Straight to the right fair

Want to know which fair gives you the biggest bang for your marketing bucks? Read on…

How does one find the fair best suited to ones own sales targets? And how can marketing be designed more effectively for company customers?

This is an english language version of an article published in the January 2011 issue of the WiM magazine, where we describe how to implement fairs economically into the overall marketing mix.

442 fairs alone in Germany according to the Exhibitions and Fairs Committee for the German Economy e.V. (Auma) in 2011. Globally we are talking about 4500 events to reach millions of visitors. Apart from the internet, fairs are the second most important means of public appearance for businesses.

Such a great choice makes it difficult to find the right event. All too many companies go back to the same event time after time ignoring the fact that the focus of the company itself as well as the meaning of individual fairs has shifted or even changed over time. Fairs should not be been solely from a cost point of view but they should be understood as part of the long-term strategy.  Then and only then can the ever-so-efficient “marketing instrument fairs” unfold its full potential.

Your own customers are the first point of consideration by the choice of the right fair. It has to be taken into consideration whether the target is contacting new customers or existing customers. Fairs are ideal for the acquisition of new customers. An indicator might be: could a solution that was custom-made for one customer also be interesting for others? Then a fair in exactly this direction could be the right one to go to.  A market analysis should always precede the decision to have a stand/booth at a fair, and this study can be carried you by a consultant familiar with this particular field.

The appearance should always highlight the benefits of the product from the customers’ stance and not only the advantages and characteristics of the products as seen by the producer.

Is the aim to enhance customer care, then the traditional meeting places of that particular industry are already well-known. In this case the question is not which fair is best attended but rather which contents, innovations and service offers are interesting for the customers. One has to bear in mind; fairs do tend to have a rather high circulation loss.

What do customers expect?

Nowadays, fairs still serve as a means of gaining comprehensive information in spite of the internet. Communication and conversations are the be all and end all: direct contact to the visitor opens up all possibilities of addressing his/her individual needs. Appropriate language knowledge and communication ability go without saying (are a pre-requisite).

In the meantime, the high complexity of technical products has almost done away with the usual handshake in the booth of latter years. In the new markets (e.g. China) as well as in some specialist branches fairs are still seen as”order fairs”.

Which fair is the right one?

Many fairs compete for the same branch. The question then arises, “which is the most appropriate?” and that is easily answered by consulting the fairs and visitor profiles. Respectable organizers provide   very detailed and clear   figures as to the number of exhibitors, visitors and foreign visitors to the fair over   the years or which visitor groups were especially dominant.

Events which are listed in the fair databases of Auma or FKM are a sure bet.
Information of unknown fair organizers should be taken with great care. When dealing with fairs abroad, it is recommended to first view these from a visitor’s perspective rather than as an exhibitor. It can also be advantageous to involve a reliable service supplier in the selection phase and it can also save costs.

With total costs hitting 800 to 1000 Euro per square metre, fairs are comparatively expensive. For companies with less experience in fairs it is definitely worth considering the support programmes on offer e.g. “Bundeswirtschaftsministerium” or the very comprehensive federal programme for foreign fairs. Joint stands are also a good means of fair participation. These opportunities are offered by the “IHKs “(Chamber of commerce), “Handwerkskammern” (Guild of Craftsmen) and “Forschungsinitiativen” (Research initiatives) e.g. “Bayern Innovativ”. Regardless of the choice, joint stand or individual, early registration is essential, not only to guarantee participation but to save costs as well.

Over and above the personal stand there are many other options of participation. Apart from the classical advertising and sponsoring there are the support events and the fair congresses that offer further opportunities to present ones own company.

Other Options

The question remains, if it has to be a fair or are other marketing measures better suited to the need of attracting attention which often go amiss at huge fairs. Before deciding on a fair, it is best to check if the target group can be better reached by perhaps taking part in a congress or offering a workshop for a customer group at the customer’s.

About the author: Peter Kelm is co-owner of the technical marketing specialists KelmMoyles – Tailored engineering Marketing in Herzogenaurach (kelm@kelmmoyles.com).