You are looking forward to participating in LogiMAT, embedded world, HANNOVER MESSE or in any other upcoming trade fair in Germany? Seasoned exhibitors would most probably agree that your success will greatly depend on your ability to attract visitors.
Do what’s Necessary before the Show
If you are a newcomer, don’t hope for the right people to accidentally drop into your booth; you need to let them know that you are there, and what you have to offer.
Advertise your Presence
Use all relevant channels to advertise your presence at the fair, including social media. Make sure people can research you and your enterprise. Be present and active on LinkedIn and XING. Publish a professional portrait picture – sunglasses and scanned passport pictures are taboo!
Don’t forget to update your website to promote the fair and let people know where they can find you. When mentioning your booth number, follow the organiser’s conventions; normally, the hall is mentioned before the stand number. Publish your email address – at least Germans would rather write to you than call.
Consider using a local PR agency to help you raise awareness.
Actively Invite People
It is advisable that you also get in touch with your target group(s) directly and try to schedule meetings.
Always mention the purpose of your attempt to get in touch – what is the intended result of a meeting? Try to be very clear and to the point in your communication. Unless you know the person, write in a matter-of-fact, formal style (not flowery and prose-y). Submit flawless sales collaterals that are well structured; do not attach 10 MB presentations or 25 product pictures.
When you give someone a call, try to very briefly explain who you are (in the sense, what is your company offering that you assume your contact might need). Speak slowly and listen carefully. Find out when the person will visit the fair and ask if it would be convenient for them to meet you at a certain time. Send a follow-up email confirming the time and place. Be careful when sending invitations from Outlook etc. – the time difference might mess up your schedule.
Consider hiring a local person to help you with research and setting up appointments; my experience is that Germans are more likely to get involved in a brief conversation if they are called from a local number, and if the person calling knows the language and business culture.
Do what’s Necessary during the Show
A former Hall Inspector managed to boil my message to exhibitors down to its essence when I asked him to tell me about his observations:
I have seen all kinds of things, trust me. Sometimes, I was wondering why people would bother to come all this way to then stick to themselves. That’s a waste of time and money. People should simply imagine that they are not at a trade fair, but in a traditional market. Like, there are no stands or partition walls, no roof, no anything, but let’s say vegetables they want to sell. Would they be able to sell their cucumbers to anybody if they were not paying attention to people passing by? Eating, dozing off…or maybe playing cards? No! They would be promoting their vegetables, pointing out that their cucumbers are the freshest, the most delicious, or whatever. Or advertise a special offer. That’s what they would do, wouldn’t they?!
As simple as it sounds…it is! And it hardly costs any extra money to follow the subsequent advice.
The band begins to play…Make sure that you arrive at your booth early. Just keep in mind “that you can have 10 relevant meetings in two days, within walking distance, that would normally take two months and extensive travel all over Europe,” as a Project Director from Denmark once told me. Never leave the stand unattended; there must always be someone there. When a four-day fair closes on Friday at 18:00, do not start packing up early and be ready to leave at 14:00. Begin packing up only after the fair ends. As long as there is someone around, there may be customers; stay right to the end.
How can one get the attention of visitors passing by and make them pause at a booth? What worked well in the past: Have a Marylin Monroe double loll around on a red Teslar S (Digi-Key) or hire body-painters to spray pictures of your products on the naked bodies of young women (congatec; the downside is that the visitors might not even notice which stand they are at). You don’t have to be a feminist to ask for alternate options.
The basic idea is to catch the eyes of the people passing by, surprise them, and – even better – trigger their instinct to play. Think of ways to bring your exhibits to life. You do not have to be a big player like KUKA, who let their robots engage in a ball game; just try to imagine how your products or applications can be used and presented in an unexpected context. Do some brainstorming about everything you can do with the help of a Carrera track or a model railway track. Maybe you can create a three-tier wedding cake with blinking candles out of the components you produce and sell.
You can also challenge visitors with an open contest, whether it’s a game of skill or some quiz. Create situations where initially you can casually speak to visitors and then engage with them in a more detailed (subject matter) discussion; i.e., a presentation of your products and services.
What also always works well is offering food; make sure the visitor cannot simply grab an item and make a move. I personally don’t like it when exhibitors offer popcorn (if you go for that, don’t forget to print your advertisement on the paper bags); I find the smell annoying. But if there is an ice-cream ‘vendor’ doing artistic tricks while serving the dessert, I am always happy to accept and, being thankful and polite, wouldn’t not briefly speak to the exhibitor.
What you can also consider for advertising your presence is using the “public” indoor- and outdoor area. Typically, the trade fair organiser would offer several advertising spaces such as the so-called City Light Posters (illuminated), Windmasters, or roof banners. The basic idea is to catch the visitors’ attention, as early as when they are on their way to the halls from public transportation or the car park. Strategically placed floor graphics and wall panels, which are more common in the inside areas, are also very popular. You can even consider placing an exhibit at the entrance.
Whatever ideas you come up with, don’t forget to consult the trade fair organiser; there may be restrictions or simply rules you must follow. Also inform the Media Sales department if your Head of Marketing volunteers to wear a rabbit costume and distribute flyers…most likely, you will have to pay a fee for that too.
If you need help with inviting German decision makers to your booth, you can always get in touch with me (andra[at]andra-ibf.com).
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And….for Indian exhibitors: Please check out the special edition for Indian managers on amazon.in