The week was a really good set of specialised trade shows designed for the benefit of the whole building and construction industry.
However, certainly since the recession and the growth of the internet, many building product manufacturers, distributors, merchants or companies from within the industry are beginning to question whether their funds can be spent better elsewhere, whereas some still tell us they benefit greatly from participating at trade shows.
Construction products' Marketing Managers usually start to breath a huge sigh of relief when a major exhibition has finished, and the pressure transfers to the Sales professionals, who are hopefully eager to start working their way through the wheat and chaff of the leads generated and bring in the business and their bonus or commission.
And then, in the background, there are the Managing Directors, Commercial Managers and Financial Directors anxious to ensure the leads really do generate new business to justify the expense of the show. The Marketing Managers then start to worry about next years' budget and show planning and the cycle starts all over again.
So with all these people involved, are trade exhibitions still worth the investment or just a costly flag-waving exercise?
A large trade exhibition doesn’t just take a week out of a company’s time; it is a huge investment of people time and finance.
The preparation of a successful show takes months: selecting the space and position; design of the stand; deciding on your objectives and key messages, writing the copy; design of any graphics; creating any necessary new literature; arranging electrics and stand services; completing reams of paperwork; organising promotions; inviting customers and prospects; organising travel, accommodation and stand personnel; building of the stand; coordinating everything with product launches, printing of literature; arranging giveaways, sales samples and demonstrations for the stand as well as maximising the press coverage of your presence. After all that comes the break down of the stand and then dealing with requests for information and following up all the leads post show. It is tiring just thinking about it!
Stands become a sales and marketing team’s 'home' for the week and some stands can cost almost as much as a small house itself - perhaps they should be included in the UK housebuilding figures!
Any responsible marketer has to think carefully about their show strategy: which show to exhibit at, what to promote, how to maximise the number and type of people visiting the stand. You cannot just expect the show to be a success, otherwise the expense should perhaps be used elsewhere.
There are many questions to consider when deciding whether to exhibit:
- Do we need to be there to enhance our profile and reputation?
- Can we reach people we wouldn't normally be able to see?
- Is the opportunity to bring people to us and actually show them our product a major benefit?
- Would we have got these leads anyway?
- Could we have spent this money better elsewhere?
- Can we afford to have our sales team off the road for a week?
- Do we actually have anything new and interesting to say?
- Can we now reach people just as effectively with all the opportunities the Internet provides?
- Does it fit in with our business strategy and objectives?
- Will we put as much time and effort in post-exhibition as we do into organising it?
- And there are many, many more which will keep Sales and Marketing Managers' brains active for weeks during planning and budgeting time.
However, one major reason why some companies fail to maximise return on their investment is quite simple - a lack of preparation, training, guidance and strategic direction for the people working on the stand.
Your exhibition team can be a mixture of external and internal sales, marketing, technical, executive management team, and it is vital that they work together to portray a professional, consistent image that generates new business and achieves the objectives of doing the show. It is vital to make the most of your stand and participation at the show, otherwise questions will be asked and it could be a huge missed opportunity.
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Next month we will be looking at some very simple things you can do to ensure your exhibitions are successful. Sales interactions on a stand are a very different beast to a planned meeting or even a sales phone call, so it is vital a different approach is taken, and the advantages of the show environment are fully utilised.