The real cost of getting it wrong at Exhibitions

For every company, the decision to exhibit at a major industry event is not one that is taken lightly. The cost and logistical implications can be prohibitive and companies need to spend time researching the genuine commercial benefits of having a presence at a show. Can you afford not to be there?

1. Get used to making decisions and delegate well

Once the decision has been taken to attend your chosen event, a period of decision-making ensues, with hundreds if not thousands of choices, which may indirectly or indeed directly contribute towards the success or failure of the event as a commercial exercise for your business and also the speed at which either of these occur.

Minimising cost is a good business-owners’ prerogative, but some would also argue the old adage of ‘speculating to accumulate’. Creating a presentable and professional looking exhibition stand does not have to cost the earth; it simply requires an amount of creative thinking, thorough planning and being able of maximise your resources.

If you do choose to use a contractor, do your research and elect a company that can do your brand justice as repairing the damage to your brand can be even more expensive than the stand itself. Your time is valuable – so choose well and let your contractor take control of your project.

2. Think strategically

Taking a small stand at a show is generally a way of ‘testing the water’ to see if it is suitable for your company. Many companies overlook the value of ‘walking the floor’ at an event prior to actually exhibiting, often assuring you of the quality prior to significant financial investment.

In many overseas markets, potential customers may use your stand size and image as a barometer for measuring the financial stability of your company. In others, you may be assessed for your frugality.

It’s imperative to have an understanding of the strategy you are employing in relation to the events you attend. Establish a timescale (this may be one, two, three or more editions of the event) and quantify the type of results you seek to achieve. Ascertain if these results assimilate with the wider goals of your organisation.

Companies without genuine strategy risk a high burn-rate with little impact.

3. Don’t let logistics give you a headache

In terms of logistical arrangements, companies who take products or samples to events face additional hurdles. The financial impact of being unable to show a prototype or genuine product on stand due to red-tape or poor service by third-parties may have a real impact on the effectiveness of your attendance. What does a damaged product say about the quality of your supply chain and ability to fulfil orders into your chosen market? What is the real cost of this to your business?

4. Put the right people on the stand

Reducing the capacity of your business for the duration of an exhibition is understandably a concern for any business owner and a significant real cost for an organisation.

Whilst it’s probably not the best idea to have the whole team on stand at an event, think about the requirements of your audience and create the best match. In some markets, delegates are unlikely to engage in great detail with anyone under director level. This may seem trivial, but highlights the importance of understanding your market and maximising the event as an exercise for your business – getting this wrong can be expensive.

Having an efficient and well-drilled team can vastly increase the productivity of attending an exhibition. Ensure your team is well briefed, produce a stand timetable, consider where meetings will be held, create a leads process, attend networking events as appropriate and ultimately maximise your face-to-face time. Collecting business cards to follow-up on back it the office is a perfectly credible exercise, however there is no substitute for face-to-face contact and that is ultimately the reason why you have travelled to your chosen event.

In a 2012 survey by ‘Genie Mobile Apps’, 58% of people stated that the one single factor that puts them off stepping onto exhibition stands at trade events is pushy sales people. How do you attract attention?

5. Do your homework, follow up….or why bother?

Exhibitions can generate an incredible amount of leads, yet companies are often unable to box out the time to follow these up. Use the enthusiasm and momentum from the exhibition to make contact when back in the office and create some genuine business – otherwise you may be the owner of an extremely expensive collection of business cards. Also, your customers will no doubt have sent English speaking people to visit the exhibition – but chances are their work mates back at the office won’t be – translate all of your materials!

And remember……..

Companies who succeed in export use trade shows and exhibitions as a ‘stepping-stone’ to their long term strategic success, not merely for short term gain. Take advice from market entry specialists to minimise the risk of financial burn-out and plan for the amount of time and investment it may take to see an actual financial return. It’s useful to consider the model below when calculating what your company requires as its ‘return’ to assess how you produce your exhibition plans and goals:

  • GENERATION OF NEW SALES LEADS (People you haven’t met before)
  • MEETING EXISTING CONTACTS (Nurturing existing business relationships)
  • SECTOR AWARENESS (Being aware of developments within your business field)

There is absolutely no doubt that choosing the right event (and executing it well) will assist in driving your business forward – but mistakes are expensive and affect perception of your brand and ultimately your bank balance. Be aware of financial and logistical support available from governmental departments and also private entities to assist you to minimise risk and expense.

See you on your stand!

Topics: Export Planning, Export Process, Getting Started, and Trade Fairs
Export Action Plan