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Trade shows – what to consider before you sign up

At Get Ahead, we love business exhibitions especially the Brand Yorkshire Conference. We love the energy in the room and we love meeting people. It’s exciting to learn about the latest industry trends, and some of our most productive relationships have been started at expos.

However, expos are not for everyone. They are great marketing tools, but they are not a magic spell to double your business or become the market leader. You might get a lot out of attending an expo, or you might not. In this blog, we look at what to consider before you sign up.

Is this the right event for my business?

If you’re inexperienced with expos, it might be difficult to work out whether or not you should go. Of course, the organisers will make it sound like the greatest show on earth, but it’s important to remember that attending will cost you time and money.

Firstly, consider the type of expo. Is it for all businesses in a certain area, or a nationwide event for one industry? Is it trade-only, or open to the public? What kind of visitor are they expecting?

Exploring the website should give you an idea. Look at the list of exhibitors and let it tell you what kind of people the organisers are hoping to attract.

It’s also a good idea to look at the events programme. Most expos have talks and seminars – do the topics sound too advanced, too basic or just right for what you offer?

Trade shows – exhibitor or visitor?

Pros and cons of exhibiting

When you exhibit at an expo, you pay for a space which you can design as you wish, and it’s yours for the duration of the expo. Your business will get a mention in the programme, and there might be public speaking opportunities too.

However, exhibiting can be expensive. Not only must you consider the cost of the stand, but also the graphic design, banners and promo items. You’ll be away from your desk for the duration of the expo, as well as the day before for setting up, and possibly even the day after if you’re worn out.

Expos are a great marketing opportunity, and a great way to build your network. However, it’s important to weigh up the operational and financial costs of attending an expo before committing yourself.

Pros and cons of visiting

A less expensive option is to go as a visitor. All you need is yourself and your business cards, and many expos are free to attend. The downside is that you can’t directly promote your business and you’ll have a much lower profile than an exhibitor. However, you can still build your network, talk to the exhibitors and identify new opportunities. You’ll be able to attend the talks and you won’t be stuck in one place for the whole event.

It’s also a good idea to go as a visitor if you want to find out more about the expo. For example, if there’s a new trade show, it might be better to visit it this year and use your findings to decide whether you want to exhibit at it next year.

Should I go to the trade show?

The Get Ahead regional directors love expos and trade shows and always get a great deal out of them. However, expos aren’t for everyone. We’d always suggest going to at least one as a visitor before you decide whether expos are the right solution for your business.

Business expo support for small businesses

If you do decide to go, we’re here to help! We can support you with graphic design, marketing messages and social media in the run-up to the show, and even take care of your out-of-office support. To find out more, contact your local regional director.

Before the Expo…

Promote the expo before you exhibit – three ideas to increase visitor numbers

When you’re building up to exhibiting at an expo, it’s easy to spend all your time planning your stand and designing a rock-solid lead generation form.  But promoting the expo in advance of the big day is important too, and plays a key part in increasing visitor numbers and helping you get the results you’re hoping for.

Why is it important to promote the expo in advance?

Obviously, it’s important for the organisers to promote the expo – they need to attract exhibitors and get visitors to sign up. However, it’s also important for the exhibitors to promote their presence at the expo.

Exhibitors should promote the expo to encourage their own network to attend. This could increase overall visitor numbers – something that supports every exhibitor and the organisers too. The more people who talk about the event, the greater the buzz. And the greater the buzz, the more people want to engage with the expo and have a good day out. Practicalities matter too – let visitors know what to expect to help them get the most out of the event.

Promoting the expo is a good way to share the important details like times, dates and how to sign up. You can also promote seminars and workshops, which can sometimes have as strong an appeal as the exhibition side of the event.

It’s good social media content too! Many businesses struggle to keep up with regular social media posting, but an upcoming expo makes a great series of posts. You can tag the organisers, other exhibitors and people you hope will visit. There are lots of opportunities for interaction when you post about the expo online.

How can I promote an expo before I attend?

1. Social media

Use your social media accounts to talk about the event in the run-up. Tell people the name of the event and which stand you’ll be on so they can find you. Share links to the event website, and tag other people you know are exhibiting.

Photos and videos of you and your team preparing for the expo make great posts too. They’re authentic and human, and they also work as teasers for the event itself.

2. Add it to your email signature

Edit your email signature to include information about the expo, and include a link so they can sign up as visitors. It will also save you typing it separately into your email – if it comes up in the thread, you can simply write, “details in the signature,” instead of getting distracted looking for links.

3. Add the expo to your “contact us” page

Many people would love to meet you before they decide to use your product or service. Add the details of upcoming expos you’re attending to your contact page to give potential clients the option of a more personal interaction. Just remember to update the page again after the expo!

Outsource your social media

Get Ahead supports many businesses with their social media, including promoting expos in advance of the big day. To find out how we can support you too, contact your local regional director here.

After the expo – top tips for effective follow-ups

Busy expos are tiring, but the work doesn’t finish when you take your stand down. It’s important to keep the momentum going by following up with the people you met at the expo as soon as you can. If you don’t follow up, some of your work at the expo will be wasted – a real shame when you consider how much you’ve invested in the event.

Here are our top tips for effective follow ups:

1. Feel confident about your new connection

Talking to other business owners, we have encountered some who don’t feel confident about emailing new connections. If that’s you, we urge you to be strong and reach out. Remember, the people you need to email have already shown an interest in your product or service. They have given you their contact details and are probably expecting to hear from you. The worst that will happen is that they won’t reply; the best is that they’ll turn into a paying client.

2. Follow up within forty-eight hours

It’s important to act quickly after an expo. If the event has been very busy, you’ll also be competing with other exhibitors in the follow-up. Don’t wait until your new connection is sick of expo emails!

To speed things up, and give you less to do when you’re tired after the expo, draft some of the email in advance. Sentences like, “it was lovely to meet you at expo yesterday,” and a reminder of what your business does can feature in every email you send, even if you personalise your message too (see below).

You can also save time by using copy from your website to repeat what you do. A paragraph from your “about” page may work well, but remember to check it works in the different context.

3. Combine standard wording with a personalised message

We’ve already suggested drafting some of the follow up email in advance, to save time. However, personalised emails are much more likely to get results. So, to create an effective, time-efficient email, you might like to use standard opening and closing paragraphs, and tailor the middle section to the person you’re contacting.

In the middle section, we like to refer to the chat we had with the new contact. For example, “I was very interested to hear about your business expansion – it sounds like an exciting time for you.” Make it personal – use “I” and “you.” Remember to refer to what they said to you – don’t just bombard them with your sales pitch.

It’s also a good idea to pick out products or services that you offer to address their specific needs. For example, if we meet a business owner who is struggling with time management, we use the follow up email to explain more about our diary management services (our other packages can wait!).

Another way to connect on a more personal level is to include a picture of yourself at your stand. This will jog your new contact’s memory, while the photo of you will give them a visual way to connect with you.

We love supporting businesses before, during and after expos. We’ve created an ebook with lots of tips and ideas – download yours here.

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