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Exhibitions are an excellent choice for SME’s to network and grow, giving you access to a range of enthused and interested people (providing you’ve chosen the right kind of exhibition). You’ve got your booth or stand all set up, your logo is proudly on display and there’s plenty of space for you to liaise comfortably with those that want to talk to you.

You’re confident that you’ll meet dozens if potential customers or partners and they will all be brilliant people you can’t wait to get on board. This will not entirely be the case. There are a huge number of people that attend exhibitions and not everyone will be relevant to your interests, though there are many you may want to foster relationships with. Here’s some advice for the five people you will most likely meet at your first exhibition and how to prioritise them so you can get the best out of this opportunity.


The Student

With little disposable income and education being their main priority, unless you’re specifically aiming at this demographic then a student may not be your ideal customer. This can be made worse if you feel that they’re demanding a great deal of your attention in order to get some info that may help with their dissertation, whether you have any jobs or maybe they just want to see what freebies you have on offer.

In these cases then a polite apology that you need to move onto someone who may be a potential client is the best course of action but you’d be wrong to dismiss the student out of hand.  Take down the details of anyone savvy enough to bring you a portfolio that interests you as a potential intern and remember that those that aren’t clients now may remember you later.


Whether they’re upfront about it or covert, you can be sure that your competitors will want to scope out your stand and assess whether they should be worried. Unless they’re actually interfering or distracting you then this can easily be ignored, after all, you might be tempted to check out their area just as much!

And don’t forget that a competitor could become a part of your network if you let them, try to foster a relationship and engage other providers in conversation whether appropriate. It doesn’t need to be a battle out there and blocking other companies from speaking to you is likely to just lose you valuable contacts.

The ALMOST Customer

When you start talking to someone it’s important to find out (without being rude!) whether this person is window shopping or even whether they’d be able to make a purchase if they wanted to. An example of this would be someone who is enthralled by your product but then (after 40 minutes of excited chatter) you discover that they actually aren’t responsible for business accounts within their company.

These customers can also be businesses that would love your product or service but it’s currently out of their price range. If the desire is there then they could still be potential customers down the line. Exchange details and get in touch with them later about whether they’ve had a think/ spoken to others about what you have on offer. You never know what it might lead to.

The Existing Customer

The best and worst customer rolled into one depending on how they’re enjoying what you have to offer. An unhappy customer might complain loudly; whereas a happy customer is the best marketing you could hope for. In both cases, make sure you interact and try to take some real steps towards any problems there may be.

Customer service is a key area for any potential customer so if you’re seen to be taking control of the situation then you can turn a nightmare situation into a great promotion. Keep in mind that it takes more effort to make a new client than to bring back an already existing one.

The New Customer

The whole reason you came to this exhibition. This new customer may have never heard of you before, may have never even thought of using your service before but they’ve come over to enquire (or maybe you caught their eye). You’ll wow them with your product or service; answer all their questions in an expert manner and have a top notch portfolio/ product model to back it up.

You’ll never falter in your happy and enthusiastic approach, no matter how many people you meet and how many cards you give out. You may have seen 100+ people today but this is the very first time they are meeting you!

With these models in mind, you should be able to prioritise your time effectively at your next (or first!) exhibition.

Posted by Kelly Edwards

Kelly is an experienced marketer who has seen her fair share of business exhibition stands.  She works for Nimlok, providing content and creates crafty things in her spare time!

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