Exhibiting to a new crowd

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Exhibitors are always searching for ways to improve their standing at a live event. For many, initiatives to ensure attention consist of custom-build stands and enticing giveaways on the show floor, through to incentives for pre-registration delegates.For several however, seeking exhibitions outside their core sector to display their  wares has become a clever way to find new buyers and stand out from the crowd.Exhibition manager for the upcoming Dive Show 2010, Richard Thompson, said he’d witnessed an increase in non-traditional exhibitors, or companies outside the diving vertical, looking to participate in the NEC Birmingham-based event, and claimed the number of traditional diving-related exhibitors dropped five per cent in recent years. The event takes place 30-31 October. Although aimed at delivering new products and services specific to diving enthusiasts and professionals, those now buying a stand include tool and general gadget sellers, as well as promotions companies and timeshare-type service providers.“Many of these are companies that take part in a wide range of events on a regular basis, so we will be just one of many consumer shows they target,” Thompson said.A fresh catchOperations director at David Hall Publishing, Roger Mortimer, is seeing similarly unthought-of exhibitors expressing interest in the longstanding Evesham Festival, held every August bank holiday at Hampton Ferry in Worcestershire. Begun as an invitation fishing match 25 years ago, the event has grown into a three-day fishing and angling show with an attendance of 48,000. The show includes a craft marquee.In addition to some 20 fishing tackle retailers and manufacturers, a selection of “non-core” exhibitors participated this year, including the Snowdonia Cheese Company, aquarium manufacturer Iquarium, and holiday park reseller, Allens Caravans. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute also attended for the first time in 2010, along with an arm of the Irish Tourist board and the Scottish Tourist Board. Mortimer said it hadn’t specifically adjusted the show strategy, and attributed the broadening exhibitor base to its location and date. He pointed out the event was covered in advance by the BBC Midlands Today programme and three local radio stations.“There’s huge potential for ‘non-core’ exhibitors and the attendance closely resembles a ‘fair game’ crowd,” Mortimer said. “Evesham has gradually developed into afamily day out largely, I believe, because of the venue itself and the fact that it is held on a bank holiday weekend. “Anglers come primarily to watch the fishing, their partners and children come because it’s a nice place to stay and they take advantage of the children’s funfair. The town centre is in walking distance. Also, apart from a car parking fee, it’s free entry.”Event director for the British Bridal Exhibition at Harrogate, Wendy Adams said up to 15 per cent of its exhibitors in 2010 were outside the traditional bridal wear or accessories remit. In a bid to provide more value to these players, the show added a new catwalk show for occasion wear this year encompassing prom, mother-of-the-bride, cocktail and evening fashion. British Bridal Exhibition ran 12-14 September.“We have seen a definite increase and rising trend in the number of non-bridal exhibitors across evening cocktail and prom designers,” Adams said Examples included Frank Usher, Jon and Joe, London, Ann Baloney, Mascara and Scarlet. “Retailers [our visitors] are diversifying to create new revenue streams and our exhibitors have identified the alternative route to sales opportunities our bridal shows deliver,” she said.The bridal show has now extended its marketing efforts into broader fashion shops, Adams added.Capitalising on the trendIndustry guru, Richard John said companies looking for shows outside their usual sphere of activity are often swayed by the demographics of the captive audience. The key to attracting them and ensuring they gained value from your exhibition or show is to provide relevant and detailed data on the audience available. For example, organisers should know whether the local area was populated by a lower or higher socioeconomic group, and the types of people within one or two hours of the venue.“It’s almost irrelevant what show it is largely,” John said. “A lot of it comes down to data and getting into the [exhibitor’s] mindset.”The issue organisers could face is the lack of suitable marketing skills or partnerships to gain the right information and use it effectively, John said.One way to combat this is to partner with marketing agencies that provided relevant demographics information about people within their chosen location or region. Mosaic for instance, a subsidiary of information services company Experian, offers classification software which splits the UK population into socio-economic groups and types for marketing purposes. Acorn also offers classification data divided into postcodes and community categories.“For example, if you were doing a fishing show, it’s good to know the average fisherman is a 26 year-old male, living alone or with his mum,” John said.In addition, understanding the local region could deliver new marketing leads or insights, or offer up an opportunity to promote through a local council or association.“It’s about building partnerships alliances in regional areas and driving marketing,” John said. On the event floor, organisers also needed to be mindful of how they positioned non-traditional exhibitors with their core show partners.“It’s about educating people to a certain extent,” John added. “Now ROI is becoming more important, exhibitors want to see more of the right kinds of people.”
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