By Luciane Leite, Exhibition Manager – WTM Latin America
Shows are one of the most important promotional tools in the travel and tourism sector, a versatile industry that is hungry for new ideas, requires constant nurturing of the network of relationships and is extremely dynamic and visual. But after almost 30 years of experience in this sector, I still notice that many professionals feel lost when planning their participation in shows. As a consequence, they often end up frustrated and don’t achieve the effects they hoped for. But small details can make all the difference.
Whether you’re the representative of a destination or equipment, a hotel, an operator, a class entity or an airline, here are some tips that will significantly improve your participation in shows and multiply the results for your business.
1. Have a clear strategy
When carrying out your planning, your marketing strategy must be clearly outlined. Before going to any show, it’s essential to know which stakeholders will be a priority for you, for which channels the promotion will be carried out and how your company will position itself. Your main objective also needs to be very clear. What do I want from this show? Do I want to consolidate my brand? Do I want to launch a product? Do I want to have a better relationship with the market? Do I want to look for new customers? Decide what you’re going to focus on and then move on to the practical part.
2. Define your priority targets
There are many travel and tourism industry shows. In order to choose which to take part in, outline the profile of each one: research what each show offers that makes it different, whether it is B2B or B2C, if it’s directed more at a single segment, like MICE or leisure, which people/companies of influence will be in each one of them, and the results of the last edition of each show. Then cross-check this with your strategy to decide where the public you are looking for is at each moment in your planning.
3. Analyse the cost/benefit ratio
There are many possible ways you can take part in a show. Companies can be sponsors, supporters, exhibitors, or they can negotiate package deals that include press conferences and talks. They can even have their representatives be mere visitors. Defining how to take part sometimes seems confusing, but the priority must always be your main strategy, combined with an interesting mix of varied interventions in priority markets, so that the same messages are not repeatedly being passed on to the same people. The aim of this is that you act with greater scale within your established target areas. So evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of taking part in each show according to your budget, i.e., the relationship between what I want to achieve and what will give me the best return on my investment.
4. Study the show’s programme schedule
It might seem obvious, but most people don’t do this. Buying a stand and simply staying on it during the whole of the show may even give you a good return, but you can optimize your presence and that of your team a lot.
Increasing your knowledge by taking part in talks that have to do with your business, going to launches, getting to know new tools and technology and seeing what’s being launched in the market in order to gain insight and understand the trends are just some of the actions that will increase the value of your presence in a show a lot.
5. Organize your agenda beforehand
In order not to lose out on what’s most important, put together a visit plan. In addition to scheduling attending the most important events and talks, find out where your customers are going to be and arrange business meetings beforehand with the key people. Your choice must always focus on the results you and your company are looking for.
6. Use and abuse online tools
You can boost your business promotion initiatives by using the various digital means that the show’s organization offers. Be on the app of the event, put a press release on the web site, send a good communication email to the mailing list of those participating, according to the profile you want to target, or look for contacts in order to set up strategic meetings.
7. Prepare your team
One of the biggest mistakes in action planning in the show sector is to send a team that’s ill-prepared. This can ruin the whole of your strategy and mean a waste of valuable resources; after all, we know that generally speaking the investment is not insignificant. Sending someone new, someone who doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of the business, who has few contacts in the segment, who doesn’t know how to network, who doesn’t speak the main language in that market and who, in general, has not been prepared for acting in this sector is a big mistake. It will not produce results and may even harm the company’s image. At the very least the team must speak the second language that is needed for that particular event, be trained and have a manual with all the main information about the show, the market, the prospects and the customers.
8. Collect information about the competition
Benchmarking in the day-to-day routine of business is difficult. In compensation, during a show all (or almost all) your competitors will be present. It’s almost an amusement park for studying the market and of Porter’s five classical forces. So take advantage to find out what type of communication your competitors are using, in which segments they’re investing, what their approach is like, and what the reaction of the customers is. All this information is very precious and can lead to the renewal of your business.
9. Launch a product, if you can
Something that’s new is always welcome. This is how you avoid boring your customers and it gives the sensation that you are an innovative company that is fully active. So if you have the opportunity, show the market that you have a new service or a new solution that was devised in accordance with the needs and language of your target public, following the latest trends and preferably using technology, because the age of paper went out the window a long time ago and no one wants to leave a show with excess baggage anymore!
10. Follow up immediately
Finally, but no less importantly, as soon as you get back to your office it’s essential that you immediately make contact again with the people you talked to during the show, so that the interests still remain active and connected. If you promised to send some information or material, send it right away. If you said you would arrange a meeting, arrange it quickly. And if you managed to pick up a lot of new prospects and leads during the event, start nurturing a good relationship with this network constantly, even though it may be far away.
If you follow this small routine, I’m certain that you’ll leave the next show with “quality business cards” and that they will be converted into very good business for your company.
About Luciane Leite: Luciane is fluent in German, English and French, and has 26 years’ experience in both the Brazilian market as well as the international one, in the leisure, culture, entertainment and business tourism (including congresses, conventions and incentives) segments.