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Posted by Sam Lowrie on 19 August 2019
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Attending an Expo - 5 things to consider
1) Choosing an expo that works for you
So you want to get the word out that there is a new company in town? It's time to shout (or should that be hoot?) about what you do and how well you do it:
The aim is to reach as many people as possible but how to do it?
One of the hardest thing as a small (somewhat) niche company is deciding how to advertise. One of the methods we decided to try was attending an expo as it gives us face-to-face contact with potential customers.
The next issue was deciding from the myriad of options which exhibition to attend? It had to be related to what we do, but not so specific as to lack attendees!
The public sector is one of our big markets and we provide training to many councils and organisations within it. For us it made sense to target a market that we were already in and which we know needs our training:
While there were other expos that might have suited, this one was aimed at procurement specifically for public sector organisations.
They gave us a list of previous training companies that had visited - something competitors use is always worth investigating! So our first piece of advice is to choose an expo which is relevant and which will have customers who want your product.
2) Planning ahead
Having not attended an expo before there were lots of little things that need to be considered. First and foremost: should you pay for a shell scheme or just for the space?
A shell comprises of a framework, carpet, power, lighting and normally 2 or 3 walls. Being an end shell we only had a back and side.
The shell scheme worked for us as it included everything we needed barring our own materials. Since we knew the dimensions it was possible to make a mock-up in the office and plan ahead:
It is amazing how fast the space gets taken up and how much is just unwanted clutter.
Also consider how you are getting everything there and how many people it requires to carry/set up. Then think about the hidden costs such as travel, shipping, accommodation and meals!
Don't be left scratching your head when it's too late to change anything!
The second piece of advice then is have a good think about everything and make a list! Don't be caught short on money, time or logistics, or you'll be distracted from the expo itself.
3) Looking your best
Now the shell is set up (normally by the expo provider) it's time to fill it with your stuff. Unless you have physical products try and keep as much space free as possible:
While some companies did use a table and a poster, those who had a back stand looked much more professional!
We went for an all-in-one package sold by Xl displays since it was easily portable in its big black case. The panels are magnetised onto a framework, meaning that a single person could assemble/disassemble them:
Although some of us might have required a step ladder...
Once the stand is looking tip-top it's time to make sure the staff do also. Don't send anyone who doesn't want to be there (big smiles, no phones and a desire to spread the word!):
The tricky part is finding enough people to chat to customers without looking crowded. Often we saw other exhibitors wandering around during quiet periods to keep from looking untidy at their stand.
Tip number three then is to make sure the stand is tidy, bright and de-cluttered while your staff are friendly and approachable.
4) Have a hook
While using a fishing-rod might work at pulling the crowds over, I'm not sure it is that welcoming (or legal). Instead, try bribery:
Everyone had snacks, but we had Lindor chocolates which drew the punters again and again!
Our method for giving out our details was to save them all to a USB and give these out. Unlike a sheet of paper people won't throw them in the bin when out of sight of the stand!
The fact that the USB is made of bamboo makes a great conversation starter! Would you like a panda snack?
Our fourth top tip then would be have something to draw people to your stand and get them talking. Giant statue? Owl costumes? Amazing goodies? Fun game? Your choice!
5) Take notes and start planning next time
Don't have regrets, have plans. We at Wise Owl have a no-pester guarantee and we like to keep our promises. So one thing we didn't do is collect people's details:
Instead we gave people a discount code on the USB to encourage them to book, and to give us a way of tracking conversions.
Retrospectively this wasn't an amazing idea. While we don't want to pester, we could have offered to take emails for our newsletter:
With great information like handy Excel tips and links to free video tutorials on using Power BI, it would have given people a gentle monthly reminder that we exist!
So our last piece of advice would be make the most of the expo and learn from it to make sure you get even more next time. Find a way to keep in contact with potential contacts and remind them why they wanted you as a supplier!
We thoroughly enjoyed our first expo and even met some of our video tutorial fans, which was awesome. Hope to meet more of you at our next expo!