ARE EXHIBITIONS THE RIGHT MARKETING TACTIC FOR START-UPS?

Absolutely, yes!  No, definitely not! Er… confused?  It’s a question we get asked so regularly but frustratingly it’s also one of those annoying questions where there’s no right or wrong answer.  Sound familiar in the context of trade shows and exhibitions?

With the passion, desire and sheer desperation for customers that comes with launching any new business (and believe us, we’ve been there!) it’s easy to get swept away in ploughing your whole marketing pot into an event which promises to deliver thousands of hungry visitors with open cheque books.  Or one that guarantees interviews & reviews with all the key media & stakeholders that will get your product in front of hundreds of thousands of your target audience. But is it the most effective tactic for you?  What if it doesn’t return you any sales at all?  What if it returns you more sales than you can cope with and over stretches your business before it even gets going?

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What if……? Nothing in marketing is guaranteed but undoubtedly trade shows and exhibitions can be a fantastic tactic for driving awareness of who you are and what you do, and filling that all important sales pipeline for the future. So how do you convert a ‘What If…?’  to a  ‘We Delivered…’

To give you some inspiration for your start-up exhibition strategy ask yourself these questions:

i. Where Are We Right Now?

What have we got to sell today?  What stage of product development are we at and what’s our manageable current capacity? If your product is still in the very early stages is the right tactic to be investing in space just to get feedback on an idea – are there other ways you can research the market at an exhibition apart from just having a stand? If you meet your dream contact at the show and they want an significant volume, how are you going to resource that?  And are you sure you can deliver consistency without any production glitches?

ii. Where Do We Want To Be? 

What’s our growth aspiration? How many customers do we need to buy how much in the next year to hit our target?  Remember only 16-20% of the total visitor population will be in a position to buy from you – are there enough of those people going to the show to enable you to build a solid pipeline? And how are you going to make sure they come and speak to you in amongst the myriad of other new product launches?

iii. How Else Are We Talking To People? 

What else do we have in the budget / marketing plan? Whether a start-up or an established business, trade shows and exhibitions are never a good tactic in isolation. You’ll need to keep talking to people on and off-line long after the show doors have closed to keep them interested – what do you have in time, money and people to support your post-show plan?

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iv. How Can We Get Creative At The Exhibition? 

Trade Shows are a fantastic platform for launching a new innovation – it’s what most visitors are going there to see, so because you’re new you’ve got a head start on the competition.  Exhibition organisers create fantastic initiatives around shows to help support new businesses from Start-Up Clinics, to Meet The Buyer sessions and Great New Idea competitions.  If you’re investing in a show as a start-up make sure you know about all the brilliant initiatives running and  then make sure you’re part of them!

v. Set A Budget 

Cash is king in any business but even more so for a start-up and exhibition spend can tend to run away with you before you know it! Be clear from the start exactly how much you can afford to invest / lose and what you want to get back from it. For example, you might know you have £5,000 (from you total £15,000 marketing pot) to invest in a show. Your objective might be to hand out 5,000 leaflets about your new business and collect the details of 100 interested browsers. You know that the investment is reasonable based on the objectives (around £50 per interested browser, or £1 per leaflet).  If suddenly you get to the end of a show and your budget has escalated to £12,000 – £120 per interested browser or £2.40 per leaflet, achieving those objectives looks a lot less reasonable.

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So are we saying exhibitions & trade shows aren’t for start-ups and new businesses?  Absolutely Not! They can be a fantastic tactic when used strategically, at the right time with the appropriate level of investment. Used at the wrong time, with a lack of planning and without a tight control of the budget, they can leave business owners frustrated, frazzled and three steps back in their business plan. 

If you’re not sure whether an exhibition is the right tactic for your fledgling (or established) business why not get in touch and we can help you seamlessly navigate your way to plan, implement and execute like a pro! Get in touch via proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk 

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