THERE ARE PLENTY of opportunities to get leads at industry events and exhibitions, whether you have a corporate stand or attend as a visitor. You don’t even have to visit the industry event or exhibition to get leads.

Every industry event or exhibition can really boost your customer database because the people who visit are highly motivated, interested in the kind of products or services you offer and are often ready to buy.

Trade fairs and exhibitions can help you to attract new customers because they provide the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate your product or service to prospective customers face-to-face
  • Network with prospective customers
  • Test new markets or launch new products and services
  • Find out what customers want.

They also provide opportunities to:

  • See new and relevant products or services
  • Compare new products and services
  • Find new suppliers
  • Keep up to date with new technologies
  • Meet journalists, bloggers, key influences, and politicians

What can you get from trade shows and exhibitions?

Trade shows and corporate events are your opportunity to meet prospective and existing customers face-to-face.

They also enable you to:

  • Generate leads inexpensively
  • Prospect to a qualified audience (one study found that over half of the people attending trade shows intended to make a purchase within the next 12 months and over 90% had influence over buying decisions)
  • Speed up the buying process
  • Meet with otherwise hard-to-reach decision-makers.
  • Strengthen your bond with existing customers13
  • Learn about new developments in your market or industry
  • Meet new companies that can help your company (potential suppliers, joint venture partners or investors, for example)
  • Close deals during the show
  • Strengthen or establish your brand
  • Optimise your sales and lead generation strategy

How to get leads with trade shows and exhibitions

To get the most out of your company’s trade show appearances, you should define your objectives and message and carefully choose which events to attend.

Each event you attend should complement your company’s strategic marketing plan and contribute to its overall profitability. For that to happen, you need to:

  • Find out which shows have been productive in the past and which your prospective customers and competitors plan to attend
  • Talk with previous exhibitors to find out the possible benefits of attending
  • Determine true attendance figures.

Whenever possible, try to close deals at the event to take advantage of prospects’ buying mood. If you can’t close the deal during the event, do at least try to set up appointments with key prospects for the week following the trade show or exhibition.

Identify the right trade show or exhibition

Finding the right event is essential. If you choose an event that’s either too specific or too general, you probably won’t get the visitors who are looking for a product or service like yours. Likewise, you probably won’t find exhibitors who are offering the products and services you’re looking to source.

If you’re planning to exhibit, make a profile of your ideal customers which includes their special interests and location.

The leading exhibitions will be able to give you information about the number and type of visitors they attract. This will give a good indication of whether the types of customers you are targeting are likely to be there.

  • For a roundup of key news in the events world, visit http://www.exhibitions.co.uk/news or http://www.tsnn.com/. Subscribe to ‘Exhibition Bulletin’ which is published monthly by Mash Media Group (www.mashmedia.net) and provides subscribers with a list of UK, European and overseas exhibitions as well as analysis of the latest exhibition news and trends.
  • Another great source for exhibitions and events is EventBrite and regularily check yourLinkedIn feed or any industry specific groups you might be part of.

Before booking, find out who attends the event, their spending power, who exhibits, and the data from past events. The organisers should be able to supply this kind of information.

Know your target

Decide who you want to attract at the trade show or exhibition.

  • How will you attract those prospective customers?
  • How will you ensure your stand and your product or service stands out? Nettl can provide you with some stunning solutions!
  • What image do you want to convey?
  • What will you be promoting at the stand?
  • What promotional material will you use (screens, photos, boards, display stands, posters, leaflets, brochures, business cards, samples, or merchandise)? Get in touch for samples.

Know the costs

To exhibit a small shell stand (bare frame, fascia name board, and flooring) at the major trade, event and exhibition venues in the UK will cost at least £1,500. A stand at a county or agricultural show will cost much less than at a major trade show or exhibition, but the audience will obviously be a lot smaller.

Other costs are likely to include:

  • Lighting and power points
  • Set-up and break-down of the stand
  • Graphics (photos, banners, etc.)
  • Sales literature (copywriting, graphic design, printing, etc.)
  • Travel and accommodation
  • Staff time and possibly training time

Make it easy for prospects to notice your exhibition stand by using attention-grabbing display banners. And do include your social media information so people can connect with you after the event.

The amount of traffic your stand attracts is the most crucial factor. So it needs to be situated where plenty of visitors to the show or exhibition see it but also in a place that allows them to be able to slow down or stop and look properly.

Be aware of access and legal issues

You’ll need to comply with laws governing health and safety, accessibility and data collection.

Promote your company before, during and after each event or exhibition

To get the most from your investment, you should market before, during and after the event or exhibition.

Send press releases to a targeted list of media covering your product category to increase the likelihood you’ll be mentioned in news stories about the event. Rent the event or exhibition’s list of pre-registered attendees and use it to set up appointments with key customers and suppliers beforehand.

Publicise your participation in the event (and the location of your stand) on social media, on your website, and in emails, newsletters, and blog posts.

During the event, send updates on social media. Remember to include the location of your stand.

Network before, during and after the even

Network as much as you can during the exhibition or industry event too.

Save the details of everyone you and your employees meet and make contact with them afterwards. Start building personal relationships with those people. Look for ways to be useful or valuable to those people.

Use social media to enhance your lead generation

Make it easy for prospects and new contacts to connect with you. Use your company’s Facebook Page as part of your corporate branding, and list your Twitter account, Facebook page, and blog on all your banners, posters, notepads, brochures and other marketing materials.

Run a competition to encourage attendees to connect with you on social media.

Use LinkedIn to find and network with people who’ll be attending the trade show or exhibition. Check to see if the organisers have created a group and if they have, join it.

Invite the people you connect with to visit your trade stand during the trade show or exhibition.

After the event, follow up with the people you met using LinkedIn or Twitter.

Get leads without attending trade shows or exhibitions

You don’t have to attend a trade show or exhibition to benefit from their lead generating potential, according to marketer Debbie Benstein who uses the information provided by trade show organisers to find new targets.

“I use trade shows to seek out new products,” she says. “Either these are from new companies who are hungry for business, or they are from more established companies who have a good handle on future trends and are manufacturing their latest ranges with that in mind. Either way, new products have yet to hit the marketplace and are more likely to be of interest to my buyers.

“These are targeted leads for you since they are in your niche and already spending money on marketing and so clearly interested in new business relationships.”

It doesn’t stop there, however. Benstein suggests you download the full exhibitor lists that trade show organisers feature on their websites.

“As well as dedicated search options on their sites, many trade show organisers release complete lists of exhibitors,” she explains, adding “You can download the lists and start doing your own due diligence to find the best matches for your business.”

Register for trade shows and exhibitions even if you don’t intend to go

Register for trade shows, even those that you will not be attending in person, recommends Benstein. That’s because registration gives you access to parts of the exhibition website which are reserved for people who are active in the industry: buyers, sellers and the press.

Registration will also get you onto the trade show physical mailing list, she says.