If you have recently started a business, you might not be thinking about a live marketing strategy yet. It’s probably the last thing on your mind with everything going on in the world at the moment.

You’re probably extremely busy managing your new website, social media and digital marketing strategy – but trust me when I tell you that overlooking live marketing is a big mistake.

I’ve met a lot of business owners in my time working for leading exhibition stand designers, Quadrant2Design. More often than not, these clients tell me that they spend the majority of their marketing budget on trade shows and exhibitions. It’s no wonder when you consider the benefits. 

The Relationship Between Exhibitors and Attendees

Exhibiting at a trade show can help you to generate leads, build relationships with customers, increase brand awareness and keep up with industry innovations. People who visit exhibitions have influence or buying power when it comes to decision making. They attend a show to find a new supplier. This means exhibitors have access to a highly targeted audience.

When it comes to audience numbers and potential customers, more is always better. Right? That is what the event organisers want you to believe anyway. They sell floor space by telling you how many thousands of people will be attending their event. 

With every passing year, these visitor numbers increase. More people means more opportunity for you to network, close deals and generate leads. Of course, everyone wants more visitors.

Is that the case though?

In a busy exhibition hall, do delegates stop and take note of the start-ups or are they drawn to the mega-brands with over-the-top custom-built stands? Is cramming 1000’s of people into a hall the ideal environment to build relationships and interact with new leads? Probably not.

For years, event organisers have led us to believe that large trade shows had more to offer. So much so that many of our clients look down on the smaller shows. And now, faced with strict regulations and a global epidemic, mass gatherings have been banned. 

The New Normal of Exhibitions

For nearly four months the UK government has banned mass gatherings. All events, including trade shows, were either cancelled, postponed or moved online. Now we are hearing the early rumours of the industry opening back up and closely monitoring other countries that have already opened venues.

There are a handful of examples we can look at to get a better understanding of what exhibitions will look like when they come back in autumn. Firstly, if the UK is to follow Germany’s lead then we can expect trade shows to become disassociated with mass gatherings.

Trade Shows Allowed to go Ahead:

Trade shows and exhibitions are well structured, business events. It is possible to control a crowd, unlike at festivals or sports events. Of course, there will be other restrictions in place but we will likely have exhibitions back before mass gatherings are permitted to resume. 

Increased Health and Safety:

Additional facilities for hand washing, anti-bacterial dispensers and temperature checks may also become part of our events. There will be increased regulation of the hygiene and cleaning protocol of the hall, including regular disinfecting of key touchpoints. Organisers, the venue and the exhibitors will have to submit a risk assessment in which these additional factors will be required before events can take place

Capped Audiences:

The biggest change that exhibitors will notice is the reduction in visitor numbers. After years of event organisers selling their show as the most highly populated, they are now going to have to convince people to attend despite a huge reduction is attendees. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing for you and your start-up. 

In 2017, a survey of 200 CMOs identified that 92% of them preferred smaller trade shows to larger ones. They found more value in smaller events as they had a greater chance of connecting with customers, securing a speaking role or hosting networking events with important people in attendance. 

On the other hand, people have always believed that larger events mean you get a larger opportunity to generate leads and make sales. If there are more people there then that makes sense. But how do you measure your live marketing success?

It’s not the number of email addresses that you walk away with. It’s the number of deals that you close based on the leads that you have generated. Getting 10,000 people to let you scan their badge is irrelevant when there are only 6 people that have buying power and a genuine interest in your product. This is why smaller events offer more value to the exhibitor. Relevancy.

If venues and organisers are forced to cap audience numbers, they are going to have to thoroughly vet each attendee to ensure they are offering value to the exhibitor. School trips, interns and people just looking to spend a day out of the office won’t get an invite. To qualify for a ticket you will have to be going with the intention of finding a new supplier, and the responsibility to make or influence decisions. 

Smaller Audiences Means More Value!

Rather than selling floor space based on the number of visitors, organisers will sell it based on the quality of them. With fewer people on the floor, you have more time to interact and connect with each delegate, thus forming the relationships that make live marketing so effective in the first place.  

There has never been a better time for start-ups to exhibit. As they always say, turn a crisis into an opportunity. As a small business with big goals, you are about to stumble onto a trade show floor of opportunity.

Natalka Antoniuk

Natalka is an exhibition blogger for Quadrant2Design. She has developed a unique insight into the world of live marketing, having spent time working alongside exhibitors, event organisers and exhibition stand contractors.

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