The not so loneliness of long distance exhibiting

The Australasian Corrosion Association convention in Auckland NZ last week (ACA Nov 2016) saw me set up my first exhibitors stand at a convention. The best piece of advice I’d been given was to go out and buy a comfortable pair of shoes.

I did the rounds and got lots of inconsistent advice and opinions such as:

  • You have to be there to remind clients that you’re still around and haven’t gone away;

  • Exhibiting is not worth while in a narrow vertical market where you’re already well known;

  • Exhibiting only works if you have saleable items to exhibit;

  • It gives people that have heard about you chance to casually find out what you’re about;

  • It gives your opposition a chance to find out what you’re up to;

  • Consultants can spend their time better at forums and paper presentations than at stands.

First time exhibiting is a bit like getting your first job running a sideshow at a rural agricultural show where the people turning up are only interested in the livestock and not the entertainment, well, that’s how it feels.

So was it worthwhile? I don’t know. One person told me they’d exhibited for several years and it didn’t seem worthwhile until they stopped exhibiting and then their business sales fell off; another said it really helped them get established and now they don’t need to exhibit any more.

The best opinion I received was that exhibiting has to be an intentional component of an integrated marketing strategy reasoned by identified purposes with measurable objectives. Sounds great, I wrote it down, now I suppose at least I’ve got a year to work out what that means for me.

I’m really glad I went, it may have been a waste of time but I got so much advice to trawl through. Advice from friends and colleagues, from supporters and competitors, from people that see me as an extension to their own businesses and those that see me as a opposition.

But of all the advice I received, I’m most thankful is what came from all the other exhibitors for sharing their views so openly, and the small but critical group of followers passionate to see our electrical pipeline hazard analysis tool (elephant) software flourish and succeed.

So will I exhibit next year? Hell yeah! Will I do it differently? You bet! And what did I achieve by exhibiting in Auckland? I made lots of mistakes that I can learn from and managed to put one message out there which is this: “elephant has arrived and we’re not going away!