When we exhibited at the Entrepreneurs Convention in Birmingham. It was the first time I’ve exhibited at such a large event (1,400 registered attendees), and so a lot of the planning was guess work.

Entrepreneurs Convention 2014 Stand | Veronica Pullen

The Royal Castle 🙂

But, it was an amazing learning opportunity, so in this blog I’m going to share what went well, and what I’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight.

So, in no particular order, here’s how to exhibit your business profitably…

Your 7 steps to profitable exhibiting

1 – Make your PRIME objective to collect leads for long term ROI.

Offer a contest to win your “premium product/service” and you’ll attract entries from people interested in your premium product/service.

There can only be one winner, but make sure you have a marketing strategy for the ‘non-winners’ to offer a ‘second chance no-brainer deal’ to sell your premium offering to your interested people.

Even if the new leads don’t convert immediately, you stand the best chance of generating a ROI long term, than if you primarily focus on the short term gain of selling something at the show.

On the contest entry form, collect as much data as is reasonably possible. We asked for;

  • Their name
  • Business name
  • Email address
  • Business phone number
  • Mobile phone number
  • Business address
  • Details of their expertise
  • Whether they sell B2B or B2C

All of this information was fed into our CRM system, so future marketing can be segmented to each response. We also tagged each of these leads as coming from this particular exhibition, so we can accurately track and measure future ROI

Having captured the addresses, we now also have the ability to send direct mail to promote our “second chance offer”

2 – If you’re investing in materials for your stand, try and keep them generic so you can re-use.

This won’t be possible for event specific contest entry forms or flyers, but is easy to achieve with pop up banners etc

3 – If possible, ask if you can have a table instead of a stand

We were quoted c£1k for the stand graphics, and the chances of getting the exact same stand size again are remote. So the £1k costs of graphics were unlikely to be an ‘investment’ in future exhibitions.

I chose not to follow the crowd and take a stand that also required the extra costs, and instead we had a table (which could easily be a wallpaper pasting table) covered in a velvet tablecloth. You could buy both for less than £100 and use over and over again.

4 – Furnish your table/stand ‘on brand’.

On our table sat our “Royal Castle”. It was actually a cardboard castle from Pets at Home that is sold for rabbits to run around

in.

But we put a sign on it and called it “The Royal Castle” and directed attendees to deliver their contest entry to the Royal Castle. It attracted a LOT of positive attention, to the extent that we were inundated with offers to buy it!

One was left homeless, but we raised £50 for Autism Allstars!

One was left homeless, but we raised £50 for Autism Allstars!

At the end of the event, we sold the castle for £50 and gave the proceeds to charity – another bit of positive PR that you could easily model.

5 – Split test adding promotions to the event goody bags

Goody bags are present at most exhibitions, and exhibitors are asked to provide something to include in the bag. We took the decision not to put anything in the goody bag, with the reason being that (I believed) most people take no notice of the contents.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, what I’d do in future is put 75% of our contest entry forms into the goody bags (with some kind of mark or code on the form to indicate they were put into the bags) and keep half on the stand.

It would allow you to accurately measure whether you attracted more leads by adding to goody bags than having all the forms on the stand.

On that note, we had 1,000 contest entry postcards printed for the expected 1,400 attendees. We used 150 of them! If I did it again, I’d put 750 in the bags and keep 250 on the stand.

6 – Find out which topics will be covered in the main seminars

If possible, speak to the organisers or key speakers (or a member of their team) to get an outline of what topics they will be covering in their presentation.

Then explore how you can support attendees to implement one of these topics where it is relevant to what you do. Tailor your show offer towards that product/service for higher sales volume

For example, we were offering my “Foundations of Profitable Social Marketing” program DVDs, but from stage, Nigel taught the audience that they should have a Trip Wire. Had we have gone with an offer for the Trip Wire Academy program we would have significantly increased our sales.

When they attendees learn something valuable in the seminar, and then see a ‘no-brainer offer’ to get that valuable topic implemented easily, you’ll have a queue of buyers.

My only caveat to this is that the seminar presenter isn’t promoting the same result for attendees who choose to work with them. By default the seminar presenter will be viewed as the bigger expert, so it wouldn’t pay you to compete with an identical offering – nor is it very ethical either.

However, if you are reading this too late into your exhibition planning, and don’t have time to tailor your offer, all is not lost. We ran a ‘post show’ offer for the Trip Wire Academy for 3 days after the event, targeted to all the new leads we generated at the show and still attracted lots of new buyers.

7 – You can never have enough staff!

The more people you have available to help you promote and man the stand, the better. There were 3 of us, but exhibiting is exhausting, plus with more people you can send promoters out into the crowd to attract even more leads.

Again, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have done with having 5 people available; 2 on the stand, 2 in the crowd and me. Don’t set yourself up to be a key member of the stand team, and you’ll have a constant stream of people wanting to talk to you, plus you want time and space to network and/or attend seminars without leaving the stand short of bodies too.

So there you go… what I learned from exhibiting at a big 2-day event last week. Please do leave me a comment and share this post if it’s helped you with your exhibition planning.

Have I missed anything out? What advice would you give to someone exhibiting for the first time?