We speak with Austen Hawkins, Managing Director of F2F Events – organiser of Love Natural Love You, Just V Show, and The Allergy & Free From Show – to find out how exhibiting can impact your business, the best ways to be effective, and his golden advice.
Can you introduce us to your shows – and what it is that makes them special?
In July at London Olympia, we are proud to host three events simultaneously; Love Natural Love You, Just V Show and The Allergy & Free From Show. One ticket gives visitors access to all three shows; one hall packed with lots and lots of people.
Love Natural Love You has all things natural and organic, encompassing beauty, food and drink, home, health and fitness.
Just V Show is the all-inclusive V event for everyone. Food, drink and lifestyle products (even beauty and clothing) for anyone who is, or is looking to, live a vegetarian, vegan or plant-based lifestyle; reducing their meat intake.
The Allergy & Free From Show is Europe’s largest ‘free-from’ family day out; Fun, shopping, tasting, learning, sharing, solution and advice.
The beauty of running all three shows together is that the visitors cross-pollinate, buying products from exhibitors from all three areas of the hall. This gives our exhibitors, in addition to their traditional customer base, access to a brand new customer profile.
What are the benefits for companies exhibiting at one of your shows?
I am a passionate believer in exhibiting. No matter if you sell sticky puddings or aeroplanes, if done well I think it is the most powerful sales and marketing activity that any company can undertake. Why? Because when making a purchase we all like to see, touch, feel, taste, hear about the product whilst looking into the eyes of the seller; in short, people buy from people. No other form of marketing delivers ‘face time’ with a targeted audience, whose specific reason for attending the show is to try, test, compare and buy. If marketing didn’t exist today, and you were trying to invent the perfect marketing activity, it would probably look something like exhibiting; it truly is awesome.
Our shows are simply the greatest shop in the world; for three days, in one place at one time, our visitors can meet and buy from the greatest suppliers on the planet. Nowhere else in the world are there so many natural, organic and free-from products for them to try and buy.
I am a passionate believer in exhibiting. No matter if you sell sticky puddings or aeroplanes, if done well I think it is the most powerful sales and marketing activity that any company can undertake.
Our visitors are kind enough to tell us that they truly love our shows, I genuinely feel blessed and humbled at times by the love and warmth our visitors have for the events. I could give hundreds of examples; however, a recent conversation I had with a mum and her three coeliac children at our Liverpool show is vivid in my memory.
When they arrived I got talking to them and, after establishing what they could and could not have, I was soon telling the children where they could go to eat gluten-free pizza, dairy-free ice cream, gluten-free donuts, cookies, sweets AND I talked to them about the natural, organic and healthy products they should try too. The children were jumping with joy and uber excited; literally ran into the show. A couple of hours later, Dad came out laden with bags. “All ok?” I enquired. He was a bit tearful; “Brilliant” he said, “just brilliant; taking this lot back to the car so we can buy more stuff”.
A few more hours passed when the whole family came out. Mum came up to hug me and wouldn’t let go, sobbing she said “I have had to tell them for years you ‘can’t have’… today I could say ‘you can have’. Thank you”. It was a truly heart-warming experience.
When making a purchase we all like to see, touch, feel, taste, hear about the product whilst looking into the eyes of the seller; in short, people buy from people.
So, what’s all of this got to do with the benefits of exhibiting at our shows, I hear you cry? A great exhibition is only made great by the visitors; we get thousands and thousands and thousands of great visitors who buy, recommend, tweet, post on Facebook and Instagram, and then they buy again. And we get hundreds of trade visitors too. We know a great number of important trade deals that have come about as a result of meetings at our shows.
So, taking a stand at our show means:
- You will sell on the day
- Meet new customers
- Meet existing customers face-to-face (I don’t need to tell you why this is so important)
- You create brand ambassadors
- You can meet/sell to the trade
- You can achieve massive brand awareness through PR and your customers’ social media activity
- You must collect data (the life blood of all businesses) – data that is almost impossible to source anywhere else
- You can sell post-show to your new customer base
- You can conduct research (usually expensive but you can do this for free at the show)
- You can collect customer testimonials
Do you have any golden top tips for exhibitors to bear in mind?
Yes, here goes:
- Set and write down your measurable objectives before the show. Amazingly less than 3% of companies do this. So list exactly what you want to achieve as a company; saying “we want to sell stuff” is not good enough, and it’s not a measurable objective. Your objectives must say how many or how much. Once you have written down your company objectives, work out what the stand staff have to achieve per hour/per day to meet your company objectives.
- As little boys and little girls we are told not to talk to strangers, and what happens is exhibitors don’t talk to the visitor, and then wonder why they don’t sell anything! So, for goodness sake, say “hello” to anyone with a pulse. Of the 500 or so exhibitions that I have attended and have surveyed over the years, on average only seven out of 100 stands I walk past bother to say “hello”. Don’t be one of the 97% who don’t.
- Make sure, in no more than 20 words, your stand graphics say exactly what you do. Too many stands write essays and completely forget to tell the customer what they do. “We make the most stupendously gorgeous free-from thingy you have ever tasted!” You have approximately five seconds to capture the visitor’s attention as they walk past your stand.
- Be the happiest, most energetic exhibitor in the building. If you smile, your customer will smile. If you are happy, it’s because your products are so damn good it makes you happy, and therefore the customer will want to come and see what all the fuss is about. I have written huge articles on this and presented at many conferences on the importance of body language; it is so important to be passionate and happy to be at the exhibition promoting your product.
- Collect data; I already said this earlier but it’s so important, it’s worth repeating. Find a way of capturing your customer’s data – your business will depend on it.
As little boys and little girls we are told not to talk to strangers, and what happens is exhibitors don’t talk to the visitor, and then wonder why they don’t sell anything! So, for goodness sake, say “hello” to anyone with a pulse.
What have you found consumers respond really well to at shows?
- Show offers
- Competitions (for example, at our Berlin show, a company had a spinning wheel. Visitors spun the wheel and won a prize… they had a queue for the whole of the show. Simple but effective.)
- Passionate exhibitors
After the show, how can businesses optimise on the exhibiting experience to get the most back from it?
Follow up after the show. Send your customer an e-mail, an offer, a sample – anything – but keep in contact with them and keep them buying/recommending your product.
I recently spoke to an exhibitor who had a massive stand at a Christmas exhibition; he sold organic free-range turkeys at £90 each (discounted from £140). His stand was big and must have cost a fair few quid. I said to him: “There is no way you are going to sell enough turkeys to cover the cost of the stand, so what’s the thinking behind this?”. “You are quite right but quite wrong” he said. “I won’t sell enough turkeys at the show to cover the cost of the stand, but I know that once I have sold a turkey to someone, on average, they buy a turkey from me for eight years. So every customer I sell to today has a life-time value to me of £140 x 8 = £1,120. I will sell 100 or maybe 200 turkeys at the show, so the life-time value to my business is £112,000 to £224,000.
He was a clever man.
Love Natural Love You: http://www.lnlo.co.uk
Just V Show: http://www.justvshow.co.uk
The Allergy & Free From Show: http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/london