Magazine article Marketing

CONFERENCES & EXHIBITIONS: Unifying Sales and Branding at Events - How Can Stands Boost the Brand While Providing an Ideal Sales Environment?

Magazine article Marketing

CONFERENCES & EXHIBITIONS: Unifying Sales and Branding at Events - How Can Stands Boost the Brand While Providing an Ideal Sales Environment?

Article excerpt

With sales teams gunning for leads and conversions while marketers battle for brand awareness, the exhibition arena presents enormous potential for conflict. For a stand to be successful, both disciplines must work in tandem.

Too many exhibitors focus solely on how many sales leads they can generate during a show. As a result, the brand story lags far behind.

But many believe brand should always take precedence over sales objectives in such a competitive environment. 'It is important to maintain the personality of a brand,' argues Brian Michael, managing director at live events agency TwentyFirst Century Communications. 'You can sell by being cheap or you can sell by being different. Being different is where the value of the brand comes in. An exhibition should be as much about customer relationships as about sales.'

He believes there are two types of stand. With the first, exhibitors compete for visitors' attention with noisy presentations and manifold demonstrations. The second is the empty, threatening stand that visitors veer away from with misgivings.

'It can be very intimidating,' says Michael. 'Exhibitors don't appreciate how hard it is to get people beyond the threshold of their stand to make a sale. If the brand is recognisable and the stand reflects the brand's personality, people will invariably approach it and sales will then follow.'

Pulling in prospects

Building a presence at a show acts as a conduit to achieving face-to-face communication and ultimately sales, says Felicity Kelly, marketing director of live events design agency PCI Live. During the course of any campaign, a firm needs to create awareness, then interest, desire, and finally fulfilment. 'An exhibition is like a microcosm of the whole process,' she says. 'You need to first put on a marketing hat to drive people to the sales.'

Advertising in the show brochure, sending direct mail collateral, contacting warm leads, giving people a reason to come to the stand, is the first step toward generating awareness. It then becomes possible to attract visitors' interest and desire by flagging presentations and benefits at closer range before the actual closure face to face.

Even though marketing drives visitors to the stand and helps give the sales people the necessary tools, Kelly says both sales and marketing have to work in a complementary fashion for objectives to be achieved.

A case in point, she says, is a stand PCI Live designed for the AA. The company required an environment in which to conduct sales and welcome members. PCI Live constructed a shop-front style facade toward the front of the exhibit for business meetings and a quieter area toward the rear to serve as a hospitality enclosure.

Stand structures

Reconciling these two objectives can be as simple as introducing a two-deck stand, says Austen Hawkins, deputy director at the Association of Exhibition Organisers. He also suggests sponsorship deals and hosting parties off-site as ways of extending the brand. A stand without sofas or bars can help maximise leads by getting a good flow of people. 'If the reason to exhibit is a sales-driven exercise, you need to be able to process people very quickly, collect data and qualify all leads so that the hottest take priority,' says Hawkins.

At the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, Microsoft TV succeeded in achieving its marketing goal, which was to make visitors aware of its name in the broadcasting marketplace, while ensuring that the sales force could engage visitors with the product in a suitable environment. …

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