Part 1: Finding and preparing for an expo.

Today there is a huge focus on using the internet for all of your marketing. An explosion of websites, articles and blogs are all screaming at you to tune keywords, generate links to your site, create elaborate technology networks, and pay for expensive SEO services and search engine adverts. But can these new marketing trends and tools really get you more business than older, more established, and cheaper, options?

Las Medulas Spain

Las Medulas Spain

Small and medium businesses can often overlook a great, and cheap, potential marketing vehicle: the expo. If you are anywhere near a large city, chances are you will have a number of expos and trade shows going on right under your nose. And at those expos, potential customers and networking partners meet. There is nothing you can do online that will have quite the same impact as a face to face meeting.
Exhibitors at expos are ready to talk, and often managers will attend giving you a level of access and attentiveness you will never get over the phone.

I’ve been to many of these events and have put together a list of tips, preparation points and benefits.

Step 1: Selecting your Expo.

  • Use web searches to look for local expos and trade shows. There are many but if you are looking for a quick start, try which allows a filter by country, industry etc.
  • Which type of expo might have the right sort of people or company for your business? B2B? B2C?
  • Start local! You don’t know if it’s going to work out for you. Don’t make your first trip halfway across the country. You are better to wait a while until something close comes up.
  • Keep costs down. Start with short distances, and look for events with free or low cost entry.
  • What size are they? See if you can find a count of the number of stalls or exhibits. Given the number of people you might be able to take, how much time will you need to get around it?

Step 2: Decide who you should take.

If you have staff, it can be a great break from the office to spend the day at an expo, and do something really different. You might also find that a member of staff surprises you and shows a real talent for in-person sales or marketing. You might find another is talented at logistics, or organisational skill.

You can even use this as an opportunity for career development, or combine it with a treat like lunch on the company.

Ideally you have a business where phones can be diverted to staff on the move, and urgent emails can be accessed remotely. If you don’t it might be worth considering setting yourself up this way. We have a combination of a Skype-In number, and landlines. While it’s not ideal, for short periods we can actually take the whole office out and pick up calls on Skype for mobile. But most traditional phone systems allow some sort of diversion.

If you are on your own, you can still have a productive day getting around and talking to people.

Step 3: Choose what to bring.

image expo-crowds margeting

Get amongst it. Image: Sergey Galyonkin

  • How will you be getting there? Plan your travel in advance. Messing around arriving with no change for a parking meter for example, can create a delay you can do without.
  • Wear good shoes for some serious mileage
  • Will you be spanning a lunch period? Make sure you will be fed and watered. And that you have some cash on you for this. If you are with team members they will also need to be covered.
  • Take plenty of your business cards, flyers, or other promotional material.
  • One of your objectives is to get their contact details, so bring a zip-lock bag, envelope or folder to hold exhibitor cards and flyers.
  • Try and find a map of the expo in advance. Think about who can tackle which areas.

Step 4: Consider who will be there.

Spend some time thinking about who is going to be there, both exhibitors and other attendees.

  • Is it formal? Do you need to wear a suit or can you go casual?
  • Is it a business or consumer crowd? Will you be competing with a consumer crowd for the attention of the exhibitor?
  • If the expo is for more than one day, avoid the first morning. Exhibitors are usually still setting up, or there is a “first wave” rush of visitors. It can make a huge difference to your whole experience. We went to a three-day expo once on the opening morning. There was a huge first wave of visitors in the morning.
    As time went on, the visitors thinned, and in the afternoon it was a completely different experience. Instead of us queueing and fighting for attention, the exhibitors were standing around idle, and eager to speak.
  • It’s also best to avoid the end of the last day. Exhibitors have very much had enough, are tired, and far less willing to talk.

By now you should know where and when you are going, with who, and what you will be taking.
To be continued:
You’ll need to know what to do to succeed once you get there. Read more in Part 2.

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