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How to Treble Your Trade Show Results

Trade shows have enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past decade and offer valuable marketing opportunities. But, many companies do not make the most of the experience. Here are a few tips for maximising your trade show exposure.

Nadine Todd



Trade show visitors

Trade and consumer exhibitions offer great business opportunities. They are a means for companies to achieve a range of different objectives through one versatile and far-reaching medium. They should not be treated as a ‘store away from the store’ however, which is a mentality that persists amongst exhibitors and limits the overall success of the show.

“Exhibitions are not another form of retailing,” says Joy Donovan, founder of the Trade Show and Event Training Company and a stalwart of the local events industry. “Many companies exhibit at shows because their competitors are there and previous shows have attracted thousands of visitors. Typically, upper management or the company’s ownership makes the decision to secure a stand, then they staff it with students because the sales reps should be out selling and not wasting their time at a show and they measure the show’s success by how many bodies passed through the stand.

“The problem is that unlike a retail store, exhibition stands are about showcasing a company or product, not selling goods there and then. The approach needs to be completely different. In order for a company to truly get the most from its exhibition experience, management needs to have a clear picture of what it wants to achieve with the expo and how that goal can be reached.”

Donovan is quick to point out that exhibitions have proved to be a highly successful form of marketing, experiencing year-on-year growth of 10% each year. “But simply being at an expo does not mean it will be a success,” she warns. “The tool is there, companies just need to know how to use it.” Here are five ways to ensure that your business makes the most of exhibitions and trade shows instead of wasting time and money without reaping any rewards:

1. Set multiple objectives

Potential exhibitors should determine their objectives in exhibiting at a show before signing up. Objectives can help a company determine the right show, what size their stand should be and how many people need to staff the stand. “Objectives are a crucial first step to exhibiting because they allow companies to ask the questions: what is valuable to me, what do I want to achieve with this show and who is my target market?” explains Donovan.

Objectives can be diverse and far-reaching, which is one of the beauties of expos: they are the ideal platform to achieve multiple goals.

Depending on a company’s situation, objectives can range from building a contact base and generating sales leads, to marketing a new product, researching brand awareness, finding distributors or agents, or even solving customer problems and enhancing the company’s image.

“There are over 100 standard objectives that companies should consider, although successful exhibitors will narrow their list down to between seven and 12 key objectives and most companies have between three and five,” adds Donovan. Each objective should have its own target audience. By identifying the correct target audience, potential exhibitors can then choose the right show and how they are going to approach the entire expo experience.

“A good example of the importance of identifying your target audience is the case of an author of children’s books with whom I worked a few years ago,” says Donovan. “He kept thinking his target audience was the parents of children who bought his books. What he needed to realise was the fact that those parents were not buying the books directly from him. They would buy the books from a store. Therefore, his target audience needed to be retailers. He ended up exhibiting at a pharmaceutical expo and securing contracts with pharmacists who then sold his books in their stores.”

2. Pre-show promotions

According to Donovan, one of the biggest mistakes exhibitors make is thinking of an expo as a three-day show. “Exhibitions are a 365-day show,” she notes, explaining that of the marketing spend dedicated to an expo, 50% should be spent on the stand and 50% on marketing, with 15% on pre-show marketing, 10% on demos and show marketing and 25% on post-show follow-up marketing.

For exhibitors, shows are the ideal opportunity to connect with their client base, not only during the show, but before and after as well. “Companies should tailor promotions or special events around the show,” says Donovan. “This provides them with the perfect opportunity to interact with their client base through pre-show information and invitations.

”It is better to mail 100 people ten times, than 1 000 people once. The trick with shows is that you can add value to these mails through special promotions for visitors or personal invitations to events held at the show, or even lunch with the MD. Because these mails have value, they are not annoying your customers. It’s fantastic marketing,” she adds. “Find a way to tap into your clients’ needs. If you get the angle right, you’ll not only attract people to your stand, but you can enjoy months of interactive pre-show contact with clients who are perhaps not always as responsive to your communiqués.”

