Picture it. Your feet ache from potentially days of standing as an ambassador of your business, arms tired from sharing promotional materials and shaking hands, your ears ring from endless announcements over the loud-speaker. You definitely know you have exhibited… yet you think to yourself at the end of it all ‘well that was a waste of time’. Unfortunately, this is a story we have heard countless times over, with clients coming to us sharing their own horror stories of how exhibiting is pointless. Well we know we may seem biased here, but we couldn’t disagree more. Yes exhibiting can be a challenge, but if you have read our other articles & insights into exhibiting then you’re already a step ahead in harnessing the awesome power of exhibitions. If however, you still feel dissatisfied with your exhibitions experiences, worry not, in this article we will explore why this might be & how you and your visitors can start enjoying events.
Exhibitor advocacy, or rather how likely someone exhibiting is to recommend an event, is low globally. In fact it can be so low, that a large proportion of exhibitors will actually recommend against the event they have just attended. So why can success and enjoyment be so hard to come by in exhibitions? Well some of the answers may not surprise you. Exhibiting comes with costs. If you do not perceive a return on your investments, each invoice, form and deadline associated with exhibiting feels more painful than the last. This effect has been seen more in B2B exhibitors, with B2C exhibitors reporting slightly better satisfaction. However B2C events still supply the same potentially painful stings, so why do they seem (slightly) more satisfied? Well it appears that within B2C exhibitions and events, there is a more visible relationship between the efforts of exhibiting and the rewards. A less complex and shorter sales process, perhaps even extending to selling on the stand, can lead to more easily measurable success and more realistic targets for what success means at these events. Equally B2C exhibitors can exhibit more often than B2B counter-parts, allowing time to develop strategy and deliver on goals. But, whether B2B or B2C, this brings us nicely to the first step to enjoying events in our article planning…
Planning for More Enjoyable (& Successful) Events
Yes, planning. We’ve said it before and we will say it again, solid planning is the key to a smoother and indeed more satisfying exhibition experience. If you’re thinking about where to start, we recommend at least 3-4 months prior to the event…but the more time the better. It’s not only important to plan the practical aspects, but also plan things like your strategy at the event and how you will measure your success. When doing this we suggest thinking ‘SMART’…that is in ‘SMART’ goals. When you’re setting objectives for the event consider if they are specific enough. Often a scatter-gun approach involving many aims sounds great, but can be overwhelming on the day. Instead consider your main aim, and build your stand and your strategy around that. While you’re at it, make sure that this objective is both measurable and achievable. It may be that setting your sights on a sales figure is not going to be as helpful (especially in a B2B setting), as aiming for 10-20 follow-up meetings or booking in 15 product demonstrations. Obviously this is also where relevance comes in, if you are launching a new range of products or striving for brand awareness, you may want to tailor your main objective accordingly. Finally, make sure it’s time-bound, this provides you and your colleagues a solid target to work to. By planning ahead in this way, you are educating yourself about the event, your audience and your potential rewards, as well as the challenges along the way. A good way to look at your exhibitions and events success whilst planning is in ‘ROO’ or ‘Return on Objectives’ rather than simply ROI.
'Newness' in Event Marketing
In UFI & Explori’s global exhibitor and visitor reports, the concept of ‘newness’ is important. ‘Newness’ refers to how an event or exhibition delivers on the discovery aspect many visitors are looking for. This means providing visitors with something innovative that allows them to see a new product, emerging trend or even build a new business relationship. Many exhibitors will, quite rightly, place emphasis on quality content for marketing or networking, however it’s often the ‘newness’ that’s lacking. So if your strategy and stand have not kept pace and you are left thinking ‘that was a waste of time’ chances are visitors will be thinking the same thing too. This is especially true in emerging and developing markets, where visitors see finding innovation and new products as a major objective. Now this doesn’t mean you have to release a new product every year or shift into some sort of Chameleon-like rebranding exercise each event, but it does mean remaining relevant in your industry. If you do have a new product range or service you are offering, fantastic there’s your ‘newness’. Even if not, consider the trends in your industry, how is it changing? By keeping pace with the changes and even the challenges in your field, you can remain relevant and stand out from the crowd. Sometimes it’s not about reinventing the wheel…just reminding people, in a new way, how great the wheel is.
Connection Across the Event Lifespan
Audiences at events and exhibitions are becoming an ever more connected, globalised and discerning group. Making effective use of connecting, not only with your potential customers, but with the event, the organisers, colleagues and even competition, can bolster your success at events. Now you could think that the event itself is your chance to go all out, and true exhibitions are a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful connections. However exhibitions are not a silver bullet and rather than depending on the relatively short life of a live event alone, extending this life as part of a marketing mix will yield more meaningful results. This means getting connected. Consider your planning, what you are aiming to achieve and how this can be incorporated before during and after the event. Equally ensure that all the ‘newness’ you are showcasing features along your journey too.
Consider advertising by connecting with trade journals and websites, you can extend this connection further by using the logos, banners, hashtags and links associated with the event. Connect with the organiser by using the tools they provide, complete your show profile and summary in good time. Don’t forget your existing connections too, make sure to invite your customers and clients along to the event. Target new connections by telling prospective customers what to expect, give them a taste of your ‘newness’ to peak interest. Basically connect, connect, connect…that’s not to say you spam the inboxes of clients or inundate the social media of the event with your witty posts, use connections meaningfully. With the advent of GDPR, businesses are being far more responsible with their digital marketing (whether they wanted to or not) and this has the potential to breathe new life and new meaning into the importance of face-to-face events and curating genuine data for marketing. By connecting responsibly and effectively you give yourself more time and scope to achieve your goal, more attention and a better chance to enjoy your events!
So there you have it, a few discussion point to get you and your marketing team thinking about how to make events more enjoyable and successful. Naturally we could talk about so much more all day...in fact sometimes we do, so if you're interested and would like to learn more - give us a message or a call.