Before committing to exhibit at an event ask yourself these questions

When I meet a client for the first time, one of the first things I ask them is what marketing are you doing or have you done? Very often their answer includes, exhibiting at a big event. This stands to reason; when you are launching a product and have no clients, the first question you’ll have as a business owner is where can I find them? Naturally, an event that attracts large numbers of your ideal customers is the obvious choice.

5 questions you need to answer before investing in event marketing

The thing is, the most obvious choice isnt always the best choice, an event may well be the marketing bullet that your business needs to get off to a flying start, but before you determine that, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

1. What is my goal?

The most obvious answer is to sell. If that is the case, is the event you are considering the best place for you to do that?

Yes events do give you immediate access to the type of customers you are looking for, but you’ll also find that less people than you expect will actually purchase from you at the event, particular if you’re product or service is high value or aimed at business customers as opposed to consumers. You may also find that the event is so expensive that you don’t actually make any profit on the sales you make.

However, selling isn’t the only goal events can help you achieve. They can be a really good way to build brand awareness, position you as an expert and they also provide a great networking opportunity for you to connect with potential partners, future customers and media contacts, all of whom can help you grow your business in multiple ways.

My point is simply to be clear and specific about what you want to achieve in your business and determine whether investing to exhibit at an event is the best way for you to do that.

2. What are the opportunity costs?

An opportunity cost is the cost of what you lose as a result of pursuing a particular course of action. For example, if you choose to exhibit at an event the opportunity cost may be things such as:

  • Not having the money or time to upgrade your website
  • Being out of the office and not being able to service clients and potential customers who may cotact you directly
  • Forgoing other marketing activities that could generate more sales

Consider other options such as selling through a partner, selling online, setting up a pop-up shop, Google advertising, social media advertising, reaching out to your existing network of contacts directly etc. Compare these options in terms of the investment required and the return you would expect.

3. Is the audience right for my business?

It’s important that you are very specific about the people you want to reach and who your product or service is best suited to. It may be a popular industry event but are the attendees really your ideal audience. For instance:

  • Are they the key decision makers or the people that will actually be using/ purchasing your product or service
  • Do they have the budget
  • Do you already have strong connections with many of the people that would be most interested in your offering

In my previous post entitled 8 questions to ask the organiser I mention the importance of finding out specific information about the event attendees and who they are.

3. Is it the right time?

Quite often it’s not that you shouldn’t exhibit at an event but you shouldn’t do it yet. Very rarely should an exhibition be the first major marketing activity a small business spends budget on, but quite often it is. If you are just starting out and money is tight spend that money on things that wil give you a better yield, such as getting more people to your website and converting them to customers once they get there.

Once your business has a few customers and your marketing strategy and messaging is clear, that’s likely to be a better time to consider exhibiting at an event. Prior to that a better approach is perhaps to secure speaking slots or attend as a visitor to network and get a feel for the event.

4.  Do I have the resources?

Can you afford the event financially, it’s not just the cost of the stand or space you need to consider but also extras like WiFi, courier costs, travel expenses and accommodation etc.? If you’re planning on using seed funding or a bank loan think very carefully, rarely will events give you the best return on investment in terms of immediate sales, other marketing activities may be better. It’s not just monetary cost but also the time investment and staffing support required that should be considered.

I recently wrote a content series on my Facebook page entitled 30 tips in 30 days: how to attract more customers, like my page and take a look at the other things you can do to attract customers to your business using methods that my be more affordable.

Events are great but it’s imperative that you take a strategic approach to them and any events you choose to attend should fit neatly into your broader marketing mix and the process you use to navigate potential customers through your sales process.