think it is possible for anyone else to provide haptics feedback, especially in the way we do it. For people who are new to this technology, it was an eye-opener.”
However, if you are returning to an industry-leading exhibition, it is important to make sure you keep this originality and evolve your company’s story and product range.
Heather continues: “When you go back to a show year-after-year – like CES – it is important to offer them something else that they haven’t seen before; and something that is different from the narrative of the event.
“You need to show that the company has developed, and you have brought your story further on. Your story is important when making a presence at an exhibition. You cannot do the same every year. It is important for this exhibition to be the first time that this new product has been shown.”
It may sound simple but if the exhibition is anything like CES – there will be thousands of businesses that are all fighting for the same customers.
So, marketing and being different is vital.
This doesn’t have to be extravagant (although it wouldn’t hurt) but it must resonate with the consumer and the casual passer-by.
Heather explains how a simple idea can have a big effect. She said: “Create an important tag line to draw people in – you want to make them come to your booth. You need to make it clear that they will not get that content or product anywhere else.”
Once you have established initial contact, it is down to the members of staff you have on the stand.
Who is representing your brand?
Now you have a potential customer’s attention – what is next?
Preparation is obviously key to success in any business venture, so knowing about every aspect of your product or services on show is a minimum expectation in such a highly competitive environment.
Having senior members of your team that attendees can speak to, not only shows the commitment to the exhibition and what it offers, but also gives any potential customer a immediate face-to-face with the business’ decision makers.
Heather explains: “You need to make sure that you have your senior executives at the booth. You need to always make sure you have the right people available during a trade show.
“It is vital to make it feel like it is their one opportunity to get in front of these members of your team. You need to offer the visitor something that they cannot get on the internet – the only way they can see this is to be at your stand at the exhibition.”
This adds another level of attractiveness to your stand and make it a must-see for people looking to invest or do business with, post-event.
Make it interactive
Everyone has the same goal at an exhibition – make an impression and then make a sale.
So, out of hundreds and possibly thousands of competitors, you need to establish yourself in a memorable way.
Heather believes this is an extension of the originality: “You need to make it interactive – you need to make it original and something you cannot experience anywhere else. If it is not technology or something you can show through a demo, then make sure that whoever is on the stand they do more than just talk to someone at the stand.
“For CES specifically, it is the world’s biggest electronics show. Every major player in the industry is there. The breadth of people that we can reach is huge – everything from the investment community to customers to press, to partners – everyone is there.
“Being interactive is vital.”
Running demonstrations, travelling the world and paying for all the logistics behind an exhibition can run up to a large amount of money.
Therefore, having budget is key – but also understanding that exhibitions can have a life to themselves and having a buffer to change your game plan, can help you get an advantage over the competition.
Heather explains: “Planning is key. Everything from the budget to the technical knowledge of the products is important. You need to know where you can stretch the budget – if you have planned the exhibition well you will have a bit saved to capitalise on the unique opportunities that can appear at events like these.
“You need to be aware that shows can sometimes escalate – you need to know about everything you might need to do and where it can seriously add cost and value.”
Everything is run at a fast-pace, so therefore being able to adapt and change your plans at a moments notice can be the catalyst to winning over a potential customer.
Think outside the box
In the planning stage, before anything has been set in stone and paid for, you need to think about everything that encompasses a trade show or exhibition.
Obviously, everyone is there to show their products and services and why they are better than their competition – but what else can be done to make sure a potential customer stays at your stand?
Heather explains one trick she has learnt from being at shows like CES: “Sometimes these events can become impractical. People who have been to exhibitions before can learn what to do next time.
“For example, if you have padding on the floor of your stand, it is totally worth it! People will stand at your booth as they have been on their feet all day. You must make sure your booth is accommodating to visitors.”
A simple and cost-effective investment such as floor padding can give your stand that extra incentive for someone to stay and invest in what you are promoting.
What extra space will you need?
You have your stand.
You have your marketing.
You have your staff prepped and ready to go.
Your budget is ready.
But what happens if you need to make an important deal then and there at the event?
Heather explains what Ultrahaptic’s did at this year’s CES show: “We have a private customer meeting room at shows and that is well worth having. It is really practical, and it can mean that you don’t have to spend months setting up one-on-one meetings in various places.
“You can literally have ten executive meetings a day back-to-back and meet all the high executive people that you want to meet. Scheduling these in advance at industry events is important before you go to an exhibition as they are always very busy.”
Make the most of having all your major competition and customers in one condensed area.
What not to do
As explained, press releases are important to get your details and brand out there to the right people before the event.
However, there are some common mistakes that businesses make when promoting themselves before an event.
Heather said: “My personal bug bear is people who send a press release saying they are attending a show – that is not news. Individual products or experiences you are showing are news, especially if it is revealing a new product or tech.
“Just notifying people you are attending is not news. Journalists and people tied to the event won’t be interested and you could damage that relationship.”
Be careful as to what you are promoting and sending it. Be sure that you are creating the right message for your brand.
Make the most of your leads
Heather says that people often make mistakes when not following up leads too.
She comments: “You must follow up with people after the event. You must have a way of gathering all this information at the event. Before the event, you must have a plan of action of what your team will do to follow up with any leads once the exhibition is over.
“So many times, following shows, you have a spreadsheet that has gathered a lot of useful information – and it is never opened again. So, you have spent hundreds of pounds on the stand and picked out a few leads – but you have a whole spreadsheet of potential contacts that could have been involved in the business.”