Until around three years ago we didn’t do Event Stands.
We didn’t think we needed to – our ecommerce business was flying high with page one Google results and we were super busy.
However, as any ecommerce retailer will know, the infamous Google updates changed the nature of ecommerce forever a few years ago and the clever businesses realised pretty quick that, in most cases, 100% internet sales is not a safe way to conduct a retail business.
Clever businesses diversify …
There are many different ways to diversify but for us we settled on promoting across the UK on Event Stands.
And we admit, at first we didn’t have a clue about what to do at or what to expect from event stands. But we’re sure glad we made the effort to find out.
Three years on – and after a few mistakes along the way – our Event Stands across the UK have won countless awards and now account for around 35% of our business and growing all the time.
How to plan and execute killer Event Stands – our secrets un-veiled …
We’ll break this down into key areas …
First and foremost – choose your event with care …
This almost should go without saying but you’d be surprised at how many exhibitors we see at the shows we do who have quite obviously chosen the wrong audience for their product.
Event Stands cost a lot of money – especially if they don’t make a decent return – and it’s also rather embarrassing when you’ve gone to a lot of trouble planning this great offering and everyone just walks past and ignores you!
Secondly, negotiate …
The price offered is rarely the price you need to pay. Remember, the organisers want your custom and they want as many applicable show stands as possible.
And the less you pay the more cash you’ve got to play with when designing your stand and the like.
Choose your weapons carefully …
There’s no point turning up with any old stuff and hoping it will sell.
You need things that are going to stand out and catch a punters eye – things they may not have seen before.
Show your brand, service or product in the best light possible …
We sell garden furniture and some would say that there’s nothing more boring than this.
To a certain extent they’re right but that didn’t stop us shopping around for a few stand-out lines to act as show stoppers.
Like the Apple Day Bed, for instance from our Range of Outdoor Rattan Furniture or our Range of Outdoor Water Hyacinth Furniture which, as result of exposure on our Event Stands, is actually searched for in Google now.
Tell people about it …
The show organisers will be offering various promotional offers and you should get a free listing for your business on their website – utilise this to its full potential but don’t pay to have it enhanced, this is quite simply a con to make the organisers themselves more money.
The fact you’ve got a basic listing with a link back to your website is fine – people can find you through the show site and the money you save on not enhancing the listing can be spent on enhancing the event stand itself or through your direct marketing channels with your existing audience.
Use Your Web Platform …
It’s debatable whether using the likes of Twitter and Facebook et al actually sells products and services with a decent return on your efforts – particularly for small to mid-range businesses.
But they are a great way to expose your brand – especially when you catch the tide of a major event that you’ve got a presence at.
So hijack the #tag, boost your efforts on Facebook to relevant audiences either by geographic location, specific interests or affiliation with the events page itself.
When we exhibit at the RHS Flower Shows we make damn sure that all their Facebook Fans know about it – both before and during the show where we can.
Create banners for your website advertising the show along with special ‘Show Offers’ for those attending.
You’ll often find the organisers give you a certain amount of complimentary tickets, so what’s to stop you offering these as competition prizes on social media and/or a competition page on your site.
If you’ve got an email base shout about the event to them and offer them exclusive incentives to attend or offers only available to them when they do attend.
Create something special …
Ok, so you don’t have a crystal ball, making it impossible to know exactly what’s in store for you when you arrive at the event.
This makes it difficult to know what event stands will work and pull the punters in – especially if it’s your first time.
There are companies who design and manufacture event stands but we’ve always been a ‘do things in house’ kind of company and we think that little personal touch goes a long way.
And even if you do pay someone else they’re still going to need direction from you.
So, in the early days prior to the first few events, take a look at what’s gone before – search for previous events by year, trawl the news pages in the search results to find exhibitors who’ve made a splash before – the more info you have at your fingertips the better able you are to get it right first time and make the biggest ROI.
Our show stand formula has become so successful for us that we’re almost flabbergasted now if we don’t win an award.
- At the Event:
Right, you’re all set up and ready to go at your first event, the stand’s gleaming and the team are briefed.
But no one seems to care, and what’s worse, the event stands all around you are busy as hell.
We’ve been there, done it and it hurts. But we learnt the hard way and it all comes back to the last point above …
“Create something special …”
It’s alright having an all singing, all dancing stand but what are you backing it up with?
Have you got those stand-out products that pull heads and gain a name for themselves outside the bread and butter products you sell every day of the week, trade show or not?
Are you running any Special Show Prices and does anyone know about these before they attend the show?
Have you got a well advertised competition prize on the stand?
Can people see a Free Glass of Fizz being served as they wander by? (Note: check out the guidelines at the event for this and make sure it’s within the rules before you invest in a small French vineyard.)
Is the person who won the free tickets you offered pre-event going to come on the stand and thank you all very loudly for making their year!
Or did the competition not go ahead to offer this opportunity in the first place because no one got round to organising it?
It’s all about the buzz on Event Stands.
And this is created by the atmosphere you promote from the stand itself.
Off-Stand Promotion at the Event …
Just because you’re on-stand doesn’t have to mean the off-stand promotion stops – make sure the web team are well stocked with smart phone videos and pictures for social media and blogging throughout and after the show.
A good example of this is the recent ‘new sales tactic’ we created at The London Boat Show – yes, our formula works that well we manage to sell garden furniture at a show for boats – take a look at the video we released that’s had thousands of views on Facebook and YouTube below …
One final word of warning here though – whatever you do if you think it won’t go down well with the organisers or others around you; don’t do it.
The show organisers are often very particular about what they do and don’t allow on their event stands and there are always plenty of companies ready to fill your shoes if you upset them.
The exposure from event stands doesn’t have to stop once you’ve taken the stand down.
Obviously if the event is big enough there are News Round Ups to get on the back of, there are competition winners to announce and slap all over social media channels and, of course, there are emails to send to those people who have entered the competition.
And, if you’ve been social enough at the event you will have contacts to follow up with and possible brand partnerships to take advantage of that can provide good ongoing exposure for a long time after the event.
We made a contact at The English Garden Magazine at RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year and we are currently doing a solus email swap with them to their 12,000 subscribers – this costs us nothing and generates a whole new customer base for us.
So milk it, milk it and then, milk it again.
Hope you enjoyed this and got something from it if you already do event stands throughout the year and that it’s convinced you to do them if you don’t already.
And if you think people you know could benefit then please share it and bring them into the loop as well.