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Q&A – Show and Tell

With exhibitions currently on suppliers’ minds, Andrew Hill ponders the pros and cons of these high-profile marketing opportunities.

Q. How and when do you decide whether to exhibit?

A. From a supplier perspective, exhibitions are always difficult to call in terms of footfall expectation unless, of course, there are precedents to fall back on. These statistics provide an idea of likely attendance, and will help determine the level of investment you make.

Q. What if this sort of information is not available?

A. If it’s a new exhibition, then it’s down to ‘gut feeling’. When the BPMA had its first autumn exhibition last year, Senator felt it had the makings of a ‘goodie’ and we decided to go with a one-off design and build which reflected our faith. It turned out to be a good decision.

Q. Are you doing the autumn show again?

A. Yes, and we are anticipating a higher footfall.As the visitors will be primarily BPMA members, we can be assured that we will be spending time with some very keen distributors. We will be bringing along a new themed stand to Stoneleigh, and we are also working on concepts for the new Merchandise World show at Silverstone in January.

Q. What are the main considerations for exhibitors?

A. The cost-value element will depend on what your main objectives are.For example, if you are a small supplier exhibiting for the first time, then your primary objective will be to present your products to as many people as possible, and so the real value to you will be inversely proportionate to the overall cost. More mature suppliers may have specific goals and a pre-profiled target audience, thus the cost may be high in relation to the real value. For most of us, the benefit of an exhibition lies somewhere between these two examples. Direct return on investment can only be calculated over a 12-18-month post-show timeline.

Q. What are the hidden costs?

A. These inevitably come in the form of staffing, accommodation and sustenance, transportation, exhibition materials, and the impact on the company back at base. It is in these areas that it is easy to overspend, thus it is better to accrue exhibition costs separately rather than be faced with unforeseen overheads post-event. This is best achieved by having a fully costed exhibition itinerary and sticking to it.

Q. Do exhibitions still have a place in the digital world?

A. As we all know, internet trading has its limitations and those companies who wish to connect with their supply chain should make sure that a good exhibition is on the calendar. An hour or so discussing and deciding pre-show who you wish to see, and why, can bring advantages that last for some time. Each show can be approached in different ways and by different members of staff, and there are always key products, messages, and services which can be profitably exploited.

Q. Finally, what is Senator’s theme for Merchandise World?

A. Well, that would be telling wouldn’t it! Suffice to say, at Senator we recognise how important it is for our products to be a trusted vehicle for advertising. Our customers certainly appreciate this, and it has resulted in some remarkable statistics, recently confirmed by Marketing Week magazine. So, if you are venturing along to Stoneleigh, then please come by and find out more.

Andrew Hill is MD of Senator Pens in the UK

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