Trade shows offer a unique marketing opportunity for businesses, as they allow for direct, face-to-face communication with potential customers. In fact, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 92 percent of all exhibition attendees are there with the express intention of seeing new products.
Yet, many exhibitors fail to fully appreciate one of the other opportunities afforded to them by exhibition marketing – the ability to network. Some companies struggle to make the most of the chance to make new connections, while others don’t really try all that hard with networking at all, focusing instead on stand design and exhibition services.
To get the most out of trade show marketing, good networking is essential and the tips below will help.
1) Understand the Benefits of Networking
One of the best ways to get better at networking is to improve your understanding of why it is so important. This then increases your motivation to get it right. Remember, exhibitions aren’t just attended by visitors; they are attended by other businesses, by those working for exhibition companies and by journalists.
The businesses could be potential partners, potential suppliers or potential customers. An employee working for an international exhibition company might have tips to share with you, or might want to help you out in future. This is precisely why you should aim to speak to as many people as possible.
Even people operating in completely different business areas, or those with completely different interests may provide a valuable networking opportunity. After all, it isn’t always about them personally. They may know someone who would be interested in your products, or know someone who could help your business out in other ways.
2) Leave Your Stand and Visit Other Exhibits
One of the biggest mistakes exhibition marketers make is becoming tied to their stand. It is easy to understand how this happens, but falling into this trap will severely restrict your networking opportunities. Overcome your nerves, move away from your stand, visit others exhibits and speak to the people operating them.
If a stand appears to have nothing in common with yours, you should still speak to the people behind it. You may be able to reach an agreement whereby they refer customers to your stand and you do the same for them. Bring plenty of business cards with you too, as this is the easiest way to guarantee people leave with your contact details.
3) Use Social Media to Aid Your Networking
Another simple but effective tip is to use social media before, during and after the trade show to aid your networking. Sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to connect with the people you meet, but also allow you to ascertain who is attending ahead of time. This essentially gives you an extended period in which to network.
- Create an event page on Facebook, so that you can start networking in advance
- Use the event’s hashtag, or create your own in order to keep Twitter discussion in one place
- Once you have an idea of who is attending, connect with them on LinkedIn
4) Speak to the Organizers of the Exhibition
Finally, one networking opportunity that many businesses miss out on is speaking to the organisers of the exhibition they are attending. Not only do organisers have excellent contacts, which is a compelling case in of itself, they also have the ability to help your business out in a number of ways.
For example, networking with them ahead of the event may lead to greater exposure and a mention for your business in their promotional material, such as in leaflets or on social media. Alternatively, you may be able to talk yourself into a speaking role at the exhibition, or secure a prime location for your stand.
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About The Author
Reno Macri is Director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a UK based exhibition and event company. It specialises in visual branding, event design & production, graphic productions, signage systems, experiential marketing, exhibition stands design, interiors and more. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends.