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Prepare Yourself For Huge Rewards

Aug 17, 2007
We have all hear stories about the success and failure rate of exhibiting at Trade Fairs or Expos. Because of the large outlay for a stand at such an event, the Micro and Home Based Business operators really need to ensure that this is the way they want to move their business forward.

Before deciding if you want to go down this path of promoting your business, make sure that you do your research. One of the first things to take into consideration is, who is the target market of the organisers of specific expos, and is it your target market? It is most important to do sufficient research to reduce the risk of an unsuccessful event

You can do most of your research via the Internet (check out festivals supported by local Councils; check the Exhibition Centres in each State for their calendar of events etc.)

Once you think you have found one that suits your needs, you need to check a number of points e.g. prices; dates (what else is on that could clash and take away potential visitors/customers); publicity (where is it being promoted, how much is being spent); space available; whether it is a retail or trade expo (retail stands allow you to sell onsite - trade stands usually only allow you to take orders); the length of time the expo runs for etc.

Once you decide to proceed, you need to consider how to set up your stand. Again you will need a checklist covering such things as:- furniture; lighting (in most cases you need more lights than what is provided); signage; simplicity of design; etc.

Before the Expo/Fair make sure you are well prepared - give yourself time to produce:- flyers; business cards (not only must you have them to hand out, but more importantly for you - you must collect them from your visitors!); provide a survey; have give-aways; roster people to 'man the stand'; and be familiar with stand etiquette (this is really important).

Promotion by the organisers is important, but you too should promote your stand to all of your contacts. Have a 'special offer' that can only be accessed from your stand etc. Make a check list and cover such things as: sending promotional information to your contacts and existing customers; providing free tickets (these are usually made available by the organisers - make sure you send some out) and offering 'specials'.

Just when you thought you had survived the ordeal - exhausted and either disappointed with the outcome or elated - there is still a lot more work to be done. So much of the success of participating in a Trade Fair or Expo depends upon what you do after it is over. Make sure that you are prepared for extensive follow up. And whatever you do, measure the results. You need to assess the outcomes - if you don't - you will never know if it is worthwhile doing it again.

Most businesses taking part in Expos really just want to make sales. If this is your need, simple day festivals, markets & fairs may be more suitable than three day events. In my first Trade Fair in Melbourne, I took over 100 orders and only one was from a Melbourne trader. But as my work became better known (branded) sales at expos dropped off. People came to see what I had that may be new, but ordered later from my follow up. So what started off as a sales exercise developed into a branding and marketing exercise - both had real value to the growth of my business.

When choosing what to display, remember to keep it simple. Have a theme and build your product around it. A stand promoting skin care products would probably be more successful if it specialised and promoted e.g. Rose Hip Oil skin products. You need to specialise. But you can have a picture catalogue of other products you have available if a customer shows interest in your full range - or a flyer with a web address that will give a listing of all products available. Most new exhibitors make the mistake of trying to show their complete range and end up with a cluttered stand that has no real visual impact to potential customers. A Trade Fair stand is not a shop!

Another big mistake new participants make, is that they gear themselves up to give information, but seldom work out a strategy on how to get information. Your number one goal should be to gather names, emails, addresses and phone numbers from everyone who visits your stand. It can help by having a short survey with a small number of multiple choice questions. Everyone who completes the survey would go into a draw to win a special gift.

Remember it is often the 'follow up' that closes the sale. This is where your sales often come from - not necessarily at the expo itself. And how much time does this take? A lot! I probably spend as much time and effort on marketing and building on customer relationships, as I do making the product...

There is certain etiquette when manning a stand; Never be late or leave early; Never leave the stand unattended; never eat in the stand - if you cannot leave your stand ensure your food is in small pieces and walk out of your stand to eat; if you are sitting and someone hesitates near your stand or looks in, immediately stand, say 'hello' and offer a free gift (it may be as simple as a bowl of jelly beans with the comment "please help yourself to an energy pill!"; always be prepared to help neighbouring stands; don't complain and whinge when things don't go as well as expected - check out other stands that are doing well and try to assess why.

You will get tired and footsore and possibly hot (from the lights) - but you must always display a happy relaxed attitude for your customers. They, too, will be tired and often frustrated. A happy face, a kind word and an offer of an 'energy pill', can make all the difference to an exhausted potential customer!

Has all this scared you off participating in a fair or expo? It shouldn't! You should be just as passionate and excited about your marketing strategy as you are about producing your product. Your success will often depend on how well organised you are and how thorough and diligent you are with your 'follow up'.

It is a risk participating in these fairs/expos - but if you are completely adverse to risk, your business is less likely to be successful. Bite the bullet and give it a go! Perhaps you can even share a stand - but make sure you plan and organise together!
About the Author
Gabogrecan has participated in many expos. Her product won 7 of the Australian Gift of the Year Awards and she had 16 licences. For a Free e-book on 'Preparing Yourself to Exhibit at an Expo' go to bottom of home page on http://www.micronavigator.com.au
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