fast becoming recognised as an integral part of the marketing mix.
According to EXSA's research executive summary undertaken by
Grant Thornton Tourism Hospitality and Leisure Consulting
from May to September 2006, "The estimated exhibitor spend was R8.96
billion" adding that, "We estimate that during a full year the exhibition industry contributes
R156,8 billion to the national economy". The research went
on to include the following, "The national economy in 2006 generated GDP of R1 727 billion. The total
exhibition industry represents 9,1% of this and excluding the deal
activity the exhibition industry represents 3,4% of national GDP".
Exhibitions offer many advantages over conventional forms of
advertising, such as:
· A highly targeted audience
· A platform that enables clients to come to you
· The opportunity to demonstrate existing products and launch new
· Face-to-face contact with new and existing clients
· An opportunity to answer questions relating to your product
· Market research when developing products
· A means of generating media coverage
· Measurable ROI (Return On Investment)
Pre-planning will ensure the maximum ROI. Start by researching the
exhibition/s that you are considering by contacting the organisers to
clarify any details that will assist you in producing an effective
exhibition. In depth research into the most appropriate exhibition for
your company will ensure that you are targeting the correct audience.
Information to request from the exhibition organiser:
· A brief description of the exhibition/s you are considering.
· Proof of attendance from past exhibitions and if possible, a breakdown
of the categories of attendees and percentages of local and
· A list of other exhibitors attending the exhibition. This will assist
you in establishing the attendance of your competitors and other
industry participants when deciding whether the exhibition is suited to
· Enquire as to whether the exhibition is being marketed in trade
publications and by means of other mediums such street posters, radio
Find out whether the exhibition is established. If not, find out how
long the organiser has been established and request their credentials.
In addition, you can research other exhibitions the organiser has
managed. It is often a good idea to contact companies who have attended
previous exhibitions for feedback.
Once you have decided on your exhibition/s, book your stand space
through the organisers. Check the configuration of your stand and the
location of pillars, fire exits etc. and how they will affect your
stand. It is also a good idea to check for trunking under your stand
space for plumbing if you plan to have a hospitality area.
The earlier you book your stand space, the greater the selection for
prime locations. By booking your space closer to the show, you may be in
a position to negotiate a better rate per square metre. Be careful
though as some exhibitions are booked up and you may miss your chance of
being on the show.
The Exhibitor Briefing
It is advisable to attend the exhibitor briefing whenever possible as
you will be given valuable marketing material such as complimentary
tickets, advertising posters and the all important exhibitor manual. The
exhibitor manual contains important information such as order forms for
stand packages, carpeting, electricity, stand cleaning and general
information regarding the venue and rules and regulations pertaining to
the exhibition. This information takes the guess-work out of exhibiting
and gives you the chance to meet the organisers and ask specific
questions about the exhibition. Ensure that you submit your order forms
by the due date to make sure your selections are available.
Set Specific Objectives
Be specific and set measurable goals for the exhibition:
· Build brand awareness or company image
· Generate leads or obtain new prospects
· Develop new or reinforce existing relationships
· Generate sales
· Market research
· Test your product and gauge response to new products
· Public relations
Keep in mind that you can’t do it all because you will most likely end
up confusing your customers with conflicting focal points. Decide which
products and/or services you are going to display as this will assist
you when compiling the design brief. The stand design will be influenced
by your objectives with regard to entertainment or demonstration areas.
The location and design of your stand should reflect those objectives.
To assist in calculating the costs of exhibiting, formulate a
comprehensive list of expenses including:
· Cost of the floor-space
· Cost of electrical, plumbing and telephone connections
· Stand design and construction
· Freighting and storage
· Advertising and promotion
· Staffing and training
· Hospitality and entertainment
· Transport and accommodation
Time is of the essence when planning your promotional material. Get your
announcements and/or complimentary tickets out early. This can be done
by posting the material or sending out email invitations and reminders
to clients, suppliers and prospects alike.
Promote your presence at exhibitions on your website. Most exhibition
organisers have websites that you can link to and enable visitors to
pre-register for the event online. Some exhibitions have websites
dedicated to the show and can often have links to yours. Promote your
presence at exhibitions through industry related publications and press
releases in the months prior to the show.
In addition to marketing material, plan your promotional items such as
give-aways and brochures. Allow enough time for the layout and printing
of promotional material as well as the manufacture of gifts and
production of visual matter such as graphics or presentations for
plasma-screens and laptops.
The stand is a crucial factor in giving you the competitive advantage at
an exhibition. Select your stand builder carefully and ask to see a
portfolio of their work. Once you have selected your stand builder,
communicate your objectives for the stand clearly and have all relevant
information at hand to ensure an accurate interpretation of your product
in the design.
The Design Brief
· Establish what products you are going to display on the stand and if
possible, have a list of the measurements of each product. Your stand
builder will be willing to take these measurements for you, so ensure
that there is access to your product during the briefing if necessary.
· Determine the function of the stand e.g. Will you be entertaining
guests on the stand? Provisions for plumbing and adequate electricity
for example, will need to be ascertained in the early stages of design.
