How to be a successful exhibitor at events and trade fairs

Again and again, I hear comments by customers and other exhibitors at the respective trade fairs such as “I had expected better of it”, “Overall disappointing”, “There are hardly any potential customers here”, “The customers here don´t have potential”.

What went wrong at those events? Is it the organiser´s fault? Or could the exhibitor have prepared better?

I believe that with good preparation almost every event can be turned into a success. At the beginning, there is always the question what participating as an exhibitor at the respective event is supposed to achieve. A certain number of leads or even directly new customers or, at first, just as many conversations as possible in order to obtain reactions from the market to one´s own solutions or simply attracting  the visitors´ attention? If you are aware of that, you can define how much it is worth or under which conditions the event justifies the booking costs and the marketing and personnel expenses.

I think there are basically two ways for the exhibitor to the most efficient marketing spend for events:

Potential evaluation

Do the participants correspond to one´s own target audience and if so, how big is the respective potential regarding my planned expenses? This can often be detected beforehand by the fact which groups of participants are addressed by the organiser. If you don´t even find your own target audience, hardly any leads can be generated.

Are the expenses for events even worth it or can potential customers get to know and utilise one´s own proposition much more easily by another way (e.g. through online marketing and simple online booking or directly in a software´s backend)?

Concrete lead generation

Lead generation should by all means be optimally prepared already in advance. Potential prospects should be informed about one´s participation in the event as an exhibitor. Meetings should be actively offered through marketing e.g. through trade fair campaigns etc. and sales should already fix personal appointments on the spot with potential premium customers. Both ensure traffic at the booth which in turn looks good to other visitors (things are really happening there, it seems to be interesting there) and make sure the event is a success, even though hardly any visitors come to the booth coincidentally.

The staff must be motivated in a way that they work with maximum effort preferably during the whole active trade fair time on using the dialogue-free time to start new conversations with visitors who show evident interest.

Personal exchange with other exhibitors and the initiation of cooperation with potential multipliers or providers of complementary solutions can be used as a further means for generating leads and can lead to very interesting joint marketing opportunities. This can, for example, be connected to the goal to attract customers by submitting joint tenders with a hereby increased customer benefit as opposed to individual solutions or to make the respective existing customers accessible for new partners. For that, it is necessary that the employees responsible for partnerships aren´t constantly involved in customer conversations, but have enough time to walk around the trade fair and look for interesting co-exhibitors.

If the potential can be increased in this way, if the costs are in good proportion to it and if the responsible employees want to lead the event to success, you should participate as an exhibitor. Because only then will you have clear expectations and an idea of how these expectations can be met. And then, I will highly probably hear more comments in the future such as “That´s how I imagined it”, “The event surpassed my expectations”, “Again next time”, “We have promising alliances in prospect”.