GrowthBusiness speaks to business leaders to find out why showcasing companies at a trade fair can provide an opportunity to secure new customers and increase exposure.
When London data centre operator City Lifeline sits down to work out its annual marketing budget, it’s sure to factor in considerable investment in trade shows, such as Internet World, InfoSec and Data Centre World.
‘Trade shows are a huge part of the marketing process,’ explains managing director Roger Keenen. ‘At Internet World, we exhibited as we knew there was going to be a lot of people there who wanted to buy our service.’
It’s also worthwhile to attend shows as a visitor, he adds, using the experience to learn things for next time you’re on show yourself.
Another way to prepare is a practice run, which is exactly what director of franchise business Kids Bee Happy Sandra Patterson did.
‘We launched in June 2011 and since then have invested a lot of money in taking a stand at two trade shows, where we recruited between five and eight franchisees each time,’ she says. ‘But before our first major one, we did a practice run and took a small pitch at a minor show to find out what worked and what didn’t.’
Eggs in one basket
While Patterson and Keenen make it a priority to attend a number of different trade shows, Adapted Vehicle Hire’s MD Lorraine Farnon has a very different approach. AVH provides hire vehicles for disabled drivers and Farnon explains that because it is so specialised it made the decision to invest heavily in one national trade show annually – Naidex – the UK’s largest disability and rehabilitation event.
‘We could do a few cheaper ones, but we invest heavily in this one because this is where we are going to meet so many target customers,’ comments Farnon.
Investment can be as heavy as one likes, depending on how big the show is, where you want to be positioned, and of course the cost of the physical stand itself. The average spend on a good trade show stand seems to be around £4,000 to £5,000, according to both Patterson and Farnon. At Naidex in May, AVH invested heavily in its stand by securing a coveted position near the entrance and running a competition for an iPad.
All three business leaders agree that the investment is worth it, both for generating sales and raising brand awareness.
Keenen comments, ‘You get to talk to so many people in a short space of time and even if they don’t buy you have lodged yourself in their subconscious.’
Farnon adds, ‘It’s about having a conversation with real people and understanding their needs and helping them understand what you do – that is something a straight advert would never achieve.’