gmb-logo-2013sWith this one simple tip, you will hugely increase your ROI at exhibitions…

With Guildford Means Business (GMB) just around the corner, businesses in Surrey are busy preparing their exhibition stands. The hot topic at every networking event I’ve attended is how to leverage the best response from booking a stand at the event.

So how do you ensure that your money invested doesn’t leave when the attendees do? The key is, pick one aspect of your business and focus on promoting that and only that. Which aspect do you pick? That depends on the exhibition in question.

This is easier to determine for some businesses and shows than others. For example, if you are a photography company exhibiting at the National Wedding Show, obviously you showcase your portfolio of stunning nuptial pictures; at Mums Show Live, your kids and baby pics, and at a corporate exhibition like Guildford Means Business, your professional headshots. The narrower and more defined the chosen part of your business is, the better, as you will come away with a lot more useful leads than if you throw every product and service you sell at the visitors. For example, at a boutique wedding show, show off your most dramatic shots, and offer a discount on your premium package, rather than displaying your more relaxed and friendly wedding photos and giving a special offer on your ordinary package, as you would at a more standard wedding fair.

This decision should also shape your stand as a whole: offer a promotion related to that field. If you are trying to increase your mailing list as a whole, offer a competition which people enter by leaving their business card. If you are trying to generate a small number of leads, but serious ones, only exchange details with people who seem genuinely interested on the day.

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I’m working with my BNI chapter Guildford Business, who have purchased a stand at GMB, to maximise their return on investment. If you don’t know much about BNI, each “chapter” consists of a number of businesses (limited to one from each business category) who meet once a week for an early breakfast networking meeting, and work together to pass each other hot business referrals. While obviously their entire organisation could appeal to a large portion of the visitors at the show, there were a number of different types of people we could try to attract at the event:

– direct customers for one of our component businesses on the day

– attendees who were interested in attending a BNI meeting, but not in joining

– attendees who were interested in visiting and joining BNI

It was important to narrow down the field of possible outcomes to just one of these aims. We had noticed a large amount of increased business for the entire BNI chapter by inviting guests along, whether it was possible for them to join or not. We also noticed that this more relaxed approach to inviting actually led to an increased number of conversions (from visitor to member), possibly due to the lowered amount of pressure put on guests. Consequently, we decided on option number 2.

This decision directed our entire approach. Rather than hanging at the back of the stall waiting for the really interested attendees to read the available literature and strike up a conversation, we plan to approach most of the visitors with a conversation starter that will get them interested in being in a room with our members, rather than interested in the ethos of BNI. We are also planning a Visitor Day to invite exhibition attendees to, that will have a slightly later start than our usual 6:30am, so we can invite people who wouldn’t be interested in such an early morning meeting, but who nevertheless would receive a lot out of attending just one meeting. Please do come find BNI Guildford Business at the GMB exhibition on 15th May.

The most important thing when exhibiting is to pick one aspect of your business, relevant to the exhibition you’re attending, and focus all your efforts on the day to attracting customers for that aspect. Whether you’re exhibiting at GMB, another exhibition, or just entertaining the idea, remember this tip to ensure you leave the event with exactly what you wanted.

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Note: this blog post originally featured on www.socialquirk.co.uk.

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