Having recently returned from the Livestock Event 2016 and the Great Yorkshire Show, it is clear that the there is a huge appetite for exhibitions among the agricultural industry and associated trades. And rightly so, they are one of the most effective ways of promoting your products and services to new and existing customers, and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends.
East Yorkshire fuel provider Rix Petroleum is a veteran of agricultural shows and exhibitions, having had an unbroken presence at Driffield Show for the past 69 years, and winning the best exhibition stand for the past three years running.
The company supplies gas oil and lubricants to farmers, and domestic heating oil to rural homeowners, not just in its native county, but across Scotland, the North East, Lincolnshire, East Anglia, Shropshire, the West Midlands and Essex.
Marketing Manager James Brook has masterminded countless exhibition stands, including those that have won at Driffield. When faced with scores of other stands all competing for visitor attention, he knows what it is that makes one stand out. Here he shares his top tips.
“You must make your stand engaging,” James said. “You might not be selling the most interesting product but that is no excuse for not making your exhibition stand interesting. If you want people to come and speak to you, and more importantly remember you, you have to give them an experience.”
This year, Rix Petroleum will be exhibiting a Formula One car at Driffield Show, as well as a Formula One simulator which visitors will be able to have a go on, meaning they are likely to flock to the stand to give it a try.
James said: “It is closely related to the product we sell – fuel – but it will be much more engaging than if we just stood there talking about gas oil. It’s all about giving something of value to the visitor, in exchange for their time and the pleasant feelings they take away about your brand and your company.”
Education is another thing James believes is key to making your stand an experience, so visitors remember you long after the show has finished.
He said: “People are always interested in learning new things and it is good to leverage that at events. We, for example, will tell people about the internal structure of a fuel tanker, how it is divided into chambers and can carry different grades of fuel. It is not something many people know about. They take that knowledge with them and remember where it came from, so your brand is always linked with that fact, and they will always remember your name because of it.
“Education is always great if you have younger people at a show or event, which is often the case at agricultural shows, but less at trade shows. We get quite a lot of young farmers come to our stand, who are the next generation of Rix customers, so we like to impart the knowledge we have picked up over the years to them. It gives them something of value so fosters a good feeling towards our brand.”
Be a good host
“If you want people to spend time at your stall, if for example, you’re selling a technical product that needs a degree of explanation, then be a good host,” James advises. “Offer refreshments such as coffee, water, or even a glass of wine. That way you will have their attention for longer because, even if they don’t drink it all, they will drink some of it and you can speak to them while they do.”
The level of branding your stand carries is critical, James believes, but often the problem is that people overdo it rather than underdo it.
“There is a natural tendency to throw everything at a stand because you want it to look impressive, but that can make it look cluttered and, ironically, blend into the background. Make sure the branding is prominent and clear but simple and not overdone. If you get the chance, set your stand up at work before the show and get feedback from colleagues. That can be a really useful exercise in finding out how people will respond to it.”
Getting the staffing right at a trade or agricultural show can often be best guess, but it is well worth giving it some thought.
James said: “There is nothing more off putting than a wall of bodies at your stand trying to beckon people in to talk to them. It can be very intimidating for visitors. Equally though, if you understaff the stand, there are only so many people you’ll be able to speak to during the event. People won’t wait around for very long while you’re having a conversation with someone else, so you need to consider how many people you actually need.
“One thing worth doing if you can spare the staff is having some floaters – people who can walk around the show looking at what competitors or potential customers are doing, but can then relieve others on your stand over lunchtime, because there is nothing worse than approaching an exhibit only to find the person staffing it has a mouthful of food!”