Making the most of shows, festivals and fairs
Going to an event should not be passive - here are a some top tips on how to be more active from our very own events guru Grace Stewart. Here you'll find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions in the form of a handy guide on how to make the most of the experience.
The most important thing you need to identify is what you would like to achieve: –
- Increase brand awareness?
- Or even both of these and more, such as testing new products or collecting e-mail addresses for marketing campaigns?
Most exhibition organisers have websites to help you gauge what type of audience visits, what visitor footfall is like and the best endorsement of all will be from previous exhibitors. There are many factors which may affect events, such as location, demographic of visitors, proximity to existing distribution channels and weather vulnerability. Talk to contacts and competitors to find out why they do or don’t exhibit at certain events. Finally, if possible visit your prospective event before booking; if that’s not possible at least investigate the venue or another event organised by the exhibition company or promoter.
As a rule of thumb, the more effort you put in and the more creative and engaging you are, the better you will do at shows. So well before you go you need to plan your stand, any promotions and ensure your exhibition kit looks professional, clean and appealing. Do you want to theme your stand or make it seasonal or promote a specific product line? Simplicity definitely works well with food and absolutely no fluorescent price stars or sticky notes, please! Make sure all your staff know what your objectives are, are well presented, clean, polite and understand what you are expecting from them.
Help promote events you are planning to attend by putting up posters or banners; take flyers to other events you attend listing your next show. Talk to your stockists about events you’re attending, put an events list on your website or Facebook page, spread the news on Twitter or by good old word of mouth. If you’ve got a database for newsletters or e-mails, segment it with a ‘shows’ list or get your PR company to do the work for you if you have one.
Invite any trade contacts you have in the area to get a double whammy of sales – send out invites to customers and potential customers, maybe include a special trade deal only available at the show and follow up all leads after the show has ended.
Once you’ve arrived at your pitch and set up, fix a permanent grin on your face! Interact with customers – sample, sample, sample – or create a stunt to get people talking to you. Hold an activity on your stand – it will make it a lot easier to engage with people and sell once you have broken the ice and have built up rapport. Show offers are always popular but work out margins/selling prices according to stand/travel/staff costs to make sure it is cost effective and that repeat customers won’t get a nasty shock when buying again from elsewhere. It’s also good practice to ensure that you aren’t undercutting local retailers who stock your products, although most will be happy about one-off ‘specials’ at shows, especially if the normal selling price is made clear. People who have tried your product and love it need to know where they can buy it again, so think about how you are going to direct customers to your website or your outlets too.
When you’ve packed your stand away, counted the takings and put your feet up, it’s time to evaluate! No two shows are ever the same so keeping records to make comparisons is really important. It’s also the only way to tell whether you have had value for money or met your objectives. But don’t forget, it’s not just about sales on the day, so you need to be able to measure longer term impact too. How much PR did you get? How many leads? How many subsequent orders?
Article compiled by Grace Stewart, Events Manager for Cornwall Food & Drink. Grace is happy to answer any questions and give suggestions or feedback to help you get the most out of events. For more info read our How to be a Good Exhibitor guide!