Throughout the year I get many questions from my readers as to why they should either participate in exhibitions or trade shows or whether it is of importance for them (and their employees) to attend any of these events. And what impact the Internet has had on trade shows?
How to achieve improved results from exhibiting!
Skip Cox, President of Exhibit Surveys, Inc. says that measurement efforts usually focus on bottom line results because the need for accountability is almost always driven by demand from management for return on investment (ROI).
Skip says, that while it is true that ROI is ultimately what management wants, measuring results alone does not provide any feedback that helps to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a show or exhibit. Neither does it help you make informed strategic and tactical decisions about participation in the future. Measurement programs aimed strictly at ROI or ROO (Return on Objectives) to justify the investment tell you nothing about how to achieve better results in the future.
Today's sales and marketing event and exhibit managers need better and more predictive information to help make key strategic and tactical decisions about their programs.
Effective decisions must be in line with corporate objectives and markets.
Understanding your corporate objectives and markets ensures that your exhibition program forms an integral part of your marketing mix. And more so, understanding attendees' expectations and motivations for attending the show is essential in setting relevant show objectives and developing a strategy for achieving those objectives. To be successful, these objectives must be relevant to their needs and wants.
The mix of sales and communications objectives should vary depending on the profile of the audience and their reasons for attending. In developing a strategy, one of the key considerations is deciding which products, services or solutions to exhibit and emphasize. The demographic profile of the audience provides some insight in making this decision.
Developing show tactics
Tactics developed to implement your strategy are generally based on the types of objectives set. For example:
- Sales-related objectives generally require tactics more conducive to
one-on-one interaction. This allows visitors to obtain the specific
information they need to evaluate and compare products for purchase.
- Communications objectives can often be achieved with "one-on-many"
techniques (product demonstrations, stage presentations, etc.).
Background information about the wants, needs, expectations, interests and profile of the target audience is therefore extremely valuable for refining tactics to selectively attract the best and most prospects and to satisfy their specific needs.
Basic principles for a successful exhibition
Exhibitions from the Inside Out, stated that exhibitions have to re-evaluate the fundamental purpose they serve and re-invent themselves in order to meet the basic needs of their customers, i.e., their exhibitors and attendees.
For an exhibition to be successful the following principles apply:
- Keep it simple
- Deliver highly valued information to all parties attending (e.g., buyers, sellers, those looking for professional development, allied constituents of the marketplace, etc.)
- Provide an environment and forum that fosters and promotes personal interaction for the effective exchange of the information.
Looking ahead to 2005 and beyond, the successful exhibitions and conventions will be those that follow these three guiding principles.
A recent study conducted by Exhibit Surveys, Inc. substantiates the fact that all forms of face-to-face marketing (e.g., exhibitions, private corporate events, mobile marketing, personal sales calls) are more important today than ever before. This goes against conventional wisdom that suggests that the increased use of the Internet, video teleconferencing, conference calls, etc. due to convenience and/or budget and travel restrictions are conditioning buyers and sellers to use and prefer electronic meetings and media to advance the purchasing process. The fact is, both buyers and sellers still highly value face-to-face interaction.
The real challenge to the exhibition and convention industry in the future is how to make exhibitions one of the most economical and most effective methods for personal interaction.
The role of exhibitions in purchasing
A CEIR Research Report confirms that attendees use exhibitions to advance themselves along the purchasing path. About 76% rate exhibitions very or extremely important in becoming aware of new products or vendors, 67% to evaluate and compare products and vendors for future purchase, 50% to narrow all vendors being considered to preferred vendors, and 32% to ultimately make their purchase decision as a result of what they saw. These results are consistent across all major industries.
The big advantage exhibitions have over other types of face-to-face (personal sales calls, private events, etc.) is that they are a neutral arena for comparison shopping and making purchase decisions.
- 73% of visitors are personally involved in selecting, recommending or buying products and services
- Exhibitions are rated above catalogues, publications, the Internet, sales reps and direct mail as a means of assisting purchasing decisions among exhibition visitors
- 29% of exhibition visitors do not see non-supplier sales reps in their offices
The right exhibition is the only marketing medium that brings your most active prospects and customers to you. It also allows you to demonstrate products, answer questions, overcome objections and meet your market face-to-face. Furthermore, it allows you to meet virtually all of your marketing goals at the same time: from long term brand building to immediate sales, from researching the market to generating media coverage, from launching new products to entertaining loyal customers, from educating prospects to collecting high quality leads.
The future of exhibitions
Future growth will primarily come from smaller niche markets. This is why it is essential that exhibition organisers possess a good understanding of the various attendee and exhibitor segments that make up the market they serve as well as segments that are secondary and related to their core segments.
If both attendees and exhibitors are going to realise good value from the exhibition there has to be good alignment between the needs, expectations, interests and objectives of each.