3. On-stand promos and demos

Your stand needs to attract visitors. Simply creating a fancy stand and filling it with pamphlets is not enough. Find an angle, promote a new product, and get smart and creative in how you present your company.

“There are two exhibitors that stand out for me in terms of creative use of space,” says Donovan. “The first was a designer who had just launched a beachwear line. He had limited funds and could not compete in terms of investment with some of the bigger exhibitors, so he got creative instead. He invited local art students to paint a beach scene as his backdrop, he filled the stand with sand, brought his cane furniture from home, and sat in his ‘beach paradise’ with a live parrot on his shoulder. The stand was an instant hit.

“Another interesting exhibitor was a pharmaceutical company that had developed an Alzheimer’s drug. Little pills are not interesting, and so instead of having pamphlets describing Alzheimer’s and what the medication does, the company set up a camera that was linked to a computer and TV monitor. Visitors to the stand could have their pictures taken, and then a programme on the computer would age them by 30 years. Suddenly Alzheimer’s was more of a reality to the visitors, and the demo garnered huge interest. Once again, through simple ingenuity the stand was a great success.”

Natalie Naude, MD of Three City Events and national chair of the Exhibition Association of South Africa (EXSA), draws attention to the importance of face-to-face marketing and utilising the press. “Face-to-face marketing is a powerful force that can help you achieve strategic and long-term relationships for your brand,” she says. “Expos allow you an unparalleled opportunity to educate your customers and offer them the chance to physically interact with your brand.”

In terms of the media, stands that attract attention will receive free publicity from members of the press who have been invited to the show. “Give your stand a unique angle, promote a new product or find a way to make an old product fresh and you will have instant, free publicity,” she explains.

Donovan also advises on the importance of putting the right amount of people on the stand and understanding how their time should be utilised. “Exhibitors often start a show believing they will speak to thousands of people over the course of three days, which is completely unrealistic,” she adds.

“Over the course of three, eight-hour days, the stand will be manned for a total of 24 hours,” she elaborates. “If each sales person spends 15 minutes with a client or potential client, never leaves the stand and is constantly talking to someone, at the absolute maximum they will speak to 96 people during the course of the show. Realistically that number is closer to 75.” In other words, companies need to be discerning about who they attract to their stands, focusing on the right clients rather than numbers alone.

4. Post-show lead management

It’s vitally important to remember that the show doesn’t end with the exhibition. According to Donovan, 80% of trade show leads are never followed up. “This is a worldwide statistic,” she says. “The 20% that are followed up are the clients who wanted to buy then and there at the show. Anyone who showed interest but did not place an order is ignored.” Donovan often conducts an exercise in which she attends a show and leaves her business card with various exhibitors. In many cases she does not receive a single follow-up call after the show.

Follow-ups are the process by which a sales representative makes contact with the client or potential client after the initial contact, which in this case has taken place at an expo. Without follow-ups, the company cannot know whether the potential client is interested in its product or service, whether the client wants to do business, or what the client’s needs and values are.

“You get the best result after your seventh post-show contact,” Donovan insists. “This is why value-adds are so important. Hold a competition, follow up on an event you hosted, send a post-expo gift, anything to maintain that contact and generate leads. That’s what expos are about, but if there is no follow-up after the three days are done, the opportunity has very likely been missed entirely.”

5. Stand-staff selection

Having the right staff on your stand is crucial. “Many companies don’t put their best salespeople on their stands because they want them doing ‘real’ work,” says Donovan. “That is their first error. Visitors to a stand want their questions to be answered. They view how they are treated at the stand as how their relationship with the company will be, so it’s important to get that first impression right.”

Naude agrees. “People buy from people they like, it’s as simple as that,” she says. “When you look into a prospective customer’s eyes and create a personal relationship, you are already half way towards achieving the key objectives of your brand.” According to Naude, in an exhibition environment companies have the possibility to connect to their most active and motivated buyers, so it’s important for you to research your potential buyers and really understand what it is they value in a business relationship and what they are looking for in a product or service.

“Once you understand that, you can choose the right staff to man the stand. They should relate to your current and potential client base. It’s important for your visitors to trust the people at the stand.”

Maximise Your Exposure

As a potential exhibitor, always remember that:

  • ‘New’ trumps ‘free’ –  people are always more interested in a new product than in receiving freebies they will probably never use
  • Objectives should be specific, measurable, actionable and realistic
  • It doesn’t matter how many people walk through the doors, what matters is how many of your potential customers walk through the doors
  • People buy from people they like, trust and relate to
  • The owner/MD of the company should always be there to show potential customers he is invested in them and he views the show as worthwhile
  • Your success is 100% in your control
  • Trade shows are too expensive to choose ‘ad hoc’ and then hope for success
  • Trade shows level the playing field between small, medium and large businesses

Case Studies

Exhibitor impressions

The Importance of Choosing The Right Expo to Attract The Right Audience

The Culinary Equipment Company exhibited its range of wine-related products at the 2010 Wine Show Jo’burg. This event is one of South Africa’s fastest growing wine trade shows. Open to the public and trade community, visitors taste and buy wines from over 130 wine estates.

The perfect vehicle to build brand awareness

The show is not just a vehicle to promote wine estates, but also features other wine-related products. “This was the Culinary Equipment Company’s third trade show event,” says marketing and design manager Robert Hunt. “Our aim when exhibiting at the show is to build brand awareness and get exposure. Although we sell over 6 000 culinary products, our focus at the show is on specific wine-related products that the target market is interested in. These include glasses, decanters, champagne buckets, cork screws, foil openers, aerators and so on.”

Exposing new products

“The reason that we exhibit at this trade show is that we get a lot of interest in our existing products and it’s a good platform to introduce new product ranges to our target market,” explains Hunt, adding that even though the company didn’t get as many visitors to the stand as it had hoped, nevertheless it was a very successful show for them.

A strong market

This year’s show attracted 200 exhibitors and 8 400 visitors over the course of three days. Visitor spend was over R2 million. “We thought that due to the downturn in the economy the visitors’ spend would be less. Surprisingly, we were wrong. Visitor spend was actually better than the year before,” says Wine Show Jo’burg operations manager, Natalie Campbell.

“We are still waiting for exact figures but 90% of all visitors purchased wine,” she adds.

Creating Brand Awareness

Villa Tuscana Wedding Village exhibits each year at the annual Wedding Expo, one of the most respected and well-attended expos in South Africa. Held twice a year at the Coca-Cola Dome in Northgate Johannesburg, 12 500 people attended the April 2010 event.

Wedding Expo is the right target market

Villa Tuscana Wedding Village is the only purpose-built conference and wedding village in the southern hemisphere. “We always exhibit at this particular show because it works so well for us. Although we focus on weddings at the expo, we also use it as a vehicle to promote conference facilities,” says marketing manager Natalie Frisby.

“Besides a brochure pack, we don’t rely on giveaways of any kind. We are there to create brand awareness, whether it’s for weddings or business conferences, and we achieve this by talking to visitors who come to our stand,” she adds.

Expo success means you have to follow up on leads

“We always get good results because we are very careful to get details from visitors and then follow up. The Wedding Expo runs competitions and we arrange with the organisers to supply us with their database of guests who enter. We then follow up with them after the show is over,” says Frisby.

“This expo is exactly our target market and we work hard to get leads and most importantly, to follow up on each one of them,” she adds.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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How to Guides

Henrico Hanekom – Discover Your Inner Marketing Genius

Like most Leaders whom firmly believe in positive transformation, Henrico Hanekom has created “new blue waters” in the form of a niche service which he calls “Neuro-marketing”.

Dirk Coetsee




Henrico Hanekom describes himself as a “street wise marketer”. After attending to hundreds of clients’ individual marketing needs he has defined an unique approach that veers away from the traditional marketing agency methodology.

