It’s an accepted fact that trade shows and exhibitions are a highly-effective means for businesses of all sizes to promote their products and services to a receptive audience of potential customers, raise brand awareness and, if all goes according to plan, generate valuable new leads and sales.
At face value the premise seems straightforward enough: get yourself a beautifully designed, eye-catching and attractive exhibition stand, choose the best site that your budget will allow in the exhibition or trade show hall, staff your stand with friendly, knowledgeable and approachable business representatives and wait for the visitors to roll on up.
Whilst this stance might result in some degree of success, businesses can significantly enhance the value of their attendance at trade shows and exhibitions by taking a proactive approach to expanding the business network. Let experienced and expert custom exhibition stand designers and installers Aspect Exhibitions show you how networking at trade shows and exhibitions can really boost your business.
What do we mean when we talk about ‘networking’?
One formal definition states that to network, in the business sense, is to “interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”.
In simpler terms, networking is the art of engaging and communicating with someone, usually face-to-face, to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
The business benefits of networking at exhibitions and trade shows
For companies attending exhibitions and trade shows, networking is an extremely powerful business tool for two reasons.
Firstly, people fundamentally like to talk to each other and share information.
The establishment of a brand’s positive reputation by widespread word-of-mouth is an invaluable commodity.
For example, prior to its release the first Harry Potter novel received no advanced publicity of any kind. Instead, the publishers gave pre-publication copies to five hundred schoolchildren and asked them to read it and give their opinion.
As a result of the buzz generated when those schoolchildren read the book, told their friends about it and shared it with them, interest in, and demand for, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone reached unprecedented levels and contributed to its global success.
Secondly, effective networking can achieve much more than simply raising awareness of your brand to a wider audience. At a typical exhibition or trade show, networking is an entirely cost-free means of conducting market research and obtaining customer opinion.
It is a far more effective way of building confidence and establishing a trusting relationship with budget-holders and decision makers than conducting business by telephone or via the internet. Networking is also a way of building links with businesses whose products and services may complement or enhance your own.
How to network at trade shows and exhibitions
The ability to make new contacts, forge beneficial relationships and expand your business network is a valuable skill for a company of any size. Networking at an industry exhibition or trade show already gives you a head start; the people you network with are already likely to be involved with or knowledgeable about your particular field of business.
The key to effective networking is to be yourself, be honest and not to regard the other person simply as a sales opportunity or other benefit to your business. Whether the person you are talking to is a potential customer, a supplier, someone with a shared business interest or even your competitor, networking with them is your chance to find out more about what they do, how they do it and the challenges they face, and to consider the possible ways in which you might be able to help them.
Never forget that networking is a two-way process that relies on goodwill, openness and the equal sharing of information. The ultimate goal of successful networking is to give the other party sufficient reason to spread the word throughout their own network about just how excellent, professional, expert and useful your products or services are. And, as we’ve seen, the spread of a positive reputation by word-of-mouth can only be good for your business.
Aspect Exhibitions can custom-build a superb exhibition stand to help your business stand out from the crowd at an exhibition or trade show, but you can achieve even greater success by combining this with a positive approach to networking.
Engaging visitors and other representatives of your industry at exhibitions in honest, open, face-to-face dialogue can win new customers, promote your business to a wider audience, enhance its word-of-mouth reputation, establish beneficial relationships with suppliers and decision makers and provide valuable customer feedback and competitor intelligence.