An exhibition can be a competitive arena for showcasing your products and services.Your customers can literally see all your competitors and will make instinctive, emotion-based decisions on which they prefer.

In the age of highly effective social media marketing, and countless other ways of promoting your brand locally, nationally and internationally, exhibitions may not be the most effective use of your SME’s valuable time and resources.

But it is precisely in this context that exhibitions and other opportunities for face-time will become increasingly important platforms for “blending together” your online and offline marketing strategies.

While other types of marketing aim to encourage customers to buy your products or services, at exhibitions the emphasis is equally placed on ensuring your brand is memorable. Standing out from the crowd at an exhibition can be a daunting prospect, especially for smaller businesses without the expendable income to purchase large, impressive stands and spare multiple members of staff to interact with customers.

Sometimes, however, small, effective gestures can go a long way. It pays to do some legwork before the event, but on the day there are a number of tactics you can employ to increase brand recognition and demonstrate the high quality of your product or service.

1. Include some form of media

Your business could perhaps pay homage to the golden olden days of exhibitions, when men were men and technology was just a twinkle in the postman’s eye.

Sadly times have now moved on and visitors to your stand will most likely expect some sort of technological presence. An iPad or laptop with wifi can sign visitors up on the spot for a newsletter or free product trial, both of which can help build a database of potential customers for the future.

Alternatively a corporate video can give a short-staffed business a few extra precious seconds to engage a new visitor and leave an impression, even if they can’t be spoken to in person. But be warned: making effective video is an art and there there are plenty of ways to ruin a corporate film.

While an SME or a startup will find it difficult to compete with the scale of the equipment used by large corporations, there is no limit on how you can use the technology you have to attract customers to your stand.

2. Be clever with your giveaways

One exhibition cliche that appears to be alive and well is the ubiquity of company branded mouse-mats, USB flash drives and pens.

While branded items for your visitors to take away remains an excellent method of sticking in their memory, thinking up something slightly more off the beaten track can be an inexpensive way to stick out from the crowd.

Depending on your business, this can be a good chance to demonstrate your skills on a small scale, as long as the costs don’t outweigh the potential benefits.

And don’t forget to think about your visitors’ needs. Some of the best tradeshow giveaways are those that offer some relief from the hectic bustle of the exhibition. So put your brand on things like water bottles or hand sanitizer – they may not have the lasting power of a pen, but your audience will be infinitely grateful for putting their needs ahead of yours.

3. Consider using a bespoke stand

While many companies may invest in towering stands which take up half the room, the popular wisdom that size isn’t everything remains true in this context.

Hiring or buying a custom exhibition stand can allow you to create something that reflects not only your brand but potentially also your product, as modern stand designs and shapes can be very flexible. Visitors will appreciate your ambition, if not your artistic decisions.

A bespoke roller banner stands can give your business a consistent, aesthetic appearance and help made your brand memorable for visitors.

4. Stay positive

Positivity is key. An SME is always reliant on the goodwill and loyalty of customers, so ensure that everyone working at your stand is committed to presenting a cheerful, professional and knowledgeable appearance to all visitors.

Exhibitions can be long and tiring, and your visitors will feel this as acutely as your staff. If your stand can be welcoming and inviting right up until the end of the day then you may well attract weary visitors who will remember you positively in the future.

Have chairs available and provide some water and hot drinks, you never know which casual visitor might turn into a valued customer.

5. Play to your strengths

This may seem like an obvious, even patronising point, but this could well be the most important tactic for SMEs to stand out from larger companies at exhibitions.

The employees of SMEs have an advantage in that they often know their entire business far more completely than junior employees of large corporations.

The hierarchies of smaller businesses are often flatter and roles are less rigidly defined, meaning that at an exhibition stand all SME employees have the potential to speak knowledgeably and passionately about what the company as a whole can do.

Use this to your advantage and ensure that the employees supporting you understand the structure of your business, its key philosophies and the services it provides to customers.

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