Acing Exhibitions on a Budget

With a plethora of new marketing tools and techniques to reach potential customers and generate leads, you might be asking yourself whether you still need to exhibit at a large scale, expensive and resource-intensive events? This will be a familiar question for many start-ups and scale-ups, as conferences have a tendency to take over in the run-up to the event. Are resources not better used elsewhere?

Tom Dally, September 25, 2018

Quite simply, no. There is still a tremendous amount of value attending them and meeting with customers and prospects. Here are some quick fire stats that back this up:

  1. Research from Hubspot found 68% of professional’s value face-to-face interactions more than online; 40% of prospects converted to new customers through face-to-face meetings, and 28% of current business that would be lost without face-to-face meetings.
  2. According to a report by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) 99% of marketers noted that they found unique value in exhibitions that they did not receive from other forms of marketing.

There is inherent value in walking through the expo’s entrance but, unfortunately, with most aspects of life, money talks. Exhibition fees are pricey, and the big sponsors can dominate the room. You need to make sure you do your homework and pick the right show for your offering, then stand out from the crowd.

Let’s say you’ve done your research, selected the right show for your product and managed to convince your boss to sign it off. But there’s not much budget left to spruce your stand up…

How do you still drive traffic to your stand? After all, one of the major criticisms of trade shows is that your maximum reach is limited to those that walk past your stand.

Luckily with some out of the box thinking and strong relationships, you’ll be on your way to creating an eye-catching stand that’ll drive foot traffic your way. Here are three ways that we’ve used in the run up to Technology for Marketing at Kensington Olympia that have helped kept costs down and impact high:


1. Partner up

A great way to increase the footfall to your stand is to partner up with complementary companies. When selecting a partner, it’s important to consider companies that are in similar stages of the business life cycle as they’ll be more keen to mutually benefit from additional brand awareness. A company with a fantastic product that’s target market aligns with your own is even better. We’ve teamed up with Pact Coffee. Pact Coffee ethically source better-tasting coffee, roast it with care and deliver it in bags and pods directly to your house, office or location. Pact Coffee is keen to expand into the corporate events market, and is able to provide samples of their coffee to delegates, attracting them to the stand and sufficiently keeping them caffeinated!

pact coffee

It’s also incredibly useful to partner up with a company that operates within the same industry. We’ve teamed up with Giant iTab. Giant iTab provide you with easy-to-use devices, that replicate your smartphone or tablet, but on a giant scale. This enables us to better showcase the audiences’ user interface of Glisser to a greater number of people, whilst increasing their product exposure to their target companies at the event.


Event marketing is an underappreciated resource especially for start-ups with finite amount of resources. As above, creating these partnerships inexplicably sets you out in a crowded room helping to differentiate.


2. Get your hands dirty 

There are many costs associated with exhibitions. If you’re well organised, thrifty by nature but a limited budget, you’d be surprised by how resourceful you can be. For example, instead of renting furniture and screens for the two or three days, you can find alternatives that cost the same amount to buy as they do to rent. We recently upgraded our office, and realised this was a fantastic opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. We purchased versatile furniture from Ikea and eBay that can be used on a stand but also in the office long after the event had concluded. Then all you have to do is hire a van, get a couple colleagues and roll your sleeves up the afternoon before the event starts.


3. Get social 

The value of creating buzz pre-, during- and post-event has resulted in many event organisers successfully incorporating social media over the last few years. Utilise it because your competitors definitely are. Events often come with their own marketing toolkits, social media guides and publicity guides which are brilliant tools to generate buzz with minimal ease on your behalf. These can be as simple as a customised branded tweet, email invite or landing page. This also will help you keep track attendees who are likely to swing by your stand.

As you can see there’s no need to spend more money on advertising the fact that you’re attending an event. Create a social media plan that announces you as an exhibitor about a month out, then schedule posts on a regular basis across LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with updates. Email is still a valuable medium to inform your customers, leads and prospects of your event attendance. It’s also useful to get a list of attendees expected to visit the event. Event organisers will be able to provide this list and your sales team can then send them personal emails.

Event organisers also often give you the opportunity to write press releases for the event website and will feature your posts on their own social media platforms. All of these provide you with a fantastic opportunity to attract more key visitors to your stand and keep you product front of mind.

As alluded to above, the primary concern for exhibiting at large shows is cost. But it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of ways to keep the costs down whilst still grabbing the attention of attendees. They are great for lead generation as many people still place a high importance on face-to-face marketing despite other more modern marketing techniques.

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