To exhibit or not to exhibit…?
Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham is the UK’s largest Gift & Homeware exhibition. Attracting buyers from all over the UK and the world to see great British design and innovation. With 20 halls all packed full of exhibitors the show is vast, displaying 14 different show sectors. I have been attending the show for 10 years now as an exhibitor and also as a visitor, which gives me a good view from both sides of the fence on its value to a business.
A well designed stand can be an excellent draw, pulling in new customers and engaging with current clients to present new products. The old saying “a picture paints a thousand words” could not be more true, people like to see and feel some thing tactile. When products are ranged well together with complimenting props this can improve the visual impact greatly. With buyers spending all day walking the isles you have to provide that all important ‘wow‘ factor to make them want to stop and engage. A good stand design and display are essential to a successful show.
For businesses that produce products for specific seasons it is important that buyers are exposed to them early to ensure they stand a chance of being listed. So getting actual product in front of people can greatly improve your chances of being listed, compared to a photo in an email. A trade show does provide a different more relaxed atmosphere where almost half attendees make purchases during their visits, meaning no hard sell is required.
Keeping those key accounts is of vital importance so building relationships with major customers on a face to face basis is much better than by phone or email. So if you can provide a relaxed space for people to stop and take a break from walking its often appreciated.
Not to exhibit.
Stands at Spring Fair are a considerable investment for most businesses, which vary from huge multi nationals to small independent illustrators. These stands all need to be designed and build to best represent each brand and their products, again a further investment in time and stand props etc. During the 5 day show the stands all need to be manned with knowledgeable engaging staff ready to take orders and realise new opportunities that may arise. Its essential that this significant outlay needs to add value to a business to make it worthwhile. It used to be that an exhibition stand had to at very least pay for itself by the business that was written at each show, now Im not so sure that applies.
From my experience over the last few years the foot fall has decreased considerably I remember 5-6 years ago walking through packed isles with busy hubub’s of people in the cafes and seating areas. Many buyers I know will now attend the show for a day to visit specific suppliers and then spend some time walking around on the look out for new product. Where as before they may have booked into a hotel for 1-2 nights and spend several full days walking the shows halls. It would appear that people no longer feel the need to go searching around quite so much, when a great deal can be done from the comfort of their desks. Blogs, the internet & social media in all of its guises provide vast numbers of ways to search and engage with things all at the tap of a touch screen now.
Exhibition stands do have their value for sure, nothing else demonstrates your brand and products as well as being able to see them in the flesh on a well dressed exhibition stand.
More importantly a choice has to be made on the value of receiving maximum exposure for a new product or range release. Should this be of significance to your business that its picked up quickly (short lifetime) then a higher exposure at the beginning is of value. Working out what you are trying to achieve by attending a trade fair can help you place a value on its worth.
For me a balance has to be met now across all platforms. People want to be able to access your content on an instant basis through social media on their hand held devices and then moving on to your website and other online content should they be curious. Its your responsibility to improve your online presence, so keep your content up to date. Email shots, social media updates, website news, articles/blogs it all helps.
But always remember getting in front of people is still by far your best bet. Weather this is at a trade fair or one to one meetings that relationship with your customers cannot be underestimated.