Trade exhibitions – still worth it?


Two things seem to be happening in the trade exhibition world these days. Many companies are choosing to exhibit less and the price of exhibiting is on the up. In excess of £500 per square metre is not uncommon.

Whether you sell tables, tulips or tomato chutney, there is an exhibition of relevance to your industry at some point in the year. For many industries, you’ll be spoilt for choice. And yet even the smallest space at a trade exhibition can set you back many thousands of pounds before even thinking about the cost of display materials, samples and staff to run the stand. Is this becoming a prohibitive method of marketing for the smaller or budget strapped business?

My intention in writing this article is to simply prompt you to challenge what might be an automatic reaction – one way or the other: “We always exhibit there”, or perhaps “We never go as it’s too expensive”. Both reactions need challenging from time to time; don’t let a habit become too entrenched. Trade exhibitions can be very effective IF, and only if they are tackled and planned in the right way and done for the right reasons. Exhibiting without sufficient thought can be a very expensive mistake these days.

What’s the opportunity cost?

Before you choose whether to exhibit or not, consider what such an activity can do for your business. We discuss objectives next, so ask yourself some clear and honest questions at this stage. If the costs are going to restrict another part of your marketing, consider which is likely to be most effective for the given objective – there is always likely to be an opportunity cost and you should ensure that you make an informed decision.

Know your objectives for trade exhibitions

There are many things that you shouldn’t do where exhibitions are concerned. Don’t exhibit because all your competitors are doing so. Don’t exhibit because that’s what you’ve always done. Don’t exhibit because you think it will keep your customers happy. In short, have a really good reason to exhibit and know what you are expecting to achieve from the activity.

Your key reason to exhibit at a trade show might be one of the following:

  • To support the launch of a new product range or service
  • To generate some orders in a particular market sector – perhaps with a show deal
  • To gather qualified leads to market to in a particular sector

You need to consider what a successful show looks like for your business, given the costs of attending:

  • How many quality leads do you need to gain?
  • How many orders do you need to attain at the exhibition?
  • How much follow-up business do you need to achieve in a given time frame?

Get granular and set some targets so that you make the most of the opportunity. In addition, critically assess the performance of the show, considering attendance figures, visitor profiles, time of year and more. Is this truly the right target for your business?

Milk it for all it’s worth

Exhibiting your company at the show for one, two or three days is just one part of the opportunity – don’t miss out on the rest!

In the run up to a trade exhibition, use all of your marketing channels to make as much noise as possible. Invite your customers to come and see you. Perhaps more importantly, invite your prospective customers and give them a decent reason to want to be there.

Make every possible use of the exhibition organiser’s marketing and communications. A link from their website would help your SEO too whilst if they are active on social media or running preview articles, you want to get in on the action. Every trade exhibition is different, so ask the questions and see what can be achieved.

Whilst you are exhibiting, ensure that a member of your team takes some time to gather any useful market intelligence. This might include what your competitors are up to or creative ideas seen on less directly related stands. Are there any seminars worth attending and are there any networking opportunities.

The thing is, you’ll pay the same amount of money to exhibit, whether you take advantage of these fringe benefits or not and doing so, might just make the event justify itself so much more. So get involved and milk it!

Trade exhibition help is at hand

I hope that this discussion has been of help to you in some way. Project managing exhibitions and in particular, trade exhibitions, is something that Cantaloupe has done a great deal of – from six square metres to 36 square metres, we might just be the help you need. From stand design, graphics, pre-show marketing, even plugs and the necessary paperwork, we can offer an experienced and pragmatic eye over your project to ensure that it can work as hard as possible for you. Please do get in touch if you’d like to talk further.