By Kellymarie Smith
Before you decide to exhibit at a show, the first thing you should do is make sure it is the right show for you. Does the show attract your target market? As the organiser of the Listed Property Show I will only allow suitable companies to exhibit, I don’t want someone who offers UPVC windows which aren’t allowed on listed properties and at the same time they probably wouldn’t want to exhibit at a show which attracts an audience who aren’t allowed to install their windows.
Next you need to decide what you are trying to achieve from the exhibition? Are you raising awareness or capturing data? If you are planning to capture data of the visitors how are you going to achieve this? Will you be offering a competition or discount?
Stand size and location
However, if you are a furniture manufacturer you will need a fairly large stand to be able to display your furniture. For example, one of the larger furniture makers have taken a very large stand at the show to enable them to display their furniture as rooms within the exhibition. E.g. a bedroom, a dining room and a tv room. They then also use this furniture to discuss prices and options with the visitors, as well as being able to demonstrate them in-situ.
Usually the sooner you book a stand at a show the better choice of location you will have. Corner stands are always most popular, these allow you to have traffic (visitors) see your stand from two different gangways. It can mean an open and inviting stand, which is easily accessible. However, if you have lots of items that you would like to display on a wall then a centre stand with three walls would work best for you.
Popular areas within the show include near the entrance, exit or catering area. These are usually areas where people “loiter”. Some shows have set areas for different types of trades or services. For example an eco section, an interiors section, or a professionals section. Do some research first and find our where your competitors are.
What to display?
So now you have your stand in a show but what are you going to display? This will completely depend on your products or services. My experience has shown that visitors love to see a demonstration – do you have enough room to do a demo?
Obviously it’s not possible for every type of business to offer a demonstration, especially if it requires big heavy machinery to help. All shows also have strict health and safety rules which will need to be considered. Each exhibitor is responsible for their own stand but if the organisers and their security staff see any dangers the show could possibly be closed. This year we had a wrought iron demonstration which involved a gas fired hearth and the potential for hot sparks to be flying from hammering. It took a few months but with the right precautions in place, such as fire extinguishers and protective glazing for visitors we were able to go ahead with the demonstration.
Graphics are very important for your stand, not only do they attract the visitors to your stand but they should clearly demonstrate what you are offering as well as being part of your usual corporate image. If your business logo and website are all red and blue then your graphics at the show should continue this theme to create familiarity with your brand.
Some larger companies have a stand custom made for them; this again will continue their corporate image. There are many organisations that act as stand contractors who can advise on the best layout and concept for an individual stand for you. At the Listed Property Show English Heritage hired stand contractors to put together their stand.
Graphics alone can make a stand a little bland and uninteresting, if you are taking details or enquiries how are you collecting the results? Will you need a lap top? Do you need a table or other furniture for your guests to sit down? Brochure racks are very important to display your literature. Will you be offering any other free promotional materials such as pens etc. A nice bunch of flowers can always help to be a talking point and to add colour.
On the day
When you are at the show it is very important to make sure you are prepared. Plan what you will be distributing, have plenty of pens if you are collecting data by paper, always carry your business cards with you, you never know when you might bump into a potential client or contact.
Try to keep your stand clean and tidy, don’t have lots of empty boxes or cups and paper laying around.
When you are at a show don’t just sit on your stand chatting to colleagues, some visitors will also be intimidated by a single person sitting on a stand. Even if your reading or working on the stand this might give the impression to the visitor that you are busy and they might not want to approach. When I’m exhibiting on my own at a show I will not have a chair to sit on, I will wander away from my stand but still keep it in site. Then when someone goes onto the stand to pick up more information I will approach him or her and start a conversation. Never go straight into the conversation trying to sell to the visitor, ask them a bit about themselves, if it’s a home show ask them if they are currently planning a project? Find out if they are hoping to find something in particular either from your company or from the show in general. A great starter for me is “do you own a listed property?” Some people will be enquiring for friends or family.
Never be too pushy with the visitor, this is an opportunity to make a good impression with them face-to-face. Exhibiting at a show is completely different to advertising in a magazine. It is vital that your stand and your staff make a good impression on the visitors right from the start.
After the show you will still need to follow up your leads. If you’ve collected information for a competition let all the applicants know who has won while also reminding them what you offer. If you have taken more than just the basic contact details then you are able to follow up the visitors with a more detailed and personalised letter or telephone number. For example, if you’re an architect and someone has visited your stand enquiring about an extension, you can write them a letter asking if they’ve managed to speak to their conservation officer, offering them any help with plans for their listed building application. You might even like to go one step further and offer them advice on what their conservation officer or local council might prefer. The more information and advice you can provide the better.
If you are planning on sending quotes always make sure you send another brochure or images to support the quote. Clearly explain what is included and possibly include optional extras or variations that the client might like to consider. Remember when people visit a show they collect many leaflets and brochures, some of them get lost on the journey home so there’s no harm in sending more details to their home address.
I recently had a call from a member who visited the Listed Property Show in 2008 and he had three companies in mind who he met at the show, he could only remember what they were offering and where they were in the show – It’d taken him nearly two years to get his Listed Building Consent and funds in place and he was finally ready to start making purchases. It just goes to show that all three of these companies must have made a good impression on our member who was keen to start doing business with them. It also shows that although a show usually only lasts for a few days the bookings can still be generated a long time after.
Kellymarie Smith is the organiser of the Listed Property Show and part of the Listed Property Owners Club (LPOC). LPOC was established in 1993 by a group of enthusiastic owners to provide advice and information gained from personal experience to keep listed building owners informed of their obligations, rights, privileges and responsibilities.