Original post : Jan 23, 2013

Exhibitions: tipping the scales - in your favour!

Tipping the scalesRegular readers of this blog will know we talk a lot about what marketing is and isn't and none of you, I know, would make the mistake of assuming marketing is only about promotion! But this week I've been preparing to present to the Kent2020 exhibitor briefing on 24th Jan, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, about how to make a success of your attendance at an exhibition. So I've been kicking around different ways of explaining marketing essentials to the audience.

Then it came to me - marketing is all about tipping the odds in your favour. If all resources were unlimited you could create limitless options of your products and services and broadcast your messages willy-nilly to all and sundry. But even the biggest organisations need to work within restrictions on time, money, space and/or materials.

What the discipline of marketing does is encourage you to match your resources as closely as possible to your objectives and, in a competitive marketplace, push you out in front. To give you a bit of an edge, you might say.

So in the context of an exhibition you don't have the time to speak to everyone who is attending so you want to tip the odds in favour of speaking to the people you are most able to help, i.e. those who would be most interested in taking your products and/or services.

A fundamental concept in marketing is segmentation, targeting and positioning:

  • Segmenting means splitting the market into groups of people/companies with similar needs and characteristics
  • Targeting means you choose which segments you are going to focus on
  • Positioning means that your offer (products, services and messages) are created specifically to appeal to the targeted segments

Simples! Now you might have a number of different segments you want to target with different offers but STOP! Resist the temptation to try and showcase everything all at once in this one exhibition. Find out who is most likely to be attending the particular exhibition and select the offer or message that you are going to lead with on this occasion. Otherwise you risk ending up with a muddle that fails on all fronts.

Once you have your head around who you want to speak to and what you have to offer (remember - for this specific occasion) then creating your stand to appeal to these people is that much easier.  And you can create a strategy that includes activity pre and post the event itself:


  • Set objectives and goals for the day
  • Issue invitations with reasons to visit you (gifts, competitions, etc)
  • Publicise your attendance in email sign-offs, on social media, etc.

At the exhibition

  • Ensure knowledgeable stand staff
  • Be pleasant and approachable
  • Keep the stand simple and uncluttered - focused!


  • Keep your promises
  • Make follow-up timely and appropriate
  • Review your success against your objectives

Using marketing to tip the scales in your favour is not an idea limited to exhibitions of course (you may get tired of me using it in future), but exhibition attendance may the the most expensive promotion that your company carries out in the year, particularly if you take into account the staff costs of manning the stand. If you get disappointing results it is most likely because you failed to plan adequately - it's not all about what you do on that one day, it's about the before and the after too.

By the way - we've written a couple of other blogs on exhibitions in the past, check them out here:

If you are at the Kent County Showground for the briefing on Thursday come and say hello - and if you have top-tips on making exhibition attendance a success please share them here!


Sharon WildingSharon Wilding is a Chartered Marketer with many years experience in marketing for businesses large and small. As a lecturer and a practioner she aims to help small businesses use theory in practical ways to improve performance. You can connect with Sharon on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


Hi Darren - I'll be on the prowl at Kent2020 to see who was listening! Sharon
Comment by Sharon - Jan 25, 2013 12:03
Many thanks Sharon. I was in the audience this morning - Great presentation, I picked up some good tips which we'll use at the exhibition. Look forward to catching up at the Kent 2020.
Comment by Darren Rutherford - Jan 24, 2013 15:47
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