Like most Leaders whom firmly believe in positive transformation he has created “new blue waters” in the form of a niche service which he calls “Neuro-marketing”. Initially Henrico honed his skills as a founder and CEO of Megaphone Media, a company whom has served companies such as ABSA, Toyota McCarthy, AGSA (Auditor General of South-Africa), NRF (National Research Foundation)” by getting their message across utilising mainly digital visual media.

Related: Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

Roughly five years ago Henrico became a qualified Neuro-coach to empower him to answer a critical question: What can we learn from Neuroscience to improve marketing strategies in general? Henrico explained to me that normally all marketing campaigns aim to create a strong perception that will drive the consumers’ behaviour in a way that justifies the campaign spend, therefore at the root of an increased understanding of perpetual marketing principles lies behavioural sciences.

It is common knowledge that the average consumer faces severe cognitive overload considering the overwhelming amount of information available to us and the staggering amount of advertisements and marketing delivery mechanisms that people are exposed to in the modern world.

Increasingly marketing agencies are scratching their heads considering the complex question of: How do I make my clients stand out? A past reliable staple to secure results was to ensure high quality ad design underpinned by a very good offer to the public. That however might have worked occasionally during times when the market was not as saturated as it currently is.

henrico-hanekom-neuro-marketingHenrico passionately elaborated on his well-tested strategy to ensure that his clients are not only standing out but elevate their status to a market leader. He starts with a clean slate and encourages his clients to stop considering the competition. He refrains from giving advice and instead coaches within an environment where his clients can “discover their own genius”.

Through experience Henrico has discovered that it is common for companies to struggle with firstly defining their message clearly and secondly to clearly communicate their message to their audience. In general, a clearly communicated message that resonates with prospective client’s emotions and their personal values multiplies positive results, he shared.

Related: Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong

Henrico further shared his experience to say that marketing and sales must be in alignment and that marketing is the DNA of the business, or put in another way, “Marketing is the communication of what is already within”. He has further found a general phenomenon amongst his clients in that their aspirations do not usually match their faith in their abilities to achieve. As a Neuro- coach Henrico then utilises Neuroscience and Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques to align his clients’ aspirations and belief in their abilities to powerful effect.

As a “Neuro- marketer” he assists his clients to rise to a high level of awareness so eloquently encapsulated by Albert Einsteins’ words of: “We cannot find a solution to a problem with the same level of awareness that created the problem. “

Henrico firmly believes in the Leadership principle of Authenticity and coaches his clients to authentically advertise the truth. Through all his expert efforts he aims to position each company that he works with as a “magnet” that strongly attracts clients as opposed to “pushing” and aggressively acquire each client.

The author ended this inspiring interview by asking Henrico what he is passionate about in life. Henricos’ sincere intent was tangible as his lips formed a smile from which his answer emenated: “Life was meant to be lived abundantly.” He also added that because life was meant to be lived without limits he is driven towards helping people to “get unstuck”. This man invests heavily into his own personal growth knowing that this long-term investment constantly empowers him to give the highest of himself to his clients.

Practical proof of Henricos’ commitment to personal growth was abundantly clear during and after the interview. The interview was done directly after Henricos’ workout and we drank (I will admit it was delicious) organic smoothies during it, and after the interview, we had a long and interesting discussion on personal development and servant leadership.

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4 Ways To Reach A New Target Audience Without Abandoning Your Old One

Four strategies to reach a new demographic without changing what current customers already love about your company.

Dale McIntyre




For 56 years, Häagen-Dazs had a consistent message: high-quality, old-fashioned ice cream for sale. But that’s changed: Thanks largely to millennials, the company recently refreshed its brand with a revised logo, more vibrant packaging, new flavors and a global advertising campaign.

This younger generation of consumers is continuing to cause a massive shift in the market across all industries and sectors. That’s why this ice cream company wanted to cast off its stuffy, traditional image and connect with millennials over craftsmanship and storytelling.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: To stay competitive, any entrepreneur or business leader has to consider the many challenges of a constantly evolving business landscape, including his or her company’s demographics and consumer trends.

If you wait to consider how your audiences have changed and will continue to change, you’ll risk far more than will your competitors already investing in brand analysis and audience outreach.

