Business > Merchant Voice

8 ways expos are similar to online marketing

1. Go against type

If you’re trying to get known for an unusual niche, don’t book the obvious, traditional expo category (in my case, New Age expos for astrology reports), in the beginning. You’ll compete as an also-ran against others with bigger wallets, better branding, bigger stands and more-loyal consumers and the bigger guys may “steal” your thunder, ideas and sales. Instead, you should exhibit at an expo category which attracts consumer attention. For example, I recently participated in my third baby expo. By being such a unique exhibitor, the organisers got me free online and printed PR. Online: select unexpected keywords

2. Book traditional expos once you’re established

Once you have a sizeable product range, budget and database, you will have created a niche within the larger, traditional category. It’s now safe – and wise – for you to shore up your market in which consumers would typically associate with your website’s products. Online: purchase space in the best-known websites

3. Choose the expo dates wisely

Google the dates the expo is running. I failed to do this and discovered the baby expo coincided with the local football Grand Final! Do the expo dates coincide with the 1st or 15th of the month? Many people get paid then and research has found two in three people spend most of their discretionary income within days of being paid. You want to get some of that spend! Online: email customers just before payday

4. Do soft launches at unusual expos

By exhibiting at unexpected expos, you can “soft-launch” products. Customers don’t expect to see your products there anyway and since they have no exposure to it, may give you very transparent, useful responses regarding packaging, size, colour, cost, use and shipping preferences. Their feedback will help you to either refine it, or kill it off, without too much loss of face. Online: try beta-testing panels on new products

5. Don’t offer prizes for signing up to your database

Yes, you need to grow your database, but expo “prize-hunters” may unsubscribe or mark your messages as spam once the competition ends. Instead, promote your newsletter’s benefits on its own merits. Your members will be fewer, but more committed to your type of products than those just after a prize. Online: don’t offer discounts for joining

6. Use shop – not expo – displays

Many expo organisers steer newbies towards their preferred expo rental company for furniture for their stand. But these (literally) off-the-shelf displays are clunky and rarely show products to their best effect. For the first two baby expos, I hired a black plastic, lockable counter unit to rest my laptop and EFTPOS machine on and displayed my reports on a metal shelving display unit. For my third expo, I rented an attractive, long glass shop cabinet with interior lighting. The lighting drew customers like flies and I could lock the cabinet, keeping supplies safe. Online: Don’t try to create your own “shop”, use professional designs

7. Offer (almost) immediate gratification

Take advantage of customers’ desire to take something made especially for them home from the show. My while-you-wait service sold twice as many as the cheapest product. Online: try to offer same-day delivery and/or e-gift cards

8. Make the prices obvious

My partner helped me design my banners so the prices could be seen 20 feet away. Those who came up to my stand effectively pre-qualified their ability to pay. Online: include free shipping so there’s just one price for them to pay

Elizabeth Hollingsworth
Elizabeth Hollingsworth
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