In the digital age in particular, trade fairs and exhibitions are becoming more and more important – as an efficient meeting point for the presentation of products and services. And that includes a professional and perfect brand image that can be adapted to the respective occasion.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkle
Managing Director MerCon – Concepts for Retail

Previously for many years as CMO, divisional director, managing director and marketing director at Tchibo, Galeria Kaufhof, ZARA, Massimo Dutti and Otto

Conception of a trade fair participation

Fewer and fewer companies come to a trade fair to do business there. Instead, they research in advance and go to the stands of their choice. Above all, time plays a decisive role here. Because while in the past you took several days to get the most out of a trade fair, most visitors now spend an average of only one day at an exhibition. On this one day all stands will be visited and contacts will be made. For exhibitors, there are usually only a few minutes left to attract a potential customer to their side. That is why good preparation is the be-all and end-all in order to draw the full potential from your trade fair participation.

Target group definition

Before you take part in an event, you should ask yourself who your target group is and whether the selected event offers the right platform for it. Because products often go un-noticed because they are either poorly placed within the trade fair or even being advertised at the wrong trade fair. You can find the right event for your target group in various trade fair directories such as AUMA or Messen.de. If you don’t know what to do with the search, you can also look for direct competing companies that sell similar products to yours and see which trade shows they are attending.

It is also advisable to take part in many small trade fairs rather than just one large one, which then may not really suit your product. In this way you can maximize your customer reach, while possible losses due to the large number of events are compensated or minimized. This also has an impact on the profitability of the exhibition stand, which you can plan sustainably at the same time.

Formulate goals

Once you have defined your target group, the next step should be to formulate certain goals that you want to achieve by visiting the trade fair. Regardless of whether you want to increase sales or simply increase awareness, depending on your goals, you will have to act differently in order to achieve them. It can help to set up so-called SMART goals. That means goals that are specific, measurable, actively influenceable, realistic and scheduled.

Such a goal could then be as follows: We want to achieve a sales increase of 20 percent within the first year after our trade fair visit.

Build suspense

Arcs of tension are primarily about how you can attract potential customers to an exhibition and attract them to your stand. Arcs of tension can be a wonderful tool to generate attention.

In advance, you can, for example, communicate your trade fair presence as a special event in which every participant has the chance to win. Give away tickets for the fair or invite potential customers personally over the phone or by post and make appointments in advance.

During the event, you can then follow up on the competition and offer special deals to potential customers. In addition, it is always advisable to show yourself confident in your self-presentation. For example, do without tired Power Point presentations and use your trade fair stand as a stage to present something yourself. Do you sell software or a user tool? Show it off! Perhaps you are even dependent on another company. This could be a good opportunity to enter into cooperations and thus automatically increase the level of awareness of your own product, in which this other company also advertises you at its stand.

Sales preparations

Sales preparation primarily means: making appointments. Write to your existing customers as well as potential new customers in advance of the trade fair. In an interview with impulse magazine, trade fair trainer Peter Kunzweiler advises in the January 2016 issue to plan the day like a doctor. Since trade fair visitors have less and less time to spend, it is perfectly legitimate to process trade fair customers every 20 minutes. During this time, you should deepen your contact with your customer.

Do not try for the devil to sell your product during the exhibition. In most cases, this will backfire, as very few companies invest money in a product within 20 minutes. Instead, you should listen to your customer. What exactly is he looking for and what does he like about your product. Write it down. The time when you sell your product with the knowledge you have gathered about the customer comes after the trade fair.

In addition to top customers, you will also be confronted with walk-in customers during an event. This too must not be neglected. You should also plan a few minutes after each top customer conversation.

For major customers, it is advisable to make appointments outside the trade fair. Because most major customers bring even less time with them than the average, and this is where most of the time should be invested.

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