Trade shows are becoming popular in Nigeria, partly because businesses are more aware of the benefits they bring. Brand exposure, insights into industry trends, and the chance to make big sales are just some of the compelling reasons, big companies and single person enterprises have for seeking slots at trade exhibitions.
But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you want out of any trade show you attend. Some of these events are good for business, attract thousands of attendees, and feature the best top grade brands and startups (a good example is Connect Nigeria’s eBusiness Fair). Others have little or nothing to offer, either by way of sales or contacts; they are poorly attended, and turn out to be a drain on the resources of businesses that unwittingly attend them.
We will stick with the part businesses have to play, to make their trade show experience worth their while- and their money too. If you are planning to go for a trade event soon, you will do well to follow these guidelines.
- Set goals
Why do you want to attend the trade show in the first place? Do you intend to make massive sales, get the public to notice your brand, or find out what your competitors are up to? Is your aim to get a feel of where your industry is headed (this is especially pertinent, when the event is an industry-specific trade show)?
Having decided what your general goals are, you should go on to set specific targets. For example, note the volume of sales you want to make, the number of leads you would like to generate, or the number of potential partners you want to talk to. The more clearly defined your goals are, the easier they are to track and achieve.
Make your booth stand out
Remember that your business won’t be the only one with a booth at the event. You will have to come up with a way to make a good first impression on the attendees at the fair. A stand that is set up in a creative, eye-catching way will do the trick.
You may use interactive touchscreen devices to attract and engage visitors to your stand. Those displays should have some information about your product and how it works. They could help turn your visitors into buying customers. You may also organize mini-competitions (with prizes to be won) to encourage people to come to your booth, participate, and buy your products in the process.
Use social media
Advertise your participation at the trade show or exhibition on social media and create an exciting buildup to the event before it takes place. Share updates on the show while it’s going on. A good tool for this is Twitter. It could help, if you are able to use the event’s official hashtag, so that people interested in the event will know that you are there. Another way to let your online audience in on your participation at the trade exhibition is live streaming. You can provide an online video channel, through which people can observe what goes on at the event in real time.
- Tick the good impressions box
People do judge books by their covers; they also judge people by the clothes they wear. Be sure that you and your staff are wearing the sort of clothing that the particular event you are attending (and exhibiting at) requires. Dress the part, but don’t overdo the looks.
Courtesy and congeniality are good assets to deploy in conversations you have with people. They will be more eager to know what your business is about if they find you to be a down-to-earth person, rather than a marketer preoccupied with selling his product to them.
Make your staff compete
You can get the most out of your staff by framing their participation at the trade show as a competition. The rule would be to award a gift to the person, who makes the greatest volume of sales or racks up the highest number of leads. This could motivate your staff to put in much more effort and get more creative in the quest to qualify for a reward from their bosses.
Exchange business cards. Lots of them.
This simply means that you should make as many new connections as you can at the event. And, depending on the nature of the exhibition program, you may find a good number of partners, suppliers and leads by interacting with other businesses. Do what you can on this front; you never know what opportunities are waiting to be discovered in the odd stand or alley that catches your attention.
Don’t forget to exchange business cards after every meaningful discussion with a potentially valuable contact.
Follow up leads
This should be done soon after the trade show ends. Leads gathered should be ranked based on the likelihood that they will translate to sales, and the sort of benefits they could add to your business. The ones at the top of the list should be pursued first and given the most attention.