How to maximize returns from your exhibition stand

Sell experience at exhibition stands to capture the imagination and maximize returns

Your grand stand at the exhibition is not meant for grand standing. Exhibition stands are an investment from which a return is expected. Tragically, many institutions short change themselves by assuming that the stand is an extension of their shop floor or branch yet it’s not. That thinking leads to treating the buyer the same way and wondering why the returns are different. Unlike the branch, the stand is open for a limited period and therefore offers a small window of opportunity to exploit the customer interaction; plus, the visitor to the stand is usually not in business or buy mode but in a much more relaxed frame of mind.

Exhibitions are an opportunity to present one’s institution and products on a different and informal platform; one of the objectives is to be seen through more appealing eyes. Another is to get the mountain to Mohamed, in the case where Mohamed won’t go the mountain (that is, where the customer won’t come to us). But all this isn’t merely for show-there is a sales component to it, the primary one being to secure hot leads. Building traffic to the stand is therefore critical. And this is where many institutions struggle.

A housing expo is not a Ghanaian fabric one. The latter stands a much higher chance of making cash sales on site than the former. Most visitors to the Ghanaian exhibition are local buyers who are only too happy to have the mountain come to them. It drastically lowers their costs of fabric acquisition even if for a period, and they also know that the exhibition is touch and go. The exhibitors are in the country for a limited period so the pressure of time adds to the urgency to purchase and make contacts. A local housing, engineering or motor expo struggles with not only lack of pressure for time, but also the fact that the products are major purchase decisions. For this reason, increasing traffic to the stand, and therefore leads created, should be the driving thrust. The truth, however, is that a radiantly branded, music blaring, high-end furnished lounge will only do half the work of achieving this. And it’s the half that doesn’t pay. It will catch the eye but not necessarily the imagination.

To capture the imagination, institutions must go beyond merely opening shop to getting the shop to come alive. Visitors to exhibitions are not as primed to business as they would be when they visit you in your offices. They are more in entertainment, than business mode. For many, it’s even a family day out; which is why fast food stands thrive in exhibitions with little effort other than merely opening shop. The rest must don their creative cap.

The stand at the housing expo that offers a free ride from exhibition to site and back does just this; or, instead of the salesman merely displaying and explaining what the powerful pump can do, he connects it to a water source and demonstrates it shooting water the five storeys he says it can. In addition to having the CCTV camera on display, have the customer experience the live footage of the two of you talking, right after you surprise her with footage tracking her from entry to the expo to arrival at your stand. The sales engineer at the children’s event who insists on presenting the technical aspects of the pump will say the investment was a waste of time as no parent came. The one that has a clown (who will attract the child, and therefore the parent) and has the pump shaking the bouncing castle will report on how worthwhile the investment was judging by the overwhelming contacts.

Your grand stand is merely an open shop-a feature. Getting visitors to experience your offering is what will win their imagination and get you traffic.

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