With the current economy looking dubious at best, 2014 is set to be a year of innovative business thinking and creative challenge management. For small businesses to survive in this climate they have to be a part of the buzz, and at the forefront of industry innovation.
Staying ahead of the pack means any opportunity for networking should be grasped with both hands. This is where trade shows and business expos can make all the difference. These occasions offer opportunities to collaborate with other members of the industry, and connect with your market. With all the exciting trade shows coming up, Johannesburg and Cape Town conference centres will be the place to go if you want to be part of the buzz.
Making the best of your presence
Being part of an expo or trade show is only the beginning, and since it can cost a pretty penny to get there, you want to get the most out of your investment. The most important things to consider are the nature of a trade show, and what you want to get out of it. Is a particular expo targeting consumers, or is it an opportunity to make business connections? Know your strategy beforehand, and set yourself a goal. If high stall rental puts you off, speak to the organisers. Perhaps you can negotiate a lower fee by working at the event, or by helping out with promotions.
Once your goals are set, you need to prepare accordingly. Draw visitors to your stall by creating a good first impression, and having the goods to back it up. Your product or service should be evident at a glance and handy if possible. Make sure all your displays, banners and props are neat, and of the highest standard. Remember, you are part of your stall, so dress sharp, smile, and make potential clients believe in your brand.
You’ll have to step away from your stall at times to rejuvenate or meet other traders. Make sure there is someone covering your post at all times, but not just anyone. The person who stands in for you is a brand ambassador, so they have to know the product inside out. Also coach them in being hospitable, and representing your business in the same light as you would.
If your product or business has won awards, make sure they are on display at your stall. Print more than enough business cards and fliers to hand out, and give visitors incentive to keep them. Offer a discount to tradeshow goers for a week after the show. If they have to produce a particular card or flyer to prove they were there, you can ensure your contact details make it all the way to their homes.
Lay some groundwork
Send out a newsletter or bulk email to let existing customers know about your stall. Offering special tradeshow prices gives them incentive to stop by. Small business guru, Denise O’Berry recommends setting up a raffle two months in advance. It creates excitement around your brand, and you can pull a crowd by drawing the winner at the show. Get a local radio station to cover the draw and you’ll receive some free advertising.
Visiting a trade show can be exhausting, especially for the elderly, so having comfortable seating at your stall is another way to make visitors linger. Tell them about your product while they have a rest, and offer them a drink. Handing out cups of water, paper fans, or gift packs with your name on it ensures your logo will be visible throughout the venue. Have plenty printed in advance, and use it as bait for visitors.
Have a plan in place for getting back to clients and industry members you met at the show. They might have lost your details, but make sure you have all of theirs. Ask visitors for their email addresses and collect business cards from other stalls. Get back to them right after the show; the sooner the better, so you’re still fresh in their minds. You might experience a rush in demand after the expo, so be ready with stock, or get someone to help handle quotes and phone calls. This is where you reap the benefits of investing in expos and tradeshows, so be ready to make it worth your while.