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Debunking common myths about international exhibitions – a blog post by Melissa Erwin, Medilink UK’s International Officer

After more than a year of travel and physical events being postponed or affected, people are longing to get back to the normality of face-to-face interactions and building connections in person.
Exhibitions sometimes referred to as “trade shows”, “trade fairs” or “expos”, depending on the goal of the event and host country, are a great way to do this.

They underpin a lot of companies’ annual marketing plans and budgets, however, there are some common myths and preconceptions about this form of promotion. In this article, I will highlight and debunk some common ones, together with reasons as to why some companies should consider participating in these types of events as part of their marketing or export strategy

2. “We can rely on other sources of promotion”

The best of type of marketing for you will be dependent on your business, but using multiple methods (targeted to your audience and suited to your goals) is beneficial. A huge advantage of a trade show is that visitors can experience your company, whether that be a tangible product that they can touch and feel, or a service where they can get to know you and your company face-to-face rather than over a phone or video call. These events also allow you to meet a huge amount of people such as distributors, buyers, clinicians and government officials. They provide a great opportunity to tick off a lot of goals in a short space of time such as raising your brand awareness, networking (catching up with existing customers and meeting new ones), launching your product or building your database and keeping up to date with industry trends and topics.

2. “We have exhibited here / into this market before”

Once you choose the right exhibition (relevant to your business goals and/or area of specialisation), you should consider exhibiting there regularly as it can help strengthen your brand recognition and relationships with other annual attendees. Many companies participate at that same one each year, which can also help them save money and time (for example, by reusing their exhibition design).

3. “We don’t know how (or don’t have the time) to follow up effectively”

Follows up are an integral part of any event attendance and ensure a good return on your investment (ROI) and that the exercise was worthwhile. It is common to gather a lot of business cards. Some organisers now offer lead data capture devices to streamline the follow-up process. There are also some digital lead management tools available, whereby emails can be automatically and quickly generated. Depending on the nature of the business, personalised emails (for example with information about a specific product or service that the visitor showed interest in) may bring greater results and therefore, making notes is essential when networking with your potential lead.

It is valuable to think about your follow-up strategy in advance, for example by dedicating a team or team member for a certain time period to follow up on the leads, and agreeing a suitable timeframe.

4. “We don’t have anything new to offer”

You may already have customers, distributors, partners etc., for your current products but generating new leads and brand awareness is a constant and necessary part of any business.  You could also use the exercise to gather market intelligence and promotion of future projects or products.

If you are a new business with a product or service that is not quite ready, then depending on the market and selling conditions it may be best to wait until the following year before investing in an exhibition stand, but visiting first may be useful for market research.

5. “It’s expensive”

Exhibitions vary hugely in price, depending on the reputation and the market in which they are held. However, to ensure a good ROI, planning is essential, (albeit being realistic to ensure it does not impact on your exhibiting experience). Some common questions to ask are how many staff members do you need out there, and for how long.

It is often better to book things early so that you have a broader choice (and thus competitive rates) for travel, accommodation and freight. This is a big benefit of joining a pavilion, as dedicated partners can offer a great service but also usually more cost-effective rates due to bulk bookings.
Government funding is sometimes available to support eligible companies with their international activity too. It is definitely worth researching this via your local Department for International Trade * office or the organisation which you booked through.

6. “It’s time-consuming and a hassle

A lot of tasks in your business will be time-consuming but ultimately worthwhile if you plan correctly and utilise your time and budget well. Medilink offer a range of services to help make your experience stress-free, such as having a main point of contact, co-ordinating stand designs, a full spectrum of support and advice, frequent updates, deadline reminders, and onsite support. 

7. “We are too small to get noticed compared with the big industry players and/or our competitors”

It is inevitable that the key industry players will attend, and likely with a huge presence, however visitors also have their own agenda and will attend for different reasons. To stand out from your competitors, do your research and ensure your USP is clearly communicated. Remember to make the most out of your attendance – don’t be afraid to make the first move and reach out to others. Such exhibitions serve as a great occasion to network with a huge variety of healthcare professionals in one place.

8. “The event is too broad”

It is definitely worthwhile to check the visitor profile to ensure it is suitable, however a lot of international healthcare exhibitions span the entire sector, with a large variety of healthcare professionals attending. Depending on your business, it may also be valuable for you to take part in sector-specific events (for example Rehacare which is for the care and rehabilitation sector) for a more targeted approach, however a lot of companies will choose to do the larger-scale events as well, to reap the benefits of both”.

You can also list your sector and sub-sector on the official website, brochure and app, so interested visitors can find you easily. Some organisers now also offer an online platform to complement the live show, where you can be more specific with your listing and start networking before the physical event.

9. “Most attendees don’t buy at the event”

This depends on the nature of the business, product or service, and also if the exhibition allows it. However, if you have the correct sales technique and engage with your target audience, it will move them a step further along in the sales cycle, helping you generate potential leads.  

The International Team at Medilink UK plan the British pavilion or act as the UK agent for a range of healthcare exhibitions, supporting a variety of companies at every stage of their exporting journey. I hope this blog post has helped to debunk some of the common myths about such exhibitions. if you would like further information about our current portfolio, please visit http://www.medilink.co.uk/exhibitionsandevents or contact: international@medilink.co.uk / 0114 232 9272.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade

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