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Exhibitions in the era of DO AND GLOOM

Category:
  • B2B Marcom
  • A low-cost exhibit offers simple elegance and dignity to customers and staffers.

    I recently posted that, while the economy is still generally gloomy, it is time to DO something for ourselves. We've got to power our way through the current situation and set ourselves up nicely for the rebound.  So, how do we do this at exhibitions and trade shows?

    Well, many of us remain on reduced budgets, including all aspects of our exhibit programs - even travel. That means we'll be participating in fewer exhibits, our exhibits will be reduced in size compared to the past, and that our staffing will also likely be curtailed. With those realities, what can we do?

    FEWER SHOWS:

    • choose exhibitions and shows very carefully. Do not rely on past trends and information. Things are so different today that you must do research to get an idea of what will happen in the future. Talk to customers, other suppliers, trade associations, and the exhibition management.
    • drive as many people as you can to the events you do exhibit at. Create simple and low-cost flyers or post cards for your field staff to hand or mail to customers. Even if the customers don't attend, they pick up on the fact that your company is alive and doing well.
    • strongly consider virtual exhibitions. They get better every month. Don't rely on what was true in 2008 (they were pretty good back then - read my post on that). That's looooong ago in this fast-paced world. Virtual exhibitions can be very good these days.
    • make the most of your reduced investment by planning for very diligent follow-up on every lead and contact. Be sure to update customers who did NOT attend. You still have a chance at impressing them and getting some action by keeping them in the loop (act like you're a trusted and valued partner).

    LESS COSTLY EXHIBITS:

    • accept the fac that you are going to spend less per show. Do NOT resign yourself to looking cheesy. There IS a difference between less expensive and low class. Do a ton of research. Review all the cool and low-cost designs that exhibition houses have to offer. I just Googled "low cost elegant exhibit design" (not in quotes) and received 41,100 results (over 373,000 images). That will keep me busy learning for an afternoon.  Challenge yourself to come up with something novel.  And understand that it is OK to cut back. Everyone is doing it - and everyone understands.
    • consider shifting the focus from the stately mansion that you used to erect ... to the actual product, service, and information that you purvey. THAT would be an improvement.
    • design everything around the CUSTOMER's perspective: convenience, comfort, concerns, etc. Was it EVER "all about you?"

    REDUCED STAFF:

    • face it, an exhibition is hard work. So accept that you will work hard - harder than before. You are also asking your team mates to work harder. Know that.
    • plan on longer shifts, being tied to the booth and having less free time to walk the show. Give your team a heads-up on this - set expectations early.
    • set up some niceties for your staff so their time in the booth is fun, comfortable and less stressful. Consider: snacks (to be eaten off your property, no one likes to see booth staffers munching down a hot dog), shoe insoles, bottled water, phone chargers, comfortable chairs, bathroom breaks, etc.

    As I am fond of saying, ALWAYS BEGIN AT THE END. Plan now for a wonderful, successful exhibit experience. Imagine it is a month AFTER the show (the end) - and that everyone is thrilled. Sales got great leads, customers learned what they came to learn (and walked away with a favorable impression of you), your staff had a positive experience, and the accountants report that you were under budget.  Then, write down exactly what you did to make that happen. The magic occurs in the planning phase.

    Share your secrets with us - we'd love to hear how you're making the best of the situation.