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About Exhibiting

Why choose an exhibition or trade show as a marketing tool? If used correctly, a trade show can
be one of the most effective marketing tools available to your company. This is where your
customers come to YOU, in large numbers, to see your product in action and meet you face-to face.

Yet many companies do not feel that exhibitions are an effective way of reaching their market,
and do not take advantage of the opportunities offered by exhibitions to attract customers to
their product. Many exhibiting companies rely entirely on the efforts of the organiser to attract -
and keep - visitors to their stands. Whilst the organiser is responsible to a large degree for the
advertising and promotion of a show and for reaching the "right" potential visitors, exhibitors
need to go beyond "just being there" to ensure maximum returns from any trade show.

Here are some guidelines to help you make the most of your participation as an exhibitor:

  1. Pre-Show Marketing
    Pre-show marketing is vital in ensuring that the right people are aware of your presence
    at an exhibition. This is an opportunity to reach new clients and keep in touch with
    existing ones.

    As part of our service to exhibitors, our Foreign Officer organises a VIP Visitor Campaign,
    whereby exhibitors give us the names and contact details of their top 10-12 prospects,
    and we then contact these prospects, offering them VIP status at the show. This includes
    pre-registration, a VIP visitor badge, and, in most cases, a refreshment voucher.

    We can also arrange that all exhibitors receive complimentary tickets for distribution to
    their clients. It is then up to the exhibitors to mail their databases and ensure that their
    prospects are aware of the show. Very often, a personalised letter from the exhibitor
    inviting the client to the show and giving him/her a good reason to visit is all that is
    required to attract the client's attention. It is also more effective than simply sending a
    complimentary ticket, which could have come from anyone and doesn't really show the
    exhibitor's interest in reaching the client.

    Some companies may embark on more expensive mail campaigns, or use postcards or
    "teasers" weeks before the show to get the client's attention. A fax or e-mail shot,
    individually addressed, can also be successful. Whatever method is used, it is vital that
    the exhibitor makes sure his database is aware of his presence at the show.

    Telemarketing can also be an effective tool in informing potential visitors of the
    exhibition, as well as setting up appointments for visitors at the show - another effective
    tool in getting the right people to the show. Someone who may keep putting off a oneon-
    one meeting may be more likely to attend a show with more than one product and
    company on display - and if this client has a pre-arranged appointment with you, all the

    Companies with web sites or newsletters can include a "special report" section to draw
    attention to the show and inform regular or potential customers of their presence their.
    Designing inserts to be included in all company mail sent out prior to the event is
    another excellent and cost effective way of reaching your market.
    Whatever method you use, pre-show marketing is vital to the success of your show -
    plan an effective marketing campaign and you WILL see the results!

  2. At the Show
    Ensure that all staff who will be manning the stand are presentable, approachable, and
    have a wide knowledge of the company and its products.

    Take staff to the stand prior to the opening day to acquaint them with the stand and any
    new products or interesting display items they can draw visitors' attention to. Show them
    the location of electrical connections, telephones, refreshment cupboard and fridge (if
    any), as well as familiarise them with the venue in relation to the stand (toilets,
    organisers office, fire equipment etc)

    Provide staff with all necessary material for promoting the product/service and enough
    business cards to hand to exhibitors.

    It is vital to keep a record of visitors to your stand. As part of our service, all exhibitors
    are issued with a Visitor Response Booklet on the first day of the exhibition. Visitors can
    also hire Electronic Visitor Recording Pens which scan in the visitor's information from
    his/her bar coded visitor badge. There is also a facility to record comments like "contact
    later", "send more info" etc. Either way, it is important to take down accurate
    information and useful comments so you know whom to contact and why.

    Don't block entrances. Look welcoming and encourage people to stop at your stand.
    Greet visitors with opening remarks like: "Have you seen/tried our latest product?";
    "What is your particular area of interest?" Once you have someone interested, be
    attentive - let your visitor feel he/she is important to you.

    Make sure the stand is clean and maintain a professional image at all times. Try to avoid
    dipping into the snacks bowl for visitors, and don't stand around drinking alcohol and
    trying to get visitors to your stand because of its great "party" atmosphere. Remember,
    you are here to present a positive, professional image of your company.

    Manning a stand can be tiring. Make sure you get enough sleep and try not to eat heavy
    meals during the day. If you can, take a few brisk walks during the day - check out the
    competition! - to boost your energy levels and maintain your enthusiasm.

  3. Beyond the Booth
    Take advantage of other opportunities offered by the exhibition to promote your
    company/product. Trade Investment South Africa allows exhibitors a free entry in the
    official exhibition catalogue - make sure your company's details are included. Advertising
    in the catalogue is another way of reaching your audience. Ask about sponsorship
    opportunities - anything from the visitor registration desk to carrier bags for visitors - to
    get your brand across.

  4. After the Show
    FOLLOW UP! Don't get complacent now that the show is over - chase up leads, make
    appointments, call visitors who showed an interest as soon as possible while their
    memories are still fresh.

FEEDBACK. After every show, Trade Investment South Africa sends out a Post Show
Questionnaire to all exhibitors to get their feedback on the relative success of the show, and any
ideas on how it could be improved. This is vital to the success of future shows and an opportunity
for exhibitors to assess how successful the show was, not only in terms of generating leads and
sales, but also to the industry as a whole. Constructive criticism and new ideas are always

The Handbook of Public Relations (4th edition) by JC Skinner and LM von Essen (1995)
Published by ITP Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd
ISBN 1-86864-035-3

Preshow Marketing: If you send it, will they come? - Copyright 1997
The Future of Trade Shows: It looks a lot like today - Copyright 1997
By Steve Miller, strategic marketing consultant specializing in the trade show industry and author
of :

  • How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows

  • Over 88 Tips & Ideas to Supercharge Your Exhibit Sales

  • Over 66 Tips & Tricks to Supercharge Your Trade Show Promotions