Such gatherings can help you start a business relationship with prospects far easier and smoother than other cold approaches, such as phone calls and emails. A company participating / promoting itself as supplier during an event will interact, if everything is well set, with audience interested in the respective products or services.
It's that ideal situation all companies dream about - having your potential client walk in and initiate the prospecting or buying process. You get the first-hand chance to display, demonstrate and explain the benefits of what your company does, you get the chance to impress.
On the other hand, you're side by side with direct competitors, and the first impression your company transmits at an exhibition is vital, as the visitors are in a hurry and tend to approach those booths with the most appealing design [plus friendly staff]. So if you're paying to exhibit your company's products in a fair, you need to make sure that your company will be presented in a way that will draw attention and will ensure a good flow of visitors.
I tend to follow my company's target niches when I select third-party events, and look for exhibitions either self-contained or part of specialized conferences. I do this selection keeping in mind the following aspects:
- The brand positioning I'm trying to achieve. E.g.: Do I want my brand to become top-of-mind for the companies in a specific industry / region? Then I have to participate in all preeminent events of that industry.
- The main objective of taking part in an event. The form of participation and resources involved will differ depending on what I'm looking for: gaining new clients? launching new products? strengthening existing relationships? having a share of voice in my company's domain?
- The ranking of the event. I have a system in place, where, depending on my participation objective, I asses events with criteria like the organizer, the history, number of participants in previous editions, visitors' profile or the match between the position of attendees and my target decision makers.
- The participation or sponsorship options available, correlated with my budget.
This last aspect is actually the most important. Events take their toll of the marketing budget, as they are efficient but expensive marketing efforts. In the case of participation for generating new leads, this expense will be measured and judged in number of opportunities generated and, after a period consistent with the usual sales cycle, assessed in sales closed.