Industry Summits & Exhibitions – An Untapped Potential

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Johnson Opoku-Boateng: This Week is World Quality Week 2021
Johnson Opoku-Boateng

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better-equipped to face the present,” Steve Goodier (Author).

The COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways crippled many businesses, but it is great to see a good number of them rising from its clutches. In the midst of this staggering opposition, resilience is called upon to enter the play. Every opportunity to bounce back must be taken advantage of, and this includes attending summits and participating in exhibitions.

The challenge

This article is a rehash of one that was published in 2019 – and what a time to remind entrepreneurs and business owners of some of the ideas contained in that article. There is every reason to rise from the current difficult economic conditions and challenging business climate to resuscitate your business. Sustaining a business is a daunting task, far more than setting it up.

In Ghana, the massive loss of jobs in the past year and collapse of businesses created an atmosphere of uncertainty as to how the economy could bounce back. Indeed, we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. It is also true, that such unfavourable conditions are a precursor to new opportunities in the form of new business lines, fresh customer preferences and allegiances, and even innovation.

What’s important is for businesses to recognise these opportunities and actively pursue them to their benefit. Strategies for bouncing back include product innovation – but most critically, selling the outputs of your business in such a way as to attract customers and consumers.

It is unnecessary to say that your sales and marketing strategies should be apt and precise. Apart from the traditional avenues of sales and marketing, business summits, trade shows and exhibitions are creative ways of reaching your target market. These have to be attended to in great detail to reap the benefits.

Exhibitions

An exhibition can be defined in this context as a display or showing of items of interest; which could be artifacts, machinery, crafts, cosmetics, food, textiles, garments, processing equipment, services etc. A commercial exhibition, also called trade exhibition, is an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate and discuss their latest products and services. Major trade shows usually take place at convention centres in larger cities and last several days.

Irrespective of the number of days a trade exhibition may last, taking advantage of the large number of buyers or potential customers should be the key objective for any organisation. From the onset, an organisation should plan its participation the same way it does when it comes to manufacturing its products.

It is evident from the way some businesses carry themselves at exhibitions that they don’t have a clue about their participation. They tend to blame organisers when in actual fact they ought to take responsibility for their poor planning and participation. When exhibition attendants sit and wait for customers and potential investors to approach them instead of the other way round, poor results are to be expected.

There are several characteristics of an exhibition: launch of new products and services; showcasing existing products; meeting potential investors and clients; offering product experience to customers; getting huge orders from big clients etc. Whichever is the objective, a business must go to exhibitions well-prepared and focused on the main purpose for participating.

Sales/Marketing

Exhibitions, typically, are not grounds for vigorous sales; but exhibitors should take every opportunity that comes their way to do some sales. Marketing products and services should be the main objective here. This is embedded in the definition for Marketing – “the study and management of exchange relationships”.

It is the business process of creating relationships with and satisfying customers. Through that relationship, a sale can be made. After all, the essence of such relationships is to ensure the customer makes a decision to purchase a product or service either instantly or in the near-future.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “The activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings which have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large”. The focus of marketing is the customer, and hence every opportunity to meet a customer presents a golden moment to establish a long-lasting experience with the company’s brands.

The mistake some businesses make is sending people to exhibitions who have no intimate relationship with their brands. They are not able to connect with potential customers in terms of brand proposition, and the entire adventure goes to waste. Top executives who understand your brand should be doing the job of manning your exhibition booth for maximum returns.

Prepare for Success

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is worrying to note the kind of preparations some businesses make toward exhibitions. In some cases, they miss the first few days because of poor planning. The image you present at an exhibition is what sticks in the minds of visitors and potential customers and investors.

An exhibition team must be put together and some detailed planning done with clear key performance indicators (KPIs). The design of the booth/materials to present during the length of the exhibition, and the number of staff to engage visitors must all be in the plan. Getting a projector or TV-set to display how products are manufactured is one way of telling customers how their needs are considered in the process.

The service industries can engage potential customers through the same means for a great customer experience. Natural-juice companies can set up basic equipment to refresh visitors as a way of creating a bond between them and the products they offer.

Knowledge-upgrade for booth attendants

The booth attendants team is the face of the organisation. Incidentally, business owners and top managers tend to be in ‘strategic’ meetings – leaving staff with little knowledge of the products they are supposed to engage visitors with.  A few weeks to the event, all booth attendants should be trained on the company’s brand.

They should understand the company’s vision, mission and quality policy. The team should be given a tour of the business; and in the case of manufacturing, a tour of the production process and a detailed explanation on the product/service’s attributes. Once these basics are covered, you have a winning team to promote the organisation’s brand at such events.

Execute the plan

Exhibition booth attendants must be engaging throughout the length of the event. Some visitors may naturally walk into booths to learn what the organisation has to offer. A greater number may want to be called upon to experience the company’s offering, so make brochures and business cards available. In some cases, offer refreshment and tokens to visitors as a way of registering the organisation’s name and brands in their minds. Have a container to collect business cards from visitors; and for those without cards, record their contact details and email addresses.

Post-event activities

Participating in an exhibition is one step, but the real job is following up on business leads after the event. Create a database of all potential customers or clients who visited your booth. The database should include: name of visitor, phone number, email address and physical address if they volunteer that information. The team Sales/Marketing team should follow-up with cold calls and physical appointments. 

Conclusion

Every opportunity must be created to make your organisation relevant. Attending business summits and networking events are good ways of ensuring business continuity. Exhibitions, on the other hand, open the business to existing and potential customers/clients. In the case of the latter, a convincing engagement will ensure growth of the organisation’s customer base. The end result is a business that is sustainable in both growth and profitability.

Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Founder & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality Assurance, Health & Safety, Environmental Management systems, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety).

He is also a consumer safety advocate and helps businesses with Regulatory Affairs. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: [email protected]; [email protected]

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