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I've built it but they won't come

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

What if you wanted to own a retail space on a high street and a person you had no previous experience with made contact to offer you a space ‘somewhere’ on the street, dependant on your available budget, with a guaranteed concentrated footfall of your main target customer for the period you occupy the space.

Sound great?

What would be your response?

Then they mention to you that you would have to share the high street with all your direct or associated competitors.

Now what would your response be?

You would certainly have to consider the return on your investment before making any commitment.

Now re-read the first two paragraphs but replace the word ‘retail’ with ‘exhibitor’ and ‘high street’ with ‘exhibition hall’ and then ask yourself why so many businesses purchase a space, large or small, at an exhibition?

It is because that is where existing and potential customers will be.

It is where they are focussed on hearing and discovering new innovations (hopefully yours) and are keen to forge mutually beneficial partnerships.

So it makes sense to be there.

I was recently involved in a discussion with a business who were bemoaning the location they were in whilst attending an exhibition.

‘Why is it that those that can’t afford the big stands are placed at the back of the hall?’

‘Why isn’t the flow of the exhibition better designed so that all exhibitors gain equal attention?’

‘The whole exhibition is geared towards those with the bigger budgets’

All valid points…if you are looking for excuses, but I can’t help thinking that they are missing the point.

People take great pleasure in quoting profound statements in blogs so here is one for you.

“If you build it, he (they) will come” (Field of Dreams, 1989).

This could not be further from the truth when we look at the exhibition space at any event.

Yes a big brand or business with money to spend on great stand design will of course have a greater visual impact at an exhibition. They may be eye catching and positioned in the ‘best location’ but they will still face the same issues as those positioned in the less desirable locations.

They still need to engage with the audience in a meaningful way.

They need to have something unique to promote when engaging; this could be insight, products or experiences.

They need to build contacts.

To do this they need to drive the audience to their stand.

Some assume they will meet customers simply because they are there – (“I’ve built it, they will come”).

They overlook the importance of campaign strategy.

Understanding customers and their requirements has never been more important.

Businesses need to consider what is ‘real engagement’ in an age of personalisation and then market effectively to the right people, in the right places, at the right time.

It’s why strategic campaigns for every event activation will always win the day no matter what the size of your space is or the exceptional design.

To create your campaign you need to start thinking about the outside and inside space at an event or exhibition, as well as the pre, during and post event communications.

It’s how Ten Thousand Hours were able to guarantee over 200 face to face appointments with key decision makers for a client at an international tradeshow in Barcelona.

We didn’t concern ourselves with the stand position.

We focussed on how to get people to the stand in the first place.

We created a personalised experience to cater for the customers needs through insight and research.

We created ‘real engagement’.

Which allowed for informed discussions and importantly drove traffic to the stand.

And then our client had the opportunity to engage with the audience.

This meant they didn’t have time to bemoan the stand position; they were too busy holding great conversations and building relationships for future business.

How are you ensuring your next Exhibition stand meets your objectives?


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