How to get customers to your stand

Why do companies take part in trade shows? To do business in the end. This requires customers, both old and new.

If you want to make the most of exhibiting at an expo, you first need the right products, presented attractively, and a motivated team with clear goals for the expo. But your success also depends greatly on the invitation campaign for visitors.

The goal: visitors

Exhibitors particularly motivate trade visitors to come to a show. Although trade fair organisers invest heavily in visitor marketing, they can only play a supporting role in this regard. After all, companies and their sales reps have direct, personal contact with potential visitors. These head to expos to see products, especially new innovations. Many exhibitors make the mistake of spending a lot of time on stand design and the things they plan to present and only think about visitor marketing shortly before the event. It is important to get the focus right: visitors are what really matter, not the stand design!

In focus: the invitation concept

It may sound obvious, but it is worth remembering that creating a successful invitation campaign requires you to put yourself in the position of the target group and work out a concept early on. Customers now have numerous ways to get information – including visits from sales reps, social media, blogs, trade magazines, and so on. Going to an expo costs precious time and money, so they must feel there is an additional benefit to be had from this. They have to experience something not offered via the other channels. This is what the invitation must promise and make good on. The invitation is most effective when various media are combined. That is why it is worth planning it early on. Your invitation must be as original and striking as your related advertising campaign or newsletter. Then you will stand out among other exhibitors for all the right reasons.

In play: all channels

Which media work well with invitations? All of them! Exhibitors should use every communication channel at their disposal, including social media, digital mailings and even postal mailshots, as these again stand out among the myriad emails. Postal mailings in particular can be colourful and come in a non-standard shape and size. The recipient then feels they can expect something very different to a plain vanilla expo appearance. This makes people curious.

A personal invitation delivered by a sales rep is particularly appreciated. Perhaps the invitation might be accompanied by part one of a little gift, with a comment or note to the effect that: “Part two of your gift awaits you at Insights-X! I look forward to seeing you at our stand again.” Of course, the stand information should be included with part one as well as in email signatures and on letterheads and envelopes. Basically, all communication media which leave your company in the months leading up to your participation in the expo should contain the information: “Visit us. Insights-X. Your Stationery Expo. 4–6 October 2018.”

In view: advertising opportunities at the expo

Trade show organisers generally offer exhibitors a comprehensive range of PR and marketing services. Advertisements in online and print catalogues are standard offerings, along with banners, staircase advertising and so on at the exhibition grounds. If a company is showcasing truly outstanding products at an expo, it is worth ensuring this is reflected in the editorial coverage as well. This might be via the trade press or the organiser, which usually makes use of the full spectrum of social media, newsletters and customer magazines for its content marketing. But it is really important that you keep some ammo in reserve for the expo itself. You want to make people curious and tease the highlights. If manufacturers reveal all of their innovations in the weeks prior to a trade fair, there are few convincing reasons for visitors to come to their stand.

With all senses: the expo experience

How do companies make their expo presence unique? Unlike the Internet, shows can be experienced with all of our senses; products can be handled and tested. And, of course, people meet people, with all of the attendant benefits: questions and misconceptions can be cleared up much faster in a face-to-face discussion. Charismatic sellers can use both their expertise and their charm to win visitors over. It is worth alluding in the invitation to special elements of your expo appearance as well, such as an original product test, fashioned as a competition and offering an attractive prize. Eye-catchers, giveaways and stand activities are all ice-breakers. They make it easier for the team at the expo to get chatting with passers-by so that they can pitch to them and ultimately get new customers.

In advance and in situ: a welcoming atmosphere

A matter-of-fact tone in classical invitations and mailings cuts no ice with people. Companies that issue the kinds of invitations you might send to friends if you were having a private party tend to be more successful. And where are private parties held? In living rooms (before ending up in the kitchen). Therefore, a successful stand is one where visitors “feel at home”. This overall experience is the essence for visitors. Even if they often provide rational reasons in surveys, they come back to an exhibitor the following year because this emotional factor was given. In many ways, the invitation already plays a big part in conveying this welcoming undertone. Best of luck!

About the author:

Christian Ulrich is the Managing Director Consultation at advertising agency Die roten Reiter and a specialist in marketing and branding. This is a new type of advertising agency. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Spielwarenmesse eG, it is itself intensively involved in managing the trade fair brands. The cooperative society thereby makes the comprehensive communication know-how of its internal specialists available to external clients from the worlds of industry and consumer products as well.

Would you like help coming up with the ideal invitation concept for your presence at the expo? For more information on Die roten Reiter, please visit or phone +49 911 998 13-740.

We offer plenty of tips on inviting visitors and communications on our website to ensure you get to welcome lots of visitors at Insights-X in Nuremberg from 4–6 October 2018: