STAND AND DELIVER! Business driver or business cost? 10 rules for a successful trade show.

Let’s be honest, no one has ever said that exhibiting at a trade show is cheap. It isn’t, so it’s imperative you maximise the return on that investment. Fifth Ring has supported some of the biggest brands in the oil and gas industry for a number of years now and, based on our experience, we’ve written below the top ten rules that lead to success on the exhibition floor.

Used properly, as part of a fully integrated campaign, investing wisely in a trade show can move it from being viewed as a budget-draining business cost to a definite highlight and key business driver.

1. Know why you’re going

The success or otherwise of a trade show is related to the degree of planning that goes into it and the first question you must ask yourself is: Why are you going? Are you raising your company’s profile? Are you launching a new product? Are you looking to establish relationships to grow your business? A trade show can provide a platform for all of those and more.

2. What does success look like?

We often hear the comment “You can’t really put a value on a trade show”, but you can, if you establish sensible measurement goals.

When you are dealing with high-value products, such as those found in the oil and gas industry, the journey between exhibiting at a trade show and closing the deal is a complex one.

Align your KPIs or expectations against the four key elements in the buying process: awareness, interest, consideration and decision.

Often, the exhibition represents the starting point of a buying process that can take several months, or even years, to complete.

3. Develop a strong campaign idea

A strong creative campaign idea rolled out across all communication channels is essential. All elements of the campaign should tell the brand story in a way that interests people enough to make them want to talk about it. The key is creating a story that excites imaginations but is contextual to the brand story. A great help in avoiding gimmicks like painted naked ladies.

4. Engage your audience

This must begin well before the show itself using a prescribed blend of direct mail, e-mail, invitations, website landing pages, social media, online and offline advertising, sponsorship, speaking opportunities and media relations.

5. Engage with the media

Trade journos tread a well-worn path to the world’s expos, so anything new, enticing or exclusive will be gratefully received. An effective media relations strategy must be considered and planned in advance of a trade show.

6. Stand out from the crowd

Make your stand work for you by creating an inviting 'clean' space that allows you to engage with visitors (who could well be potential clients!). Your stand has to tell the brand story with clarity, brevity and impact. Remember the show is about talking to people not expecting them to read a brochure you printed on the wall.

7. Brief your team

During the show, it’s important that you have the right people talking about the right things (for example, if you are launching a new product you need the person in charge of that product on hand to explain its benefits). Make sure everyone knows your company’s stand etiquette and abides by it.

8. Ditch the free sweets

Everyone loves a give-away. The ubiquitous pen, stress ball or cuddly toy is fine, but must be aligned with the campaign and resonate with your audience. No-one ever bought a BOP stack on the basis of picking up a T-shirt (at least we hope not!)

9. Collect your leads

Make sure you have a system in place to capture the details of everyone who steps on to your space, whether that be through a hand-held scanner, business cards or even a written list. Then agree who within your company needs to follow up with that contact. The number of leads generated is another way of measuring an exhibition’s success.

10. Get calling

You’ve delivered the leads, now it’s up to your sales people to get after that new business. Meanwhile, it’s on with the next show!