Related: How You Should Market Your Business Online

Expanding your tent

Business leaders may be aware of the changing marketplace, but that doesn’t mean they’re eager to change. For many companies, a major brand overhaul often meets with internal resistance; and to be fair, such an overhaul is not always the right answer. For some companies, it’s better to maintain a consistent brand message amidst rapid change. It’s the discovery that’s important, the self-assessment, the long view.

Because we live in an experience-based economy, whether you’re designing your customer experience intentionally or not doesn’t matter: You’re still delivering one. Messaging plays a major role in reinforcing or diluting that experience.

Here are four steps you can take to help your business appeal to new demographics.

1. Develop robust personas


Every landing page, blog post or article you put out there should align with a distinct persona to effectively connect with a desired target audience. A CEO, a parent and a college student all require different messaging to inspire a response.

A seemingly obvious but often overlooked way to gain a better understanding of your current or potential customers’ needs is to ask them directly. Surveys can be effective, but personal, one-on-one interviews are better, even if you can only conduct a handful. Offer a small incentive to gather eager participants, and ask questions designed to reveal what motivates them and why they chose your product or service.

At Pharos, we need to shift our messaging to highlight the parts of our business that are relevant to each specific persona we target. We use three aspects of our value proposition to position ourselves in a way that aligns with what our audience cares about most. Print management solutions lower expenses (business owners love that), improve security (CIOs and IT directors love that) and boost sustainability (which should resonate with everyone). All three messages mutually reinforce one other and are consistent across experiences.

For example, we worked with one university’s leadership who wanted to reduce and manage back-office printing costs. To help get employees on board with secure print workflows, its leaders promoted the sustainability aspect of print management’s value proposition and subsequently were able to save $3,000 a month while significantly reducing the university’s carbon footprint.

Related: How Do I Create A Content Strategy?

2. Ask what your CRM data is trying to tell you

If your data collection process includes a wide range of questions to qualify leads, you should be able to find customer information such as company type and size, contact job titles and the types of content most often consumed.

Your sales team should then be able to help translate those numbers into concrete characteristics and create a more complete understanding of your customers. As you find common trends, you can combine those tendencies into a general view of each customer type, and use it to fill out your personas. This will help diversify your buyer personas and, consequently, your brand’s ability to connect with an expanding range of consumers.

Evaluating your data can also help you recognise surprising audiences that like your brand. When the small business software company Hatchbuck was launched, its founders tried to reach as many segments as possible, from salespeople to business owners, to pitch its platform.

To zero in on its ideal customer, Hatchbuck gathered survey responses, crunched the numbers and conducted customer interviews, seeking to define its buyers’ behaviours and beliefs.

The company was surprised to learn that, even though it had been attracting larger companies looking for an affordable software with lots of features, smaller companies were its biggest supporters. Hatchbuck decided to focus its efforts on these small business owners – its ideal customer. Discoveries like this can be enlightening and critical to success.

3. Showcase how your brand delivers what people want

Vera Bradley bag charger

Proving your product’s relevance to a different demographic doesn’t mean abandoning the things that make it valuable to current buyers. It means adjusting your messaging to highlight the benefits that are more aligned with the new audience.

For example, Vera Bradley bags and luggage have been a popular choice for baby boomer women since the 1980s. When the brand decided to expand its target audience and appeal to younger women, it tapped into social media to gain insights into the demographic and observed a trend of complaints among millennials about the shortcomings of smartphone battery life and the annoyance of awkward battery cases.

So Vera Bradley created a bag with a built-in smartphone charger. This helped to improve its offerings and reach a new audience without introducing change that might alienate its faithful, long-time customers.

Related: Your 2018 Marketing Trend Forecast: Tap In Or Tap Out

4. Leverage the granularity of marketing automation

Many businesses see demographics as an aggregate average, but this perspective can destroy any chance of recognising the need to change. You don’t target youth through the same channels used to reach company decision-makers.

