Five steps to business expo success

Entrepreneur and franchise consultant Rebecca Newenham dives into the benefits of exhibiting at business shows and how to maximise your expo investment.

Five steps to business expo success

Investing in exhibitions can be highly effective whether you are looking to find new partners for your franchise or customers for your franchise business. But shows can also be a massive waste of money, with little return for all your efforts. The right planning, preparation and follow-up can ensure an expo delivers tangible results for your business.

Expos take place throughout the year all over the UK and are an excellent marketing opportunity. There are local business shows, national consumer shows, and shows based on particular sectors, such as flexible working, franchising, jobs or property. It’s critical to consider your target customers or franchisees and where you might be able to connect with them. 

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, as a franchisor, you often think about locations and territory areas you want to fill. Though this can be fruitful, it’s also helpful to think about the type of person you are trying to find, what they might be interested in, and what kind of shows they might attend. Consider both online and offline events. For me, nothing beats face-to-face connections at an in-person show. But online events can be effective, too, enabling you to access customer groups or regions that might be trickier to get to.

Once you have decided to exhibit at a show, follow these top tips to make your expo investment a success.

Be strategic

Expos are undoubtedly a significant investment, not just in the stand itself but all the time you will invest in preparing for and being at the show. Before exhibiting, visiting it first to get a feel for the format, audience, and atmosphere can be helpful. If time doesn’t allow, quiz the organisers about the type of attendees in previous years and delve into their data. You need to ensure the kind of people you are looking for will likely be there before you commit to exhibiting. 

Consider your stand size, the format and seminar or speaking opportunities. Although these may require further investment, they may give you greater exposure at the show and drive better conversations, as visitors will have more insight into what you do.

Go bold 

Your brand must stand out and be memorable in a crowded, busy space. Show visitors are bombarded with brand messages. It’s the perfect time to go bold with your branding, with strong, eye-catching visuals that give people something to remember or stop and think about. At Get Ahead, we dial up our vibrant orange brand colour in all our exhibition designs. Props like our orange telephone add novelty and give visitors something fun to interact with. 

Don’t forget to think about physical design like furniture, as well as visual graphics. On the Ashtons Franchise Consulting stand, we have tables and chairs. These enable us to sit and have good conversations with our visitors, giving them our undivided attention and capturing all their information.

Make sure you have enough people on the stand for the entire show

It might seem obvious, but it’s true. There’s nothing worse than an empty stand. Everyone needs a break now and again, and exhibiting is expensive enough by the time you have paid for your stand costs, let alone staff time. But there is no point in paying to exhibit if you’re not going to give it 100%. An empty stand sends a poor brand message and is a missed opportunity for what could have been your ideal next client.

Giveaways are a great way of boosting engagement and capturing data

Everyone loves a freebie. Giveaways like pens ensure your brand gets beyond the exhibition hall and into people’s offices or homes. Adding a promotion or competition to your stand enables you to capture the contact details of everyone who enters. Don’t forget GDPR – you can’t simply add these people to your communications without asking permission first. But the competition entry does allow you to start a conversation with them beyond the exhibition itself. Even if they don’t win, you can still follow up with a special offer and ask if they want to stay in touch.

Keep it simple, as time is valuable. Drop your business card in the hat for the chance to win a bottle of bubbly has always worked well for us at Get Ahead. Drawing the winner can create additional content for your social media channels, and you can even ask the official event photographer to take photos of you handing over the prize to try and boost your profile on the show’s official channels.

Always follow up on every contact and every lead

Just as preparing properly to maximise your return on expo investment is vital, you need to follow up fully, too. Keep the momentum going by following up with the people you met at the expo as soon as possible. Email any contacts who have given you their details. Pick out products or services that you offer to address their specific needs. For example, if we meet a business owner struggling with time management, we use the follow-up email to explain more about our diary management services.

Connect with people at the show through LinkedIn. Comment on follow-up social media posts by the expo organisers, exhibitors, or visitors. Every post is an opportunity to develop your brand awareness further and ensure your exhibition investment is successful. 

Don’t forget to communicate your attendance at a show before, during and after. Social media is an excellent tool for this. Promoting the expo in advance is key to increasing visitor numbers and helping you get the results you’re hoping for. At the show, posting can encourage visitors to head your way during a packed day. After the show, highlighting your presence can help you reach those who couldn’t make it with your brand messages and ensure you remain top of mind for those who did.

Rebecca Newenham
Rebecca Newenham