Douwe Lodewijk, Communication Manager at HZPC Holland, has organised and attended many trade fairs. He speaks from his own experience: ‘Trade fairs are very important. As a company you meet all your customers and business relations, and also you hope to meet many new ones. You can explain things better face-to-face. There’s nothing that works better, but everything depends on proper preparation.’
Well begun is half done
Carefully consider your reasons for participation. Don’t only think about what your company wants to exhibit, but also and especially what the visitors need: what is new, what is the message? Formulate an objective and make a plan of how to achieve that objective. Then, write down the story you want to tell and think about how your company will attract special attention. An eye catcher is a must. This can be the launching of something new, or a humorous action. Carefully instruct your motivated team. And don’t forget to plan a follow-up and an evaluation.
Prepare yourself for a visit to a trade fair
It’s also important for visitors to prepare themselves for a trade fair so that they can get the most out of it. Usually, time flies during a visit and it can also be rather hectic. Be certain to visit all the interesting stands at the fair.
The first step may be the most important one. Determine your objective. What does your company want to achieve? To enhance the relationship with existing customers, introduce new products or services, or make contact with new customers? Do you want to strengthen your image, become better known? The clearer and more concrete your objectives, the more precise you can work.
Target groups are identified on the basis of your objectives. Who are they/what is their common ground? Prepare a full address list of your target group. Don’t forget to include your existing customers, prospective new ones, the press and any other interest groups. Prepare a database that allows you to make variable selections.
There are many trade fairs. Choose the best one for your company. Important aspects to take into account are: reputation, visitors’ profile, regional/national/international, costs, time of year, availability. A helpful tool to select the most suitable trade fair for your company can be last year’s show catalogues. Who was there? What was the impression?
Plan a budget for your participation. Include all external costs (stand hire, stand, promotion material, advertising, mailings, travel and hotel expenses, etc.), and internal costs (time). Compare this budget with your objectives. It can also be useful to be critical about the necessary dimensions of the stand. A smaller stand means a lower rent, and is also cheaper to furnish.
If the objectives and the target groups are known, the time has come to draw up a communication plan. How do you want to furnish your stand? What is your message, what are the design requirements? Do you need to send out mailings? Do you need to advertise? What does the follow-up look like? Do you need separate leaflets, brochures, samples, dealer lists and references? In short, draw up an overall plan of all you need. Complete with deadlines.
In addition to the communication, many operational matters need to be arranged. What do you need in your stand? Internet connections, electricity, refrigerators? Do you need catering? Do you need to book hotel rooms? Do you need audiovisual equipment? Plan everything you need to ensure things go perfectly at the show.
You can appoint a project team on the basis of your planning. Who is responsible for the project team? Who does what and when? How will you arrange the internal communication, the progress report?
You can now make a start with working out your plans. The design of the stand, the selection of suppliers, the preparation of the promotional material, the request for quotes.
Inform your target group of the fact that your company will be at the trade fair. You can do that by mailings (from letters to very creative mailings with free entry tickets), but also advertising (don’t forget to mention your stand number). Phone important customers and potential clients to make appointments with them at the show.
Right before the start of the show, check whether everything has been properly arranged. Is the stand ready? Have all the necessary ICT connections been confirmed? Is all the printed material ready? Have the promotional gifts been arranged? Have you got a staffing plan ready? Have you arranged for catering? Have you arranged for coffee, tea and (soft) drinks. Have you arranged for snacks and rolls? Have invitations been sent to the press? Check and double check to avoid unpleasant misunderstandings.
Right before the opening of the show, brief your staff. What are the do’s and don’t’s? What is your message? How do you register new contacts? What do you do when you don’t know the answer to a question? Who is responsible for important and potential customers? Who gets what information? Who can be offered a promotional gift? Everyone will need to know exactly what is expected of him or her.
Right before the opening of the show, assemble a list with all the necessary information in case of an emergency, with names and telephone numbers of suppliers, staff at the stand, staff at the office, at the trade fair itself. But also, if necessary, of dealers, nearby restaurants, hotels and taxi services. Also list who’s responsible for what component. This will avoid three people phoning the catering at the same time if the coffee is late.
HZPC & trade fairs
HZPC regularly exhibits at trade fairs. Around 10 times a year. Highlights are the 3-day international Fruitlogistica trade fair in Berlin (Germany) in February, and HZPC’s own Potato Days in November. During these events, HZPC spares no expenses in order to inspire and surprise its customers with something they have not seen or heard about before.
Would you like to visit us at a trade fair within the next six months? No problem!
Doing business is
‘give and take’.
New technology at a trade fair
Social media special offers, augmented reality, and Google glass. The latest technology has also unmistakeably made its entrance at the trade fair. Some are even saying that trade fairs are outdated and will be replaced by new communication technology.
Douwe Lodewijk is quite clear: "Doing business is ‘give and take’. How do you do that if you never meet? Yes, lots of things are happening in technology but, in my experience, visitors have to cope with too many things. You can’t stop at every stand to watch a video presentation. Sometimes, people are literally coming to our stand to catch their breath, and take a rest from all those impressions at the fair. What can then be better than generous hospitality?"
He continues: "The digital highway is a fact, make no mistake. We use it as well. An example is the QR codes, which have replaced the leaflets. We also use tablets and smart phones. If there’s something that interests you, you send it to yourself. This means that we can do with less paper and that fits our sustainable way of working. However, the new technology shouldn't become a trick. That’s certain to backfire."
Prepare your visit
If you arrive at the show prepared, it will save you time. It may be good to wander around at a show just to seek inspiration. If the purpose of your visit to the trade fair is networking or to decide about a purchase, it’s advisable to make a list of the stands you want to visit. Draw a route along the most important stands and, if necessary, make an advance appointment. This way you’ll find there will be time for a conversation even if it’s busy at the trade fair.
Start in time. Experience teaches that a visit to a trade fair often takes longer than anticipated. Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing, it can be quite warm at a fair. Always have sufficient business cards to leave behind with interesting exhibitors. Be explicit if you want a conversation to continue after the show. And last but not least: don’t forget to enjoy the show. There is often plenty to do and see and the enjoyment and meeting people are all part of it.
Five reasons for taking part
- Strengthen the relationship with customers
- Make new contacts
- Introduce new products
- Look around to see what the competitors are doing
- Conclude transactions
Five reasons for visiting a trade fair
- Meet new business relations
- Find out about new products and innovations
- Gather information
- Make new contacts
- Take advantage of special fair offers