Trade shows – 10 top tips for exhibitors

HBRS Stand

With the prestigious Northern Homebuilding and Renovating Show 2018 in Harrogate coming up this weekend we ask the question: “In the digital world we live in with information at our fingertips is there still a place for a trade show?” From our point of view, the answer is a definite yes and research backs up our experience. It takes an average of 4.5 sales calls to close a sale without an exhibition lead, and only 3.5 sales calls to close a lead from an exhibition.  We work in the field of home automation, lighting design, lighting control and home tech and if you do too this will be a useful guide – but whatever line of business you are in from interior design and architecture to retail or manufacturing – the same principles will apply.

So there are decent leads to be had so its absolutely key that you use your time effectively when you’re there.  We have gained hundreds of new excellent clients and through trial and error have worked out the best ways to maximise a high ROI.  Even without the great ROI we’ve actually loved meeting people and talking about what we do!  We’re not alone – meeting potential customers was the most positive aspect of exhibiting at a trade show according to 83% of 100 regular exhibitors.

So now we want to share our experience of working a successful trade show in the hope that it will help others who are new or inexperienced at this.

Trade show statistics

In case you’re not convinced this is a good idea yet – check out these statistics – they speak for themselves.

1. 81% оf trаdе ѕhоw attendees hаvе buуіng аuthоrіtу. 

2. 46% of attendees attend only one trade show per year.

3. 92% of trade show attendees say their main reason for attending trade shows is to see new products being featured.

4. 64% of trade show attendees are not customers of the exhibitors’ companies. 

Harroagate HBRS stand
Lynn at the NEC in Birmingham

Our 10 top tips to maximise your ROI at a trade show

1. Make sure you market your attendance beforehand

We do a lot of preparation before any show and a big part of this is marketing.  We want people to know we’re going – especially those local to the event.  These are the steps we take:

  • Social & websites – announce our attendance (on more than one occasion!) on our social media and our website offering free tickets, using relevant hashtags and tagging.  We use LinkedIn in to directly message some key members of our target market in the local area.  The show websites often list exhibitors on their website too so make sure your page is professional and has some great images/videos to give the attendees a proper idea of what you can do for them.
  • Email – Send out an email to all our clients and potential clients offering free tickets
  • Face to face – we carry a bunch of tickets with us in the months leading up to the show to give out to everyone and anyone!
  • Event brochure – everyone at the shows we go to get one of these and from what we can tell they actually use them!  it’s important to stand out – we pay a bit extra to have an editorial and to stand out in the A-Z listing
  • Promotional bits and pieces – handouts always a good thing at the show.  Something small like a business card is useful for keeping in your pocket but you may want flyers/key rings/sweets to give away too. 

2. Book hotel way in advance

Speaks for itself but easily overlooked and you’ll be surprised how quickly local rooms get snapped up.

3. Make a checklist

One of the most important items for our preparation and you can keep it in a folder to use next time and keep adding to it. Make sure you don’t just write it – check it off too!

4. Get a good sleep and arrive early

Tempting to go out on a jolly when you’re away but believe us – not a good idea before a show!  Arrive as soon as the doors open – in our experience it pays.   

5. Dress appropriately

You want to be comfy as you’re standing up all day but it’s about getting the balance right.  We’re a home tech installation company so we dress smart casual as we see this as a good fit but you need to match the expectations of your client.  If you sell surf boards then you would be expected to be casual, if you’re a solicitor, casual probably wouldn’t work. 

6. Have an attention grabbing stand

Again – this depends on what line of business you are in.  We find that images and video speak more than a thousand words in our area of work.  People love looking at some of our previous home tech installation projects and we put together a selection to suit all areas of our work and a range of budgets too.

We use an experienced firm to build our stands and

7. Go with at least 2 of you

It’s really tough doing a trade show on your own – it’s never a good idea to leave your stand unattended so you can’t get a break or wander around to check out the other exhibitors.  Also, at busy times you don’t want to miss opportunities when there is more than one person interested in you.  We usually go along with 2 or 3 of our friendliest and most knowledgeable staff – the ones who know how to smile!

8. Engaging with attendees

Which leads me on to this important element of our show experience.  We live in the UK and its part of our culture to shy away from pushy sales tactics.  We will simply stand and smile and if there is eye contact we will start by asking how they are finding the show or whether they have come far – something general.  A bit of chit chat then usually – if they are interested in our business and the services we offer in home tech – they will start to ask questions and we go from there.

9. Network

You can make really good professional contacts at shows with fellow exhibitors – another reason why its good to go with at least 2 of you.  Take a pocket full of business cards with you and work your way around.   Check out the busy stands and see what they’re doing to draw in the crowds.  Observe how others engage and chat with potential associates.  Shows present the perfect B2B networking environment.

10. Follow up your leads quickly and effectively

Time is of the essence here.  You want to be the first to follow up while the show is still fresh in their minds and we find that a call followed by a meeting works best for us.  We put in the hours in the few days after the show – which can be pretty gruelling but pays dividends.  Sometimes its hard to remember who you’re talking to.  To get around this we make a note of some feature of the person that will jog our memory of who’s who – we are always polite!  That makes a real difference when you call back.

Harvey Residence
Show leads end up with finished projects and happy clients

At last year’s Northern Homebuilding and Renovating Show, for example, we met a young couple who were building their dream home.  They were just 4 weeks away from the first fix and not really sure if they wanted anything we had to offer.  Within a week of the show, we had met them and agreed a proposal to provide lighting design, lighting control, audio distribution throughout the house, intercom and broadband throughout the property.  2 days after that it was signed off and the work started soon after that.

The client said to me the other day – it’s our work that has really made the difference – making their home genuinely unique and special.  We have many happy clients who have come to us from shows and that’s why we keep doing them.

So there you have it.  We hope that this guide is useful to you particularly if you are new to this world.  So go along and most importantly – have some fun! 

And if you’re interested in what we do why not come and see us at the Homebuilding and Renovating Show this weekend.  Free tickets on us!  Click on the link below.

Cedia Member

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