· Calculate your budget. By providing a stand builder with a budget,
they can design a stand within your budget by integrating ideas
accordingly. This also saves valuable time by assuring your objectives
are met early on in the design phase.
· Discuss payment terms with your stand builder and be clear regarding
whether you wish to purchase the stand, or hire it for the duration of
the show. This will affect price and you will need to decide if the
stand will be reused on future shows. Storage is expensive, so weigh up
the pros and cons.
· Have artwork such as company logo’s and graphics on disk in a suitable
format for reproduction. Check the required format with your stand
During the pre-build phase it is advisable to meet with the stand
builder in order to finalise any changes to the design and to give you
the opportunity to visualise the completed stand for the positioning of
Staffing the Stand
Ensure that staff are well trained on the subject of your product and
business. Pre-event training may be essential in order for them to
acquire the skills to turn potential customers into future sales. Staff
should be well informed of the goals of the stand and briefed daily
Avoid questions such as ‘Can I help you?’ Rather ask questions beginning
with who, what, where, when or how. Always go straight to the benefits
of your product and/or service. The 80/20 rule applies; listen 80% and
talk 20% of the time. Qualifying questions such as, ‘Does your company
have a need for ‘X’ product?’ will assist you in filtering unsuitable
visitors from your stand. If they are not prospects, politely move on
with a statement such as, ‘Then I won’t waste your time, enjoy the
Exhibitions are unique in that they engage all five senses, allowing you
to touch, see, taste, hear and feel the products and/or services on
offer. Interact with visitors by inviting them to sample your product.
Demonstrations, competitions, refreshments and give-aways will assist in
attracting the attention of potential customers.
Data recorders are usually available through the show organisers. These
enable you to scan visitor badges for the recording of information.
Although these devices are effective, a business card is a tremendous
reference. It provides you with accurate spelling, the type of business
and the visitor’s position within the company. In turn, remember that a
business card is the fastest and easiest way for a potential customer to
find your contact details. People generally keep business cards where
they have quick access to them. Always ensure that you have an adequate
After the Exhibition
Directly after the exhibition, hold a de-briefing session where all
leads can be classified while the information is still fresh in the
minds of your team. Discuss successes and short-falls and ways of
improving at future events.
Remember that marketing happens before, during, and after the
exhibition. Classify all leads and follow-up within the days and weeks
following the show. Follow-ups can range from a simple mailing to a
telephone call or a visit, depending on the nature of the lead. You may
not be able to follow-up with each prospect personally, but a post-show
mailing could assist you in generating several new leads.
Ongoing communication is the key therefore, add prospects to your
database or mailing list and keep them updated on company activities and
Refer to your initial stand objectives and measure your results. If your
objectives exceeded expectation, use them at future exhibitions. If your
objectives fell short, consider how you could improve by possibly
adjusting your goals or execution.
If possible, establish if you have generated orders or leads as a result
of the exhibition. Lead times can run into months after exhibiting and
it is advisable to track results on an ongoing basis by means of sales
generated and research or surveys conducted with visitors. Try to
ascertain whether your message was successfully communicated and what
visitors’ opinions were of your product/s.
Measuring results will assist you in selecting the right exhibitions for
your company, measuring your ROI, improving on your implementation and
market activities. Tracking information is essential so that you can
determine the effectiveness of the exhibition through to the bottom
How to Attain Objectives and Measure Results
· Generating Sales Leads
Grade prospects by means of a rating system such as:
1. Large order
2. Small order
3. Follow up
4. Add details to database
5. Other: supplier etc.
Measure the quality as well as the number of leads generated by means of
a rating system when generating sales leads. Quantify your sales at the
show and in the months subsequent to the show and evaluate the building
of your database by the number of new contacts added as a result of the
· Customer Relations
Building customer relationships can be measured according to different
criteria. You may wish to record how many current customers have visited
the exhibition or how many existing customers you have introduced to a
new product. There are many ways in which this can be done, for
instance: by recording visitor information, by determining how many
former customers you have met or by the awarding of contracts.
· Market Research
Conduct market research by means of questionnaires about your products
and/or services. Demonstrations also offer an opportunity to conduct
research on your product/s. Provide incentives in the form of
competitions to encourage participation. Alternatively, contact visitors
after the show to carry out market research.
· Brand Awareness
Brand building incorporates brand awareness, the positioning of a
particular brand, communication with stakeholders or developing new
markets for your brand. This can be achieved by demonstrations, visitor
perception and media exposure. Estimate the value in contrast to
Exhibiting provides you with the opportunity to meet with suppliers,
dealers and stakeholders. Measure how many prospective associates you
have met and assess the possible long-term value of the association.
Market your attendance on an exhibition through industry publications
and websites prior to exhibiting. Seek out the press during show and
leave press releases in the media lounge.
Measure how much editorial mileage you have received as a result of the
show against the cost of conventional advertising or advertorial in
Plenty of time, effort and expense will go into organising the show. It
is essential therefore, to plan, market and measure on an ongoing basis
in order to achieve your objectives.