Approaching demographics using too broad of a viewpoint ignores the micro-targeting capability afforded by many marketing-automation systems today. Granular, personalised messaging is becoming the norm, not the exception.

To reach younger demographics with precision, take advantage of automation tools such as HubSpot, Marketo or Hatchbuck, proven technologies that can drastically improve the reach of your digital marketing ads and provide you with valuable analytics on your consumers.

These automation technologies have a long track record of producing a positive return on your investment. They can also help to improve various aspects of your digital marketing strategy. According to research by Regalix, 64 percent of marketers surveyed said they saw benefits within six months by using automation software.

The millennials in today’s workforce will be the decision-makers of tomorrow – and I mean tomorrow, not five years from now.

Organisations that fail to recognise this shift, or delay the process of discovering how best to change along with new demographic opportunities, can end up fueling internal resistance to such change and, ultimately, lose their opportunity to stay relevant.

Don’t be one of them.

This article was originally posted here on

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6 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing Really Works

Stand out. Get noticed. Six reasons why influencer marketing really works.

Greg Tinkler




In today’s day and age you need to ensure your marketing spend is going to the right places and most importantly, that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Influencer marketing is a strategy that offers one of the highest returns on investment. Basically, influencer marketing is the process of identifying strategic individuals within your target market, and partnering with them to create advertising that is genuine and more palatable to the audience.

Google Trends show that the interest in influencer marketing is at an all-time high, and further studies demonstrate that personalised, word-of-mouth marketing is more than twice as effective as the alternatives.

Good customer reviews make the best marketing

The idea is pretty simple — instead of a brand telling you why their new product is so amazing, the good review comes from a popular and trusted individual. When an influencer or thought leader promotes your product or service to their audience, they’re essentially telling their audience “You trust me, and I trust this company.”

This form of advertising is becoming increasingly popular since audiences have already opted to receive this particular person’s opinions. It also puts a human touch to your marketing effort. Partnering with influencers makes your service more trustworthy and allows you to effortlessly reach a wider audience.

Related: The Ins And Outs Of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has been identified as the most effective method of customer acquisition in 2016 and 2017, ahead of the likes of display advertising, email marketing, paid social media and traditional media.

92% of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source.


Here are six reasons why influencer marketing works:

1It really does work

There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than word-of-mouth recommendations.

Studies show  that trusted word-of-mouth recommendations generate more than twice the sales of paid advertising, and those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37% higher retention rate.

2It’s social media friendly

The world and marketing have shifted to social media. 70% of brands are increasing their social media marketing spend in 2017.

Today, it’s easier to connect with other consumers via social media and make better purchasing decisions by learning about their experiences with a product or service.

Influencers are a force to be reckoned with; brands can strategically partner with the right personalities to spark organic conversations and seduce their followers.

Related: 5 Ways To Improve Your Millennial Marketing Strategy

3Cut through the clutter

According to research, the average social media user is exposed to 5 000 advertisements a day. Whether or not that number is scientifically proven, it gets the point across: We are exposed to a lot of ads.

Influencers are able to cut your brand through the clutter and get it straight to your target market’s eyes.

4It’s native advertising

Traditional advertising interrupts the consumer experience (think TV commercials during your favourite series).

Native advertising places brands and products within the organic content, creating a more pleasurable experience for consumers and a more powerful marketing solution for brands.

5Your SEO will strengthen

On top of building your brand and improving your sales numbers, influencer marketing also helps your search engine ranking.

User-generated social posts account for 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 brands. The more people mention your brand on social media, the more popular and relevant you will be on Google.

Related: Basics Of SEO For Businesses And Brands

6It’s measurable

Probably the most important thing of all is that marketers and brand owners can actually track the success of their influencer marketing campaigns, unlike expensive TV, print and radio campaigns.

The digital world is different. Every website visit, social like, and picture posted online can be stored and analysed, giving you tons of data that turns into valuable insights about your target market and your advertising performance.

Influencer marketing presents a massive opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. The possibilities are endless, you’ll actually save marketing spend and guess what…? You can finally measure